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Jul 16 2014
Exercises I Hate: Part 3 (Upright Row)
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I don’t know if I have ever specifically included Upright Rows (also known as shoulder shrugs) as part of someone’s home program in all of the years I have been a PT.  I have, however, seen this exercise being done a lot at the gym, so I know many people do it.  It is especially big with body builders because it helps develop strength in the upper trapezius which gives them the muscle form they like. It can also be helpful for a football player or wrestler who is at risk of neck injury due to the demands of the sport.

The reason I don’t use this exercise often is that it is extremely rare for me to find weakness in the upper portion of the trapezius when doing my evaluation. Instead, people often present with significant strength deficits in the middle and lower portions of the muscle, so we need to work on balancing those out with the strong upper trap. When the upper trap becomes dominant, it can lead to many neck and shoulder issues due to the abnormal movement patterns that exist. 

Try the exercises below to address the mid and low trap muscles. Combining these exercises with improving postural awareness, especially for someone who sits at a computer all day for work, is often where I start my strengthening programs with patients.

Prone Abduction

Lie on stomach with the involved arm hanging off the table. Keeping the elbow straight, pull the shoulder blades back and hold. In a thumb-out position, slowly lift arm sideways to table height, and maintain the retracted position as you return to the starting position.

Perform 10-15 reps, 3 sets.

Prone Extension

Lie on stomach with involved arm hanging off the table. Set shoulder blades back and hold position. In a thumb-up position, slowly raise your arm behind you to table height keeping you elbow straight.

Perform 10-15 reps, 3 sets.


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