Just like rest of the body parts, maintaining a strong neck is also important as it provides support to your head. The brain controls all the actions of the body by sending signals. Neck plays a great role in enabling the brain to communicate with the rest of the body. Thus, any injury to your neck is likely to affect your brain.
Moreover, a strong neck helps in preventing pain and injury in that area. Today, neck pain is one of the common muscular problems after back pain, and is mostly reported in people who have to sit in front of the computer for long hours. But the question that most don’t have an answer to is how to strengthen neck muscles. Here is the answer. Incorporate neck muscle strengthening exercises in your routine. This is a great way to combat neck pain and other neck related problems and improve the strength and flexibility of your neck. These exercises are quite simple, and some of these can be even tried at home.
23 Most Effective Neck Strengthening Exercises
1. Chin Tuck
Chin tuck is the most effective exercise to improve your posture and combat neck pain. Being absolutely safe, this exercise is appropriate for beginners. It aims at strengthening the front and back of your neck at the same time. Start off by standing with your back and neck straight and your arms at your sides. Your eyes should be facing forward. Now gently lower the chin, so that you feel the stretch at the back of your neck. Stay in this position for 3 to 5 seconds and then raise your chin to the starting position. Perform at least 10 repetitions. This exercise can be done numerous times during the day. It is very useful in strengthening the muscles that pull the head back into alignment over the shoulders. It can also be done while lying down.
2. Back Burn
This is another important neck strengthening exercise. Start off by standing with your back against a flat wall and your feet about 4 inches away from the bottom of the wall. Your back of the head should be against the wall. Now place your elbows, forearms and back of the hands and fingers on the wall, keeping your wrists at about shoulder level. Your arms, hands, head, and fingers should be touching the wall and while doing so, slowly slide your hands up above your head and back down. At least 10 repetitions are advisable. This workout should be done 3 to 5 times in a day.
3. Rotational Resistance
This exercise is safe and aims at working all the muscles in your neck at the same time. Start off by placing one hand at the side of your head. While in this position, try to rotate your head to the side towards your shoulder. As in the case of lateral resistance, press your head with your hand to resist the move trying to bring your shoulder in line with your chin. Once this position is reached, hold it for 5 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat the move with the other side.
4. Shoulder Blade Squeeze
This exercise might sound as if it is meant for strengthening your shoulders and back but it is beneficial for your neck as well. The squeezing motion involved in this exercise activates the muscles that connect your neck to your shoulders, thus helping to strengthen the lower portion of the back of your neck. This exercise can be done while sitting or standing. Your back and your neck should be kept straight. Now tuck your chin slightly and squeeze your shoulder blades as far as possible without feeling any pain. Stay in this position for 5 seconds and perform at least 10 repetitions.
5. Prone Cobra
This is an advanced level exercise that strengthens the muscles of your shoulders as well as your neck and upper back by using gravity as resistance. As the name suggests, it is done by lying on the floor with your face down (similar to a cobra). To start off, lie on the floor with your face down, placing your forehead on rolled up hand towel for support. Your arms should be placed at the sides and palms down on the floor. Now place your tongue on the roof of your mouth. This will help in stabilizing the muscles in the front of your neck to assist the strengthening process. Pinching your shoulder blades together, lift your hands off the floor. Roll elbows in with your palms out and thumbs up. After this, gently lift your forehead about an inch off the towel while eyes should be kept looking straight at the floor. Do not try to tip your head back or look forward. Stay in this position for 10 seconds and then return to the starting position. Perform 10 repetitions of this move.
6. Neck Plate Curls
This exercise is done with the help of weights. While choosing the weight, make sure that you can hold it comfortably against the back of your neck. Start off by lying down frontwards on a bench. Your head should be hanging over the edge with your shoulders aligned at the end of the bench. Tightly hold a light weight at the back of your head with both your hands. Now slowly tilt your head upward and lower it back down. Repeat the move.
