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I'm currently in need of strengthening my lower traps, but I also plan to be doing a lot of front squats (for a different reason).

I'm sure front squats alone wouldn't be enough to strengthen my lower traps... but would they at least give some benefit?

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You're right. Here is why:

Lower traps help depress shoulder blades and well as shoulder upward rotation and external rotation. Retracting your shoulders and pulling your shoulders down activates your lower traps the same way a shrug activates upper traps. For this reason, reverse shrugs which you can do on a cable machine work lower traps. To get maximal benefits from a lower traps exercise, you want to do what the muscle was meant to do in all aspects, such as upward rotation, so y raises are the perfect exercise to grow lower traps. They are a tiny part of the muscle so they don't need much weight for a y raise.

When you do a front squat, you anteriorly load the body, and hold the barbell(hopefully) by depressing and retracting your shoulders, which activates lower traps. You are essentially doing a static reverse shrugs, which is the opposite of shrugging a barbell up and keeping it there for 30 or so seconds. They are also helping support the weight, which is a binus. It's not enough on its own though, it's important to make all your exercises geared towards lower traps to really focus on them. Think:

  • lat pulls
  • pull ups/ chinups
  • supinated rows normal grip
  • yates rows normal grip
  • chest dips(these are amazing)

Keep in mind the lower traps when doing other exercises as well. A shoulder press with the thought of pressing a floor crushing down on you rather than pushing a barbell away can activate the lower traps. Depress and retract your shoulders for everything you do, lateral raises, rows, anything you can.

As far as isolation exercises:

  • y raises(many variations exist)
  • kelso shrug( a supinated row on a chest supported bench. Pull the row back and hold it for 3 to 5 seconds at the top, act like you are trying to break the barbell against the bench and pull it apart(even though you can't). Naturally depress your shoulders and retract them
  • reverse shrugs on a cable machine(think shrugging your shoulders down).
  • chest dips(while these are a chest exercise, they are GREAT for lower traps)
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It's very unlikely that front squats would work the lower traps to any significant degree.

The lower fibres of the trapezius are responsible for the following movements of the scapula1:

  • Upper rotation (in which the lowest point of the shoulder blade moves laterally and upward)
  • Adduction (in which the shoulder blades pull together)
  • Depression (in which the shoulder blades move down)

The front squat involves the scapulae being held in a position of upward rotation, abduction, and elevation. (I.e. The shoulder blades move out around the sides of the rib cage, and the shoulders are raised.) Of these positions, muscular tension is required to hold the shoulders in elevation against the weight of the bar.

Therefore, the main muscles of the shoulder involved in this exercise will be those that perform shoulder elevation - i.e. the middle and upper fibres of the trapezius, and the levator scapulae. (In addition, of course, to the main target muscles of the exercise - the quads and thoracic spinal erectors.)

If you specifically need to strengthen the lower traps, then shoulder depression movements (such as the dip shrug) and shoulder adduction movements (such as the Kelso shrug) would be beneficial, along with bent over row like movements.

However, it's quite an unusual goal to want to specifically strengthen the lower traps. Why do you want to do this?

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  • I would guess kyphosis/rounded shoulders. It along with the rhomboids are usually part of strengthening your back and reducing the typically overly tight upper traps
    – Ace Cabbie
    Oct 23 '20 at 21:38

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