I've touched upon movement of the neck during a past Exercise of the Month article on Upright Rows, involving shoulder elevation, which primarily works the mid-fibres of the Trapezius. I mentioned that the upper-fibres of the trapezium-shape muscle insert at the neck and are responsible for tilting the head back and help in turning the head from side-to-side, alongside the Sternocleidomastoid neck muscles.
Many of us, gym stalwarts included, are guilty of neglecting some exercises until we suffer pain in that region, I include neck exercises. We've all woken up with neck discomfort or finished a long day at work with excessive tension in that region. While rugby players, boxers and racing car drivers are nowadays more savvy and rigorously include neck training as part of their exercise repertoire, the rest of us can learn from them. I'm not suggesting that we need to lend a large proportion of our training to it, but being more aware of our day-to-day activities impact on the muscles of the neck and performing mobility exercises can help us avoid against stiffness and discomfort.
So, first up, awareness. Many of the activities we do involve the head being in a tilted forward position...texting, working on a PC, driving. It may not come overly natural to you, but we can perform all of these activities with better posture with our head in a more neutral, correct, position. It's difficult to overcome old habits, but simply being aware not to hold certain positions for an excessive length of time without rest or alter things like laying down to text on an evening, increasing your screen height at your desk and correcting your car seat position can all help. The same is true in the gym, headrests are on benches and machines for a reason, so, please don't inappropriately lurch the head forward in an effort to push out more reps.
Exercise-wise, what should I do? In short, in a slow and controlled manner, the movement patterns that should come natural to you when you do suffer neck discomfort...moving the head forwards (cervical flexion), turning the head from side-to-side (cervical rotation), bending the head from side-to-side (cervical side-flexion)...some may even find it natural to draw their chin back (chin tucks) and stretch off their shoulders (horizontal abduction stretch of the shoulder)...just try to perform these exercises before suffering discomfort. Gently using the palm of your hand to add resistance or slightly increase a stretch offers a sensible progression.
I hope you have found this brief Gym Professor article useful. It was an article published in the series of Living magazines.
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