7. Neck Harness
Neck harness is used to lift a weight with the neck. It is attached to your head with a chain dangling down in front of you on which a free weight can be attached. This exercise is somewhat similar to the previous exercise and aims at strengthening the back of your neck. Start off by lying down on a platform such as a bench, facing downwards while your upper body should be raised high. Now slowly lift your neck up such that you are looking upwards and then look back down. For strengthening the front of your neck, this exercise can be done by lying down and facing upwards with your back on the bench instead. Alternatively, it can be done by standing up with knees bent and hands on thighs or sitting.
8. Towel Exercise
As evident from its name, this exercise involves the use of a small towel. The towel should be folded horizontally to make it a little thicker. This exercise can be performed while standing or sitting on a chair or a bench. Start off with your feet apart and wrap the towel behind your face at the base of your hairline. Holding the ends of the towel in each hand, bring your chin down towards the chest. The towel should be held tightly to create resistance for the neck. Now lift up your head. Continue to raise and lower your head.
This is a highly advanced exercise which is considered great for your neck and general health. Start off by placing a pillow or something soft yet firm next to a door and then kneel down to put your head on the pillow. While staying in this position, swing your legs up against the door. Basically you have to rest upside down and then return to the starting position. This exercise sounds pretty difficult but with regular practice and by keeping your body in shape, you can master it. This move is commonly performed by yoga practitioners.
10. Side Stretch
Stand upright, and tilt your head to the left slowly, as if you are trying to touch your shoulder with your ear. Hold the position for a second and then return to the normal position. Repeat the same exercise on the other side and follow the routine till necessary.
11. Resistance Exercise Routines
This exercise comprises of opposing forces, as you place your left hand on your head right above the ear. While gently pushing your head to the right, resist the push of your hand by using your neck. Repeat the same procedure with the other side.
12. Head Lift (Flat)
Lay down with your back flat against the floor and keep your shoulder relaxed. Fold your legs without lifting up your feet from the floor. Then slowly raise your head and try to reach the chest with your chin. Release your head back to normal position gradually. Repeat this lift and release routine till you start feeling the stress leave from your neck. Another simple exercises for neck pain relief!
13. Head Lift (Sideways)
Lay down on the floor sideways and slowly start raising your head towards the ceiling. This will stretch the side muscles of your neck and release the stress and tension in the lower neck area. Repeat till it feels necessary and then switch to the other side to perform the same routine.
14. Shoulder Circles
Stand in a relaxed posture and leisurely begin to rotate both your shoulders in a clockwise direction. After completing ten rotations, switch to the counterclockwise direction and complete another set of ten rotations. Take a break of a few seconds in between sets, and repeat till necessary.
15. Neck Retraction/ Dorsal Glide
Perform this routine while sitting or standing upright. Slide your head backwards without raising your straight line of sight (i.e. look ahead at all times). Take a deep breath while performing this action, then return back to normal position while exhaling. Repeat this glide routine six to eight times a day with each session lasting about five minutes. One of the best exercises to reduce neck pain.
16. Forward and Backward Neck Tilt
Perform this exercise while sitting or standing up. Begin by slowly tilting your head down so your chin meets the chest. Maintain the position for around five seconds, and gradually return back to the normal position. Take a short pause and gently drop your head backwards as you look towards the ceiling for about five seconds. Return back to the default position slowly. Repeat this exercise five times a day for relaxing your neck, back, and shoulder muscles.
Slide your head backwards without raising your straight line of sight (i.e. look ahead at all times). Lock your hands at the back of your neck by intertwining your fingers together. Gently push your head forward so that your chin meets your chest. You will start to feel a stretch in the back muscles of the neck. Stop when it starts to feel uncomfortable. Return to neutral position and repeat five times.
18. Shoulder Blade Pull
Make yourself comfortable on a stool or a chair without a backrest. Relax your shoulders and neck, then raise your arms and bend at a 90-degree angle. Move your elbows backwards and draw the shoulder blades together to gently squeeze the muscles between them. Reverse the process to return to the original position and repeat five times.
