We may pay more attention to our biceps or our butts, but every part of our body is full of muscles that can benefit from exercise. Our necks are no exception.
If you spend a lot of time craning your neck forward—peering at a computer screen, let’s say—you may be missing out on other movements that will keep the muscles in and around your neck happy. Because just as we can exercise our feet, we can also exercise our necks.
Try some neck yoga
There’s yoga for everything, and of course our pals like Adriene have routines that focus on the neck and adjoining areas, like our backs and shoulders. (The muscles of the neck connect to other parts of the body, so many “neck muscles” actually belong to the back and other body parts.)
Stretch your neck in all directions
These stretches from physical therapist Doctor Jo will help you move your neck in all directions, while potentially relieving spasms or that general feeling of stiffness we call a crick in the neck. (Doctor Jo notes that you should consult a medical professional if you think you may have a medical issue.)
Do some strength training
Neck training is sometimes laughed off as a silly thing meatheads do, and it’s true that wrestlers and football players often want the most jacked necks possible to protect themselves in their sport. But a thing I noticed, while researching the best neck strengthening exercises to share with you, is that meatheads and slender physical therapists look exactly equally silly with resistance bands wrapped around their heads.
So grab a band and follow along with these dudes (or with Doctor Jo, as she also has a video doing similar exercises) as you exercise your neck in all directions.
Get some normal exercise
The great thing about full-body exercise is that you don’t have to think consciously about each muscle and body part as you use it. If you engage in a normal resistance-training program—with weights, or with challenging bodyweight moves like those found in strength-focused forms of yoga—you’ll end up using all the muscles attached to your neck, even if you don’t consider what you’re doing to be neck training.
To give a few examples, crunches require use of the muscles at the front of your neck to stabilize your head and keep it from smacking into the ground. Your trapezius muscles run from your skull to midway down your spine, meaning that many back exercises like lat pulldowns will involve your neck muscles at least somewhat. And any moves where your body is in a sideways position, like side planks, require your neck muscles to do some work to keep your head from flopping around.
Similarly, exercise that gets you moving aerobically, like hiking or dancing, will also get your neck muscles moving a bit. As a bonus, half an hour spent goofing around with your kids in the backyard is half an hour you’re not hunched over at your computer. Give yourself a chance to get out and move around, and you’ll find you feel better all over.