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6 Best Exercises to Strengthen Neck Muscles

  • 6 min read

Exercise should be an essential part of your health and wellness routine - but do you really need to do exercises to strengthen neck muscles? The short answer is yes - you should be doing neck strengthening exercises, particularly if you are suffering from neck pain or have recently undergone surgery.

In fact, many physical therapy programs for neck pain or issues with the muscles in the upper back or nearby areas require exercises that work your neck muscles. Exercise is important when treating the spine after surgery or any kind of injury. If you're an athlete - particularly a combat or contact sports athlete - you can't afford to omit these exercises from your training. They will not just enhance your performance, but protect you from injury.

To get the most out of your regimen, it's important that you understand which exercises you should be doing - as well as how to do them properly. Let's start with the benefits of performing exercises to strengthen your neck.


What Are The Benefits Of Neck Strengthening Exercises?

There are countless benefits to doing neck strengthening exercises, particularly if you are suffering from neck pain or weakness. Most neck exercises aren't overly strenuous and don't take up that much time. While it's always important to get formal medical advice from your doctor or physical therapist before diving in, you should be able to seamlessly incorporate them into your daily routine.

Neck pain, as you likely know, can be majorly disruptive in your daily activities. It is annoying in and of itself but when it spreads to nearby areas, like the arms and shoulders, it can be downright debilitating.

Neck exercises can help relieve this pain and stiffness while also increasing your muscle flexibility & mobility. They can reduce neural tension, increase joint mobility (thereby improving your range of motion) and even increase your postural strength.

That means you may find yourself standing up a bit straighter once you get the hang of them! While some severe neck pain may require additional forms of treatment, you can often relieve neck pain by resting and trying these gentle neck exercises.


Are Exercises To Strengthen Your Neck Muscles Safe?

Neck exercises and stretches are safe, but it's important that you do them slowly and comfortably to avoid injury. As you work through the neck strengthening exercises that we will recommend below, be sure to breathe naturally and without holding your breath. Of course, if you are suffering from an injury or ailment, it's important to consult with your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise program.

If you have any pain, either in your neck or some other area of your body, while doing these moves, be sure to stop and check-in with a physician or personal trainer before you continue. However, with the right technique and loading - these exercises are perfectly safe, and will only reap benefits.


What Are The Best Neck Strengthening Exercises?

Now, let's not waste any more time. We're going to share our favorite exercises to combat neck pain and increase strength and mobility. Here are some exercises you can try to strengthen your neck muscles as well as those in nearby regions like your upper back, shoulders, and more.

Chin Tuck

This neck exercise is remarkably simple, but it's effective. That's why we're starting with it first. It helps to strengthen the muscles responsible for drawing the head into alignment over the shoulders, the upper thoracic extensors, while also stretching the suboccipital and scalene muscles.

To perform this exercise, you will want to start in a position that has your spine up against a door jamb. Keep your feet roughly three inches from the bottom of the door jam. With your spine pressed against the door jamb, draw back your head and upper back, moving backward until your head touches the door jamb. Keep your chin down so that your head is pulled straight back instead of looking up. Hold your head against the door jamb for five seconds, then repeat 10 times.

Thoracic Rotation

Doing a half-kneeling thoracic rotation is a great way to relieve your neck pain, particularly if you have access to a resistance band like those sold by Iron Neck. This kind of exercise improves your spine's ability to rotate and can help relieve pain in your neck along with your lower and upper back.

To do it, you'll start with your head facing straight ahead, with your resistance band and harness on securely. This emphasizes the body on head rotation, driving the rotation of the thoracic spine. Line up against the wall with your hip and lateral thigh of your front leg against the wall. Put your arms in front of you, palms together.

Then, reach your outside arm forward to start the rotation, rotating your inside arm up around the wall. Rotate your inside shoulder so your palm faces the wall then draw up into the "noon" position. Draw your scapula back on your ribcage for a full rotation.

Locked Neck Body Turn

The locked neck body turn is another exercise that's made doubly effective by using a resistance band. Start by setting up your neck harness and band at the appropriate height. Sit into a sort of half squat, then turn your whole body, keeping the shoulders together and rotating through the hips. Do this in all directions, with the anchor point on your left as you turn your neck and body together. You'll feel a lot of activation in your hips but you can press your hands together to get your shoulder blades activated, too.

Cervical Retraction

Do you spend a lot of time seated at a desk dealing with neck pain? Cervical retraction might be the right exercise for you! The benefit of this exercise is that it can be performed in a neutral position while sitting at your desk at work! You don't need to spend a lot of time doing this exercise and it's easy to get into the proper position. When you're first learning how to do this exercise, it may help to get into the starting position on your bed, while lying down, instead. It may be easier for you to learn and commit to muscle memory that way.

Scapular Retraction

This simple exercise is incredibly effective at stretching your neck and upper back muscles simultaneously. Because you have to keep your shoulder blades together while performing this movement, it will help you improve posture.

To do it, you'll get into a standing or sitting position with your back against the wall. Squeeze your shoulder blades together with your arms on the sides of your body. Hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times for one or two sets. Don't let your shoulder blades dip or shrug if you want to maintain the ideal position.

Isometric Cervical Side Bending

This final exercise is a great one for stretching your neck muscles as well as those in your shoulders and back. Sit or stand in an upright position, keeping your head in a neutral position with your feet flat on the floor.

Put your hand on the side of your head with your eyes fixed on something directly in front of you. Very gently, push into the side of your head, resisting motion with your neck muscles. Keep your head steady the entire time and without leaning forward, hold the position.


What Equipment Is Needed To Perform These Exercises?

Many exercises for your neck, upper and lower back, chest, and the rest of your body can be performed without any sort of equipment. However, if you really want to get the best relief (and get more out of your workout), you may want to consider investing in head harnesses and resistance bands. These types of equipment will allow you to progressively increase resistance, making your neck muscles stronger over time. A good neck harness will provide you with more stability in your workout and will make doing these exercises much more comfortable. Using a neck harness can help improve your range of motion and increase strength not only to your neck but also to surrounding muscle groups, like your traps.

Resistance bands, on the other hand, are equally effective, allowing you to build strength and mobility simultaneously without having to invest in a ton of extraneous gear. They help to improve both mobility and your overall control while you are performing various movements. Of course, the Iron Neck neck training equipment is perhaps the best equipment you can use as a form of physical therapy, to strength train, and to reduce the risk of injury. Using Iron Neck will help improve your posture and relieve many forms of neck pain, making it easier for you to go about your day-to-day activities while also accelerating strength gains.

There are several styles and types you can choose from, but all offer a custom fit and interchangeable front pads to suit heads of all shapes and sizes! No more forcing yourself through an uncomfortable workout with ill-fitting gear. So what are you waiting for? Get more out of your workout (and the neck exercises reviewed above) by investing in workout gear like the Iron Neck.