Why Does This Hurt Wednesdays?: First Edition

Welcome to Why Does This Hurt Wednesday.  This is a special request  series from Yulia, my freshman year roomie at Tufts (yes we are still friends). I was recently discussing with friends what they would want out of a fitness and yoga blog and what questions they have the most when exercising.  Yulia had a great question.. She goes to bootcamp and she loves it but when she is sore afterward she doesn't know which movements caused which muscles to be sore.  Well I can help with that, after my years of personal training and yoga teacher training and the past summer of taking Cadaver Lab Anatomy I'm feeling pretty good about those things called muscles. Bootcamps are great, group classes are great but sometimes they lack the information that non- health related or non sciencey people need.  The exercises are great but it's even better to know why you are doing certain exercises.  It helps to know what muscles you are targeting with certain exercises because it helps you feel if you are performing properly. (Proper form rant will be in another post no worries)  It also helps to know so you can replicate the exercises on your own and so you can learn to target muscles that are weaker than others to create a balanced body. As for the after effect of soreness, it helps to know how to stretch the muscles you targeted in your exercise class.



So Why Does This Hurt Wednesdays was born for you. I'm not going to get crazy in depth but I do hope to give you a overview on the muscles you are working, what exercises directly target them, what motions they are involved in and a stretch or two to relieve them.



Here is a little lingo to help you understand what I am talking about:

Origin: This is where the muscle begins or one place of attachment to ligament or bone--  a fixed position that does not move when the muscle contracts.

Insertion: This is where the muscle ends or another lace of attachment to ligament or bone-- this point moves when the muscle contracts.

Action: This is the basic motion that the muscle performs (extension/flexion, adduction/abduction, internal/ external rotation, protraction/retraction)



So for the first Why Does This Hurt Wednesday we have the trapezius muscle better known as the "Traps".  When I was asked to address this muscle I was specifically  asked for this one:IMG_6129


These would be your upper traps and they tend to get sore and tight and a lot of people don't really know how they are targeted. So instead of just tackling these bad boys, I going to explain all three sections of the trapezius (upper, middle, lower). Yesterday in my Functional anatomy class we actually had to palpate the upper, middle and lower traps on a partner and I realized how far down your back they go (to Thoracic vertebra 12).  It makes sense once you see what actions each section of the trap performs.  It is important to note that there is not a distinct line where one starts and the other ends. It is also important to note that  the trapezius are the most superficial of the back muscles and have other deep back muscles under them working on similar actions.




Trapezius Muscle (link from google images)

Trapezius as a whole


4 places:

Superior Nucal Line (a ridge on the skill)

Ligamentum nuchae ( a ligament in the back of the neck)

Thoracic spinous processes (processes of your thoracic vertebra)

Supraspious Ligament (a ligament found along the vertebral column)


3 places:

On your clavicle (collar bone)

On your acromion (a bony part of your scapula (shoulder blade) that is part of your shoulder joint)

On the spine of  your scapula (a part of your shoulder blade)


Rotate the Scapula (shoulder blade) upward. This helps you reach up overhead also known as shoulder

Upper Traps


Rotate the Scapula (shoulder blade) upward. This helps you reach up overhead also known as shoulder flexion. Any motion where your hand is up above shoulder level.


Beginner Level:

Dumbbell or Barbell Shrugs: Pinch your shoulders back before beginning, holding weights or a barbell in your hands, bring your shoulders towards your ears and slower lower down starting position. Begin with 3 sets of 10  repetitions. (always increase repetitions before weight)


Middle Traps


Retracts the Scapula (squeezes the shoulder blades together, helps with proper posture)


Seated Rows (with a cable machine): Using a cable machine, sitting up tall, core engaged, shoulder pinched back and down your back. Keeping your elbows tucked into your ribs, pull the bar into your belly button and slowly return the to starting position: Begin with 3 sets of 10 repetitions


Lower Traps


Depresses the Scapula (moves the shoulder blades down the black, away from the ears)

Upwardly rotates the scapula (shoulder blade). This helps you reach up overhead also known as shoulder


Prone T's (on physioball): Begin Laying with your sternum over the middle of a physic ball or laying on your stomach on a bench. Pinch your shoulder blade back and down, setting it in proper position. Bring your hand our to shoulder height in a T position and squeeze the shoulder blade back, slower lower your hand to the ground. (palm should be facing down the whole time) Begin with 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Prone  Y's (on physioball):  Begin Laying with your sternum over the middle of a physic ball or laying on your stomach on a bench. Pinch your shoulder blade back and down, setting it in proper position. Bring your hand down and back by your hips while pinching your shoulder blade(s) together. (palms facing the ground) Begin with 3 sets of 10 repetitions.



Stand up nice and tall, reach your left arm reaching down or grab for your opposite hip pocket. Tilt your head to the right and use your right hand to gently pull on your head. Then tilt your head at a 45 degree angle and gently pull.  Repeat on the opposite side.

I also love using a heat pack or hot neck pillow around my neck and shoulders to relieve tension in my upper and middle traps. It feels amazing after a long, stressful day.


As I am writing this I realize that the trapezius are a complex muscle group and probably a tough one to start with.  The traps are involved in multiple shoulder motions and a lot of accessory motions. It's hard to target the muscles specifically but I gave a few exercises that can help strength the traps.  Be careful when you are performing the exercise proper form is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS necessary.  If you have any further questions please reach out to me at nothingwithoutyoga@gmail.com



Let me know what you want to see for next weeks "Why Does This Hurt Wednesday?" in the comments below

Namaste! & Get lifting!



Disclaimer: I am currently NOT A medical professional (although soon) but I am a personal trainer, yoga instuctor and Doctorate of Physical Therapy student.  This is where I have compiled all this information from. If you are concerned about starting a physical fitness regime please contact your doctor first.  If you have any questions at all please contact me at nothingwithoutyoga@ gmail.com or my instagram @nothingwithoutyoga.




****pictures to come, need to enlist my sister or boyfriend to help****