Strength training for the neck is an often over looked part of many fitness programs. But I am not that concerned about it.
Strength training for the neck can occur while we are doing other exercises. Exercises that work the upper back or the shoulders are good examples. The neck gets worked when you work the surrounding areas.
With that said… I realize you may have some neck pain and you were told by your doctor of physical therapist to partake in a strength training for the neck program.
Here are some studies to prove how effective a strength training for the neck program can be:
- The Journal of the American Medical Association (May 21, 2003 vol. 289, page 2509) showed that women with long-term chronic neck pain improved with strength training for the neck, and that this worked where stretching and other techniques had failed.
- Researchers in the Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine at Jyvaskyla Central Hospital in Finland assigned more than 100 women to two different types of exercise. One group performed dynamic neck exercises while the other group performed a strength training for the neck program. A third group performed no neck exercise.
Their results showed that after 12 months the dynamic neck exercise group and the strength training for the neck exercise group both experienced an increase in neck range of motion and a decrease in pain compared to the group that did no exercises at all.
The study also concluded that those performing a strength training for the neck program experienced even better results than those doing the dynamic neck exercises.
- The Department of Physiology, Karolinska Institute, in Stockholm, Sweden found that dynamic neck strength training in high incidence neck pain workers can reduce pain. Specifically it is suggested that 12 minutes of specific strength training for the neck exercises twice weekly for 8 weeks increases strength of rotator, extensor, and flexor muscles of the neck. Also all individuals who had pain reported reduced perceived neck pain after training.
Strength Training for the Neck Exercises
There are two main neck muscles. They are called sternocleidomastoid and splenius. The sternocleidomastoid runs down the side of your neck and the splenius runs down the back of your neck.
Both of these muscles help you to move your head up, down, left, right and all the angles in between. Strengthening these muscles is shown to increase overall neck strength, decrease neck pain and increase neck range of motion.
All of the studies above used one or more of either a dynamic exercise or a strength training for the neck exercise.
Dynamic exercise is any type of exercise that does not involve adding a weight. It instead relies on gravity and body weight to strengthen the muscles.
Here are some examples of dynamic neck exercises:
- Have a friend put their hand on the back of your head. You lower your head so that your chin is touching (or is close to) your chest. Have your friend apply resistance to your head as you slowly try to bring your head back to normal position.
- Now have your friend do the same thing, but this time their hand is on the left side of your head. Tilt your head so that your right ear is trying to touch your right shoulder. Again your friend should apply resistance as you try to lift your head back to normal. Reverse and do the opposite side.
- Lay on your back and on your bed. Allow your head to dangle off the edge. Slowly lift the head up and relax back down.
- Now lay on your stomach and on your bed. Allow the head to dangle off. Slowly lift your head up and slowly relax back to normal.
There is no need to have your friend put their hand on the front of your head. This has been known to cause some neck pain for people. Since strength training for the neck is NOT a huge goal for most people… only stick to the described exercises.
Strength training for the neck can also involve the use of strength training machines. These are to be used with the utmost of care. Your neck is fragile.
Not all gyms have neck strength training equipment, but if they do you can learn to use them pretty easily.
I won’t go into detail here, but you just hop on the machine, place your head on the cushion and move your head against the weighted resistance. You can move your head to the left, to the right, forwards or backwards. It’s the same exercises as above, but instead of a friend… you are using a machine.
Important Strength Training for the Neck Things to RememberThe important thing to remember when performing your strength training for the neck program is that you should proceed slowly and with caution. You should work the neck once a week. Anything more than that is not really necessary.