STRETCH AND STRENGTHEN At the end of a long run or walk I frequently find myself, almost subconsciously, performing shoulder rolls. This comes after miles of consciously pulling back my elbows in coordination with forward striding legs, and trying to maintain an upright posture and good form throughout the entire session.
Sometimes during the run/walk I will remember to ease my shoulders, as suggested by a trainer several years ago, first lifting them and in a single smooth motion, letting them drop. Doing this regularly prevents continuous, tense, shoulder shrugging for an hour or more. It helps avoid unnecessary fatigue.
And then I foam roll afterward. It feels so good.
Thus, when I read an article by Stephanie Bengel for Active.com, “4 Ways to Loosen Tight Trapezius Muscles” I recognized I was probably trying to loosen these muscles as well as a few others. I’ve never had significant shoulder or neck pain, possibly because in addition to running I did not spend much time playing at sports or performing activities that regularly used my arms. But now that I’m swimming, I may have increased my risk.
Exploring a bit more, there were other ‘trapezius’ articles that offered similar remedies. Few offered demonstrations, which would have been helpful. Dr. Alan Mandell posted a YouTube video of a strain reliever move (shoulder shrugging) that he says exhausts tight trapezius muscles in order to relax them.
A search of the ‘neck and should tightness’ topic produced another article, “16 Simple Stretches for Tight Shoulders” by Amy Eisinger for the greatest.com. Eisinger’s piece includes videos of most moves. Some are stretches and other seem to gently mobilize the shoulder joint. Included are “T, Y, and I” strengthening movements.
It occurred to me that muscles in other parts of the body become tight because they are not as strong as they need to be for the level of athletic effort at which we are forcing them to function. Repeated exercise of weak muscles can lead to overuse injuries in running. When training to improve performance and prevent injury, strength building of the lower and upper body and core is prescribed in addition to stretching. It seemed likely that tightness of the shoulder muscles, including the 3-part trapezius, might also be prevented or treated by strengthening exercises.
But NOT the bodybuilder moves than promise massive ‘traps’, a huge ‘V’-shaped back, and a thick neck; this is what populated the results of my internet searches. I was looking for injury prevention moves.
Since people recovering from injury/surgery would need this gentler type of rehabilitation I went to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons website. The AAOS offers a shoulder conditioning instruction unit. There are five exercises that target the trapezius. I am most familiar with #6 the Standing Row with Resistance Band, having performed it faithfully for 5 years, after it was recommended to me by trainer/coach Tim Broe. (Which may have also prevented me suffering from tight ‘traps’, as well as the ‘Y, T, W, I’ strength exercises he prescribed using a Swiss ball.)
#6 Standing Row with resistance band - upper and lower trapezius
#12 Trapezius Strengthening - middle trapezius
#13 Scapula setting – middle trapezius
#14 Scapular retraction/protraction – middle trapezius
#15 Bent over horizontal abduction – middle and lower trapezius
As Bengal's article indicates, there are many reasons for 'tight traps'. Possibly one or more of these moves will help relax them.
RUN & MOVE HAPPY!
“4 Ways to Loosen Tight Trapezius Muscles” by Stephanie Bengel for ACTIVE.com
“16 Simple Stretches for Tight Shoulders” by Amy Eisinger
Melanie Woodland for Livestrong.com
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Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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