Here at Evolutio we gather once a month to battle it out over the ever disputed “Muscle of the Month”. Following the successful vote a program is written targeted at strengthening this specific muscle or muscle group.
Following this months heated clash, the votes were counted and the winning muscle was sternocleidomastoid one of the key muscles in our neck. For exercise purposes this was generalised into a “neck strengthening” program. Now I’m sure the picture that comes to mind when I talk about neck strengthening is not the most appealing one. Neck bulking? That rugby physique with shoulders and head and almost nothing in between? No thanks! But trust me it’s not as bad as you think! And the benefits.. Oh the benefits!! Still not sure? Read on and let me convince you with these four points.
1. Why not?!
These days we strengthen every muscle in our body. Go to the gym and we see people doing exercises covering legs, butt, core, back, shoulders and arms. There are machines isolating muscle groups all over the body and even trainers encouraging us to split sessions into a “leg day”, “arm day”, “chest” or “back”. But when has anyone ever mentioned “neck day”? Why aren’t there any gym machines targeting the neck?? It seems only logical to me that if we’re going to train all of our other muscles that we should absolutely include the neck musculature! And it’s not just me starting to think this way…
2. The pros are doing it!!
Ok so let’s go back to that image of the thick necked rugby player. Following on from the high number of concussions in Rugby and resulting game time lost to rehab for necks post-injury, the experts began brainstorming into prevention. What did they come up with? Neck strength! Multiple studies have begun to be conducted in other sports too. Findings in both womens soccer and American football have suggested that those starting with better neck strength and stability are more likely to avoid or minimise severity of neck injury during their sports.
3. No thick necks!
You don’t have to build a thick rugby neck! Exercise programs can be designed to achieve different results. Super heavy low reps has been shown to have more of a “bulking” effect (thick neck), whereas lower weight with holds or higher repetition movements for endurance can strengthen without significantly increasing muscle size. Rugby players train specifically to handle the high loads of impacts with other players during their games and therefore NEED this thickened musculature to handle contacts. Their training programs are designed to build this bulk and strength, yours doesn’t have to be!
4. Decreased neck pain and headaches
One of the common complaints we see as physios is pain around the neck, top of shoulders and often into the head causing headaches. Although not all headaches are caused by neck pain, there are definitely a large portion that are. Commonly these headaches start with pain and stiffness on one side of the neck that shoots up into the side of the temple. The root of the problem? In most cases the cause is decreased strength and stability around the neck! combine this with prolonged poor postures sitting at work or laying on the couch on our phones and we’ve got the perfect storm. Increased strain is placed on the muscles that aim to hold the neck in place, they become overloaded causing tiny muscle tears, inflammation, tightness and pain.
Maintaining good strength in the muscles around your neck is one key factor that will minimise the risk of this issue by increasing endurance so that your muscles can sustain good postures longer, and avoid fatigue leading to overload, tightness and pain. So start thinking about strengthening your neck and prepare to reap the benefits! Stuck on ideas? Come in and get some inspo, or better yet give our Muscle Of The Month neck program a crack!
Happy training! Kristina :D
Kristina is the coolest physio at Evolutio here in Richmond. We had a contest one day, where you had to compete against the others in all sorts of contests like a breakdancing & yoyo comp, and who could keep their tamagotchi alive the longest. She won. She’s also an extremely talented physio working in many areas but loves looking after snow people. Like John Snow but everyday John Snow’s that hit the ski slopes. We’ll stop talking now…. Book in to see her in Richmond.