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Week 44: Prone Elbow Lifts for Middle and Low Trap Activation

Updated: May 19

Exercise: Prone Elbow Lifts for Middle and Low Trap Activation

Purpose: To activate the muscles that depress and retract the scapula while inhibiting the upper trap and shoulder muscles from dominating the movement

What It Targets: Activation of the Scapular Depressor/Retractor Muscles: Primarily the Lower Trapezius, Middle Trapezius with assistance from the Rhomboids and Latissimus Dorsi


  1. Lay on your stomach with your forehead resting on a rolled up towel and your hands by your ears.

  2. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and place them just below shoulder height.

  3. Keeping the shoulders and neck completely relaxed, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you slightly lift up your elbows.

  4. You should feel the muscles in between and on the underside of your shoulder blades working. You should not feel it in your upper shoulders or neck.

  5. Hold for as long as prescribed. Repeat as many times as prescribed.

Main Cues:

  • Less is more in regard to the motion

  • You should feel the muscles in between and on the underside of your shoulder blades working

  • Keep the muscles on the top of your shoulders and neck completely relaxed

Common Compensations/Adverse Effects: 

  • Tensing/activation of the neck and shoulder 

Correction: Use less force until you only feel activation just under your armpit/in between your shoulder blades; Conscientiously avoid using your neck and shoulder muscles; Change your arm position by sliding your arm forward or backward

  • Feeling burning or nerve tension in your neck/shoulder

Correction: Decrease the excursion of the shoulder blade movement; Decrease the level of force used; Raise or lower the height of the surface so it is more comfortable; Conscientiously avoid using your neck and shoulder muscles

Why We Love It:

  • Activates muscles that are often weak and inhibited to produce a movement that is often lost but very crucial for shoulder and neck health

  • Helps to establish proper muscle firing mechanics to lay a solid foundation for harder scapular/shoulder exercises 

  • Is a low threshold exercise to decompress the neck and shoulder 

*Disclaimer: Not all exercises are suitable for everyone, and participation in novel activities may increase the risk of adverse effects such as pain, soreness, or injury. Please consult with your Physician or a local Physical Therapist prior to attempting any exercise you feel uncomfortable performing. If adverse reactions occur, discontinue performance of the exercise and consult your physician or trusted clinician for evaluation.

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