19. Rotating Neck (Four Positions)
This is a combination of four neck stretch positions. Begin with dropping your head forward to move your chin towards the chest. Now, without returning to the neutral position, tilt your head towards the left trying to touch your left shoulder with your left ear. Proceed with dropping the head back so you are looking up. End the routine with tilting your head towards the right and touching your right shoulder with your right ear. Return to neutral position for a short break. Repeat the same process in the opposite direction, i.e. Right, Back, Left, and Front. This exercise helps in releasing stress from the neck, upper back and shoulders.
20. Hand Resistant Exercises
Another best neck exercises for a pain-free neck! Place both your hands on your forehead. Start to move your head forward and oppose the force of your head using your hands. Maintain this opposing force posture for 5 seconds. Take a short break to relax and repeat 5 to 10 sets of this exercise 3 times a day.
You may also perform this same exercise by placing your hands at the back of your head and oppose the force of the head pushing backwards.
21. Shoulder Shrugs (Using Weights)
One of the best exercises for neck pain using weights! Hold lightweight dumbbells of 2 to 5 pounds in each hand. Relax your arms while your palms are facing in. Raise your shoulders up to the ear level. Pause for a couple of seconds and release. Repeat 8 to 12 times for one set, with three sets per day.
22. Reverse Flies (Using Weights)
Hold 2 to 5 pounds of lightweight dumbbells and bend forward, so your chest is parallel to the floor (like taking a bow). Let your arms hang down straight with palms facing towards the legs. Then slightly bend your elbows and squeeze shoulder blades to raise your arms up to the sides. Pause for a second and release the posture. Repeat 8 to 12 times for one set, with three sets per day.
23. Upright Row (Using Weights)
Here is another neck pain exercise using weights! Using lightweight dumbbells of 2 to 5 pounds each, stand upright with palms facing towards the thighs. Pull weights up till the collarbone by raising your elbows out towards to the sides. Hold the posture for a second, then return back to neutral position. Exercise 3 sets by repeating 8 to 12 times of this in each set.
Common Causes Of Neck Stress
So what causes this discomfort in one of the most important parts of our body? In our everyday life, the neck undergoes immense pressure due to:
- Improper body posture
- Poor physical ergonomics
- Uncomfortable sleeping platforms
- Sudden jarring movements
In most cases, these irresponsible habits end up giving us, what we most commonly call, a ‘stiff neck’. If you spend an awful lot of time working on the computer, or on an office desk, execute hard physical labour, or simply find yourself slouching every now and then, then make the following exercises a part of your daily routine.
Before you proceed to practice any of the methods mentioned below, you must remember that if, at any point, you feel an unbearable stress or pain in the neck or back, you should visit your health advisor immediately. As a general rule, try to avoid any sudden jerks or jarring motions that may result in causing a strain on the neck muscles.
Refrain from any and all physical movements where the load is distanced from the body. When you attempt to perform improper weight lifting of any kind, it adds stress on the neck and back, as these parts of our body try and compensate the lack of pull from the arm or legs. Of course, avoid any of these exercises for neck pain that disagree with your injuries or physical impairment.
Three Things To Remember
- You do not need to follow all exercises, just follow the ones that suit you best.
- Stop exercising if it begins to pain and consult your doctor immediately.
- Perform the exercises non-aggressively and in slow and steady motions.
The Bottom Line
By following a selection of handy exercises mentioned above, you can be relieved from stress under any circumstances. Remember, your neck supports a 10 to 12 pounds of head weight, and slacking in maintaining its proper position will result in stress overload on the neck muscles and the soft tissues found in them.
If you found this helpful, drop us a note on how these exercises for neck pain helped you to tackle neck pain. Which ones helped you the most, and how you were able to adopt them in your daily routine. We want to hear it all!