Many people underestimate the importance of having a strong neck, yet these muscles – which act as a shock absorber between the body and head – are often prone to injury. Here’s everything you need to know to keep neck muscles in tip-top shape.
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Benefits of a strong neck
From a visual perspective, a strong neck looks great, especially if you’re a bodybuilder, but there are lots of other reasons why you should pay attention to these muscles.
Neck pain is exceptionally common, but having strength in this area can prevent aches and injuries from occurring, such as whiplash or even spinal problems. This is particularly crucial if you take part in contact sports such as football, rugby, wrestling or hockey.
The neck also works in tandem with the back and shoulder muscles, so building your neck muscle can bolster strength and stability in these supporting muscles. In stressful situations, many people tense the neck and shoulder muscles, resulting in stiffness and pain. A strong neck, and performing exercises to build strength in the neck, can ease this tension.
Crucially, the neck is the passageway for arteries carrying blood from the heart to the brain, so strength in this area can positively impact your immune and respiratory function, and even energy levels.
Useful neck exercises
There are many exercises you can perform to build neck muscle, and they can easily be slotted into any regular workout. Some can even be done at home, and don’t require any equipment. When concentrating on building neck muscles, focus on the neighbouring deltoid and trapezius muscles, too.
Begin your routine by stretching the neck for around eight seconds. Repeat a couple of times.
Then, flex your neck forward so that your chin is resting on your chest. Maintain good posture and keep your jaw closed. Extend your chin away from your chest and hyperextend your head backwards, so you’re looking upwards.
Perform neck lateral flexion movements by tilting your head from side to side, so your ear rests near the shoulder. Keep shoulders flat and don’t lift them.
Give the deep muscles in the neck a workout by rotating the head from side to side, but also include neck shrugs into your sessions.
For those wanting to push neck strength further, resistance training can help. Isometric exercises involve putting a hand on the same side of the head and exerting pressure on the neck, resisting the force by using the neck muscles. Face-down plate neck resistance training is also a worthy option and involves resting on a flat bench, with a plate held behind your head. Lower your neck gradually and raise it again, while increasing the range of motion.
Preventing neck injuries
Neck pain can adversely affect your back, head and posture, so avoiding injuries is key. When performing neck exercises, use smooth, slow movements rather than quick, jerky ones. Always warm-up and stretch your neck, and don’t push resistance or range of motion to uncomfortable levels.
Prevent neck ache by avoiding heavy items or sitting uncomfortably at a computer or when using your phone. Replace unsupportive bedding, and stay hydrated to keep neck and spinal discs strong and pliable. If you play contact sports, always wear appropriate protective equipment.
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