Upper Traps Don’t Elevate???

I found a pretty interesting piece on the upper trap today.  It comes from the dynamicchiropractic.com

The Upper Trapezius DOES NOT Elevate the Shoulder

By Warren Hammer, MS, DC, DABCO

Essentially the article talks about a study back in 1994 that goes against a grain in the thought process of the upper trapezius being a scapular elevator.  In a study titled, “Anatomy and Actions of the Trapezius Muscle,” by Johnson and Bogduk, the scientists determined that due to the location and orientation of the trapezius fibers they did not act as elevators of the scapula like commonly thought. 

The essentially transverse orientation of the upper and middle fibres of trapezius precludes any action as elevators of the scapula as commonly depicted. Rather the action of these fibres is to draw the scapula and clavicle backwards or to raise the scapula by rotating the clavicle about the sternoclavicular joint. By balancing moments the trapezius relieves the cervical spine of compression loads.

Actually the main muscle responsible for elevation is the levator scapula, and the upper traps primarily work as stabilizers somewhat.  It’s an interesting article based on an interesting study.  Both are heavily entrenched with anatomy so be prepared. 

I found this to be extremely interesting.  At the moment I am currently on my second go-round with Shirley Sahrmman’s book, Diagnosis and Treatment for Movement Impairment Syndromes. 

For those that don’t know, Shirley’s  book is a tremendous resource for anyone studying movement patterns.  It’s very physical therapy based but gives great insight into the issues diagnosing, as well as treating movement impairments with specific corrective exercises.  After reading up on the scapula and common problems people develop I remembered the upper trap article and decided to post on it.  There should be more to come in the weeks ahead from Shirley’s book as it will be a great resource for our off-season training. 



  1. Zach, Thanks! Please keep up the good work, it’s always a great pleasure visiting your site.

Leave a Comment