By Lee Boyce, CPT Men's Fitness
Training of the muscles in the neck isn't typically the first thing most average, or even intermediate gym-goers think about when it's time for a workout. However, the muscles of the neck can be a crucial link if we suffer from chronic pain, more specifically, headaches or stiffness and discomfort in the shoulders and traps
- all of which can be associated with weak neck muscles.
Here are a few steps to getting ahead of the situation (pun intended).
Weak neck muscles can mean a poor ability to keep the head upright. Cranial tilting will take the spine out of proper alignment – those bones should be in a slight arch leading up to the base of the skull. If alignment is off, your bones aren’t sitting where they belong and it's highly possible that a variety of aligments will flair up in the region.
Cause of Neck Problems: Your Work Setup
At your office, where’s your monitor located? How much back support does your seat give you? Is your desk low? Anything more we add to our lives to encourage poor posture and cranial tilting is going to wreak havoc on our strength. Weak neck muscles will only become weaker if we’re always being told to slouch and crane forward. Get a good setup at your second home, and make sure you’re encouraging the right posture.
Solution 1: Quick Workout
A1) Neck Bridges – 10 reps
Try putting your head on a swiss ball instead of the floor if this variation is too difficult.
A2) Back Extensions – 15 reps
Though these are designed for the posterior chain, making sure the alignment is held true right up the cervical spine can encourage the deep neck muscles to work against gravity.
For both of these exercises, perform slow and controlled reps. Focus on 3 sets to start, and progress to 4 sets after a few weeks.
Rest as long as needed between sets.
It goes beyond training the upper traps through shrugging, or just focusing on overhead movements to make the neck stronger. Sometimes it means getting right down to the muscle in isolation to reap the rewards of exercise. Chronic pain will be a thing of the past if you use these moves for your advantage.
Solution 2: Get Soft Tissue Work Done
It’s not an easy task to foam roll the neck. It gets tricky (okay, nearly impossible). That’s why a good chiropractor who practices techniques like A.R.T (active release techniques) is key.