Shoulder and Neck Exercises and Stretches
A tight, sore neck and achy shoulders has become a regular occurrence for many people, especially those with desk jobs who spend most of their time on a computer. The constant strain on the neck, shoulders, upper back and lower back from sitting in the same position all day long is something that is difficult to avoid but with a little work, this strain can be minimized and kept from turning into a full blown pain in the neck.
This neck and shoulder workout routine has two separate parts to help prevent and alleviate the tension and pain caused by prolonged deskwork. The first section addresses neck and shoulder strength and endurance, as the neck is a common weak spot for most people. This section is specifically designed to build overall strength without building mass by keeping weight low and repetitions high.
Here is a short description of what each exercise is for.
Prone Chin Tuck: This strengthens the muscles through the front of the neck, building endurance as well as helping to maintain and/or improve flexibility.
Supine Head Raise: This reverse motion of the Prone Chin Tuck focuses on the primary muscle used to keep the head up, and builds strength and endurance for prolonged use.
Side Head Raise: The muscles in the sides of the neck also help to support the neck and when strengthened can help relieve the stress on the back of the neck.
Back Bow: This motion targets the lower back to help alleviate the stress associated with sitting or standing for long periods of time.
Reverse Fly: When done in high repetition and with light weight, this exercise helps to build endurance in the trapezius, rhomboids, and rear deltoids, pulling the shoulders back and up to hold the shoulders in a more natural position.
Rotating Shoulder Shrug: This trapezius exercise helps hold the shoulders up, keeping them from drooping, which is a common cause of pain and fatigue.
The second section addresses flexibility not only as a means of relieving the symptoms of tight neck and shoulder muscles, but also preventing the muscles from becoming tight in the first place (especially when done on a regular basis). Use this section on its own to get immediate relief from tight muscles or use it in conjunction with the strength component to reduce the severity of future issues or to prevent them all together.
Here is a short description of what each stretch is for.
Wall Chest Stretch: The chest muscles are generally stronger than their opposing upper back muscles, and can pull the shoulders forward, causing extra strain on the neck and back. This stretch reduces that strain by loosing the chest and allowing the shoulder to move back into a more natural position.
Wall Shoulder Stretch: The Latissimus Dorsi and other muscles that connect to the shoulder and arm can pull the shoulder down when tight and this stretch increases their flexibility, reducing the stress on the neck.
Three Way Neck Stretch: This stretch focuses directly on the neck, targeting the front, back, and sides all at once.
Cobra Stretch: Having tight hip flexors and abdominal muscles pull the torso forward, increasing the stress on the lower and upper back, especially while standing. This stretch increases the flexibility of the hip flexors and abdominal muscles, lowering the strain on the upper and lower back.
Doing both parts of this routine four times a week for a month will quickly build endurance, strength and flexibility to alleviate chronic neck and shoulder pain. After the first month, drop down to one to two times per week to maintain your endurance and flexibility.
When first starting the strength component of this routine you may not be able to do all 14 repetitions of each exercise. If not, just do as many as you can and increase the reps as you get stronger. As 14 repetitions becomes easy for you, you can start to increase your repetitions to build even more endurance. As long as you increase repetitions and don’t add any weight to the exercises you will never have to worry about building the size of your neck. However, if you are looking to dramatically increase the strength (as well as size) of your neck, build up to 20+ repetitions on each set, then drop back to 14 repetitions (or less) and add a small amount of weight (1-2 lbs) by holding it on your head supporting it with your hands.