While they might not get as much attention as the abs and biceps, well-defined trapezius muscles, which span the top of the neck to the curve of the shoulder, signify a well-rounded upper-body workout regimen. Overworking your traps, however, breaks down muscles rather than encouraging growth. You can prevent overtraining in this area just as you can any other muscle group, but it takes a combination of methods.
Warm up before working out your traps. In addition to five to 10 minutes of a full-body loosening exercise such as jogging, running, swimming or jumping rope, perform another five to 10 minutes of dynamic flexibility stretches that target the trapezius, such as shoulder shrugs or neck rotations to warm up this muscle group.
Perform unweighted varieties of traps-focused weightlifting exercises, such as barbell shrugs, before you lift weights. Exercise slowly with an empty bar, or simply go through the motions using only your own bodyweight. Like warming up, this helps promote muscle elasticity, improves body control and encourages proper blood flow, all of which help prevent overworked muscles.
Cool down after your traps workout. Do five to 10 minutes of static flexibility stretches that target the traps, such as scapular pinches, seated trapezius stretches and the upper trapezius stretch.
Allow your trapezius muscles an adequate recovery period after each traps-focused workout. Avoid working this muscle group for 24 to 48 hours before working it again. Muscle growth occurs during the recover period; working muscles with no recovery period leads to overtraining, and is detrimental to growth.
Schedule deload weeks if you have a regular weightlifting routine. Deloading encourages recovery in all of your muscles groups, helping prevent overworking as it flushes the body and improves blood flow. Once every four weeks, decrease the weight of high-weight lifts - such as bench presses, squats and deadlifts - down to 40 to 60 percent of your one-repetition maximum and decrease the volume of high-rep lifts by about 40 percent. Follow this reduced regimen for a week. Once every 12 weeks, take a week off of weightlifting. During this week, engage in active recovery by jogging, light swimming or riding an exercise bike.
Stop exercising at the first sign of numbness, tingling or pain in your traps. Allow yourself your typical recovery period; if the disturbance persists, consult your physician. Be wary of signs of overtraining such as excessive fatigue, chronic muscle aches, insomnia, lack of appetite or an irregular menstrual cycle. If these signs occur, put your regimen on hold and contact your doctor.