Relieve Tightness and Improve Posture With Neck-Strengthening Exercises

Relieve Tightness and Improve Posture With Neck-Strengthening Exercises

Neck strength may be critical for contact sports like wrestling and football, but for those of us who get our exercise fix from at-home workout programs (like 600 Secs or Xtend Barre), neck strength hardly seems necessary. Neck strength may not rank alongside glute or shoulder strength, but some people may benefit from incorporating neck-strengthening exercises into their routine.

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What Are the Benefits of Neck-Strengthening Exercises?

Even if you don’t get tackled on the reg, you may still see benefits from neck-strengthening exercises.

1. Pain relief

“Someone who frequently experiences neck pain and stiffness, especially after waking up, can benefit from simple exercises like the neck tilt, neck turn, and neck stretch,” says Gbolahan Okubadejo, M.D., F.A.A.O.S., a board-certified spinal and orthopedic surgeon with offices in New York and New Jersey.

2. Better posture

Weakness in the neck and upper-back muscles is a common side effect of sitting in front of a computer all day. If the neck and upper back muscles become weak, your head will tend to droop forward, which adds stress to your cervical spine (the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your neck). Over time, this stress can lead to neck pain and stiffness.

“Strengthening these muscles with the proper technique can improve posture and move the head closer to a neutral position,” Dr. Okubadejo says. (In a neutral position, your ears will be directly over your shoulders.) “With the muscles strengthened and the neck in a neutral position, this can help alleviate pain and prevent it from coming back,” he says.

 

How to Do Neck-Strengthening Exercises Safely

woman stretching her neck | neck strengthening exercises

So long as you use proper technique and care, there’s no harm in performing neck-strengthening exercises, Dr. Okubadejo says.

1. Warm up

To stay safe, spend a few minutes loosening up your neck muscles before jumping into any strength exercises. “This helps restore and maintain any flexibility, allows for a deeper range of motion, and improves overall blood flow,” Dr. Okubadejo explains.

2. Move slowly

Second, remember to take your neck exercises slow and steady. Back off or stop altogether if you feel any discomfort.

3. Breathe

Also, breathe normally. “A good tip is to exhale during exertion and inhale when relaxing,” Dr. Okubadejo says.

4. Don’t do neck exercises if you’re injured

But if you’re recovering from an injury, hold off on the neck exercises until you’ve been okayed by your doctor.

 

5 Exercises for Neck Strength and Mobility

The following moves can help strengthen your neck and ease tension you carry there — just keep the above tips in mind before and/or during activity.

1. Neck circles, or CARs (controlled articular rotations)

  • Stand tall and upright, with your neck neutral and your gaze forward.
  • Keeping the rest of your body still, tuck your chin toward your chest and rotate your neck to the left, as if tracing your collarbone with your chin.
  • Next, bring your left ear toward your left shoulder as you bend your neck to the left side, and then roll your head back, turning your gaze upward.
  • Continue rolling your head toward your right, and tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder. Then trace your chin along your right collarbone until it is again tucked toward your chest.
  • Continue for 30-60 seconds, and then repeat in the opposite direction.

2. Chin thrust (protraction)

  • Stand tall and upright, with your neck neutral and your gaze forward.
  • Without tilting your head up or down, press your chin forward as far as it can go without discomfort.
  • Pause, then bring your head back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 30-60 seconds.

3. Chin tuck (retraction)

  • Stand tall and upright, with your neck neutral and your gaze forward.
  • Keeping the rest of your body still, pull your head back, as if making a double chin.
  • Pause, and then bring your head forward to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 30-60 seconds.

4. Rotation

  • Stand tall and upright, with your neck neutral and your gaze forward.
  • Keeping the rest of your body still, turn your head to the right as far as it can go without discomfort, feeling the stretch on the left side of your neck.
  • Pause, and then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 30-60 seconds, and then switch sides.

5. Isometric hold

  • Stand tall and upright, with your neck neutral and your gaze forward. Place your left palm against your left cheek.
  • Simultaneously press your palm against your head while gently pressing your head against your palm, engaging the muscles on the left side of your neck.
  • Pause, and relax, repeating the sequence for 30-60 seconds, then switch sides.
Lauren Bedosky

About

Lauren Bedosky is an experienced health and fitness writer who specializes in running, strength training, sports nutrition, and injury prevention. She writes for a variety of companies and publications, including Men’s Health, MyFitnessPal, Everyday Health, and BlueCross BlueShield. She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, with her husband and their three dogs. You can find here on Twitter here.