Neck training used to be only for wrestlers and football players, and a strong neck meant a massive neck, quickly becoming the meat head stereotype. This also turned off all the recreational athletes and fitness enthusiasts from neck training all together. But strengthening your neck is not just for linebackers looking to bust out of their shirt collars. A proper neck strengthening program can fix your posture, eliminate aches and pains from long commutes or travelling, protect your spine from injury, and significantly mitigate your risk of concussions .
First and foremost, strengthening your neck will not make you look like the Hulk. If that was the desired look, you would need to train your neck with a ton of volume, and frequency, not to mention the help of some additional artificial testosterone. The muscles of the neck are designed for stabilizing the spine and head, and generating movement, they are not primed for excessive growth. This doesn’t mean they can’t grow, just that it is very difficult to achieve massive size even when that is the goal, so forget your concerns of growing a tree trunk neck by simply adding a few neck strengthening exercises into your workout. It simply will not happen.
Our modern world of technology and sedentary jobs, has created a posture of hunched shoulders, and forward head position. This forward head position can wreak havoc on your spine. For every 5 degrees of forward head position, the weight of your head being supported by your neck multiplies exponentially. At 60 degrees of forward bend, the typical head position when typing or texting, a 12lb human head would weigh approximately 60 pounds! Strengthening the muscles of the neck will not only prepare your spine to handle these loads, which are inevitable during daily activity, but will also help to ease the load on the spine by placing the head in better posture position and maintaining over time.
Have you ever felt neck pain or tightness during a long flight or car ride? This is due to an imbalance of strength on opposing sides of your neck, typically weaker in the front and stronger in the back. This causes the muscles of the back of the neck to be over active, always “turned on” as they have to do most of the work to stabilize your head. That is why most neck pain during these long trips goes up the back of your neck, sometimes causing tension headaches, stiff necks, and migraines. Strengthening the front of your neck, called the cervical flexors, will create a balance in strength from opposing sides of the neck. This balance creates a new sense of stability, which then allows the cervical extensors, the back of your neck, to relax since they no longer have to do all of the work to make up for the weak flexor muscles. That will lead to less neck pain and stiffness or tension headaches during long trips.
One of the biggest reasons to strengthen your neck is to prevent injuries. Not only will strengthening the muscles of the neck help prevent serious spinal injuries in the case of a fall, whiplash, or blow to the head, but neck strength has also been shown to have a high correlation with concussion risk. During a hard blow to the head, whether it’s from a fall, car accident, unexpected collision, or sporting incident, the head get snapped back and creates a whipping effect at the neck. Typically the concussion is not caused from the initial blow, but during this whipping effect, the brain is slammed against the skull, leading to a concussion. Strengthening the musculature of the neck can reduce the movement of the head during an impact, while also absorbing and dampening some of the impact force. This can significantly reduce the trauma to the brain. Blows to the head are inevitable in life, whether you are a contact sport athlete, or an average Joe, slipping on ice, falling down the stairs, fender benders, and other collisions are going to happen. Strengthening your neck can protect your brain and mitigate the risk of a serious brain or spinal injury during one of these accidents.
Tree trunk necks are out of style, but strengthening your neck can have a huge impact on your long term health and wellness. From improving your posture, reducing neck pain, relieving headaches, or protecting your spine and brain from debilitating injury, the benefits from simple neck strengthening are so impactful, it’s crazy to think that 99% of the population do not incorporate anything into their routine. Most are unaware of the importance, and for the more enlightened few, there is still the question of How?
Make sure you check out Part 2 of this series for the blue print on exactly how to lay out your simple neck strengthening plan.
Also, check out the “Protect Ya Neck” series featured on my YouTube Channel by clicking HERE!