Fiber type composition of the human male trapezius muscle: enzyme-histochemical characteristics

Am J Anat. 1990 Nov;189(3):236-44. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001890306.


The human trapezius muscle has an origin that is more extensive than that of any other body muscle; it has a complex macroscopic structure with fibers running in different directions. Histochemical analysis of multiple samples, obtained from different parts of the trapezius muscle from five males, showed marked differences in the distribution and the cross-sectional fiber area of the fiber types among different parts of the muscle as well as among individuals. As revealed by the mATPase activity, after different levels of alkaline and acidic preincubations, the lower third of the descending portion, the transverse, and the ascending portions of the muscle had a predominance of type I fibers (low mATPase activity at pH 9.4), whereas the most superior parts of pars descendens had a higher frequency of type II fibers (high mATPase activity at pH 9.4). The fibers of the most superior parts of the muscle were considerably smaller compared with those in all the other parts. In sections stained for NADH-TR, moth-eaten fibers were observed within parts of the descending portion. Their location and their larger fiber area, compared with that of ordinary type I fibers, may be related to frequent and/or continuous use of these fibers. In conclusion, the differences in fiber type composition between the different parts of the muscle probably reflect different functional demands on the trapezius muscle in various head, neck, and shoulder movements. We suggest that the interindividual differences in muscle fiber composition are due, at least in part, to genetic factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscles / cytology
  • Muscles / enzymology*
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism


  • Oxidoreductases
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases