Health & Wellness

Neck Roll Exercise: Purpose and How to Perform the Movement

Neck Roll Exercise: Purpose and How to Perform the Movement

Perhaps you’ve seen a coworker seated at their desk rolling their neck with their eyes closed, seeking relief from the kinks of a long day. Or, maybe someone has told you that you have got to try the neck roll exercise for stiffness and discomfort.

The neck roll has become a go-to exercise for many and seems almost instinctual. Its simplicity makes it attractive, and its immediate sensation of 'relief' makes it addictive. 

But what if we told you that superior, alternative movements not only offered more relief but could also aid you in bulletproofing your neck against pain and stiffness down the road - while offering aesthetic benefits as well?

Stick around as we dive deep into the nuances of the exercise to explore its benefits and drawbacks along with tips on how to perform the movement. Then, we’ll introduce you to game-changing alternatives that could revolutionize your neck training.

What is a Neck Roll Exercise?

Our minds often turn to weight lifting, running, or yoga poses when we think of exercising. But certain regions like the neck sometimes fall out of focus. One of the classical movements to bring attention back to the neck is the neck roll exercise. But what exactly is it?

This movement involves slowly and gently rolling the head in a circular motion. Starting with the chin tucked into the chest, the head rolls laterally to one side, tilts backward to stretch the throat, rolls laterally to the opposite side, and then returns to the initial tucked position. 

It's a simple, seemingly innocuous motion, but like every exercise, it has its nuances. We’ll get to those shortly. But where did the movement come from? Its roots can be traced back to ancient civilizations.

Both traditional yoga and ancient martial arts have incorporated versions of the neck roll to help practitioners improve flexibility and release tension. As we’ve become more sedentary over time, the importance of neck exercises like this one has only amplified.

That being said, what exactly is the purpose of neck roll exercise? We’ll assess some of its benefits below followed by a few shortcomings to be aware of.

Purpose of Neck Roll Exercise: Benefits of the Movement

The neck roll offers a multitude of benefits when executed correctly. Let’s unpack why has it been a staple in many exercise routines for years.

Strengthening the Neck Muscles

The neck houses several muscles, including the sternocleidomastoid, trapezius, and the smaller stabilizing side of neck muscles, which are often overlooked in regular fitness regimens. 

Consistent neck rolls challenge these muscles and fortify them over time. Strong neck muscles not only provide better support to the head but also protect the spine, potentially reducing the risk of injuries like whiplash.

Improving Flexibility and Range of Motion

A stiff neck can limit one's ability to look over their shoulder, tilt the head, or even nod. The good news is you can promote improved neck flexibility by gently stretching and compressing the neck muscles through the neck roll exercise. 

This increased suppleness can translate to a greater range of motion over time, making everyday tasks smoother and more comfortable.

Potential Pain Relief and Relaxation Benefits

The neck is a hotspot for tension in many individuals, especially if you're spending hours hunched over a computer or looking down at your phone. This can lead to the dreaded tech neck - in other words, forward neck posture.

The gentle, rhythmic motion of the neck roll can act as a massage by increasing blood flow to the area. This helps flush out toxins and alleviate muscle knots. This not only can provide pain relief but also promotes relaxation, a brief respite in our fast-paced lives. 

You can learn more about this in our guides on how to relax tight neck muscles, how to fix bad neck posture, and how to improve neck posture. For now, though, let’s get into how to perform neck roll exercise step by step so you can reap these benefits firsthand.

How to Do Neck Roll Exercise: Step-by-Step Guide

The neck roll may be a basic exercise but it still requires precision and care. The neck is a delicate structure after all. Thus, it's essential to understand the proper mechanics behind it to reap the benefits and avoid unnecessary strain before attempting the movement. 

Starting Position and Setup

Start by standing or sitting in a comfortable position. If standing, your feet should be shoulder-width apart if you’re standing. Otherwise, ensure your feet are flat on the ground and your spine is erect if sitting.

Then, let your shoulders fall naturally, relaxed, and away from your ears. This will provide a stable base for your neck movements. Your head should be in a neutral position with your eyes looking straight ahead. This is your starting position. 

Executing the Movement

Actually executing the neck roll movement is straightforward. Just as the name suggests, you’ll slowly roll your head in a controlled manner. Here’s a detailed walkthrough of the movement for more insights:

  • Begin with Tilts: Gently tilt your head to the left to bring your ear toward the shoulder before rolling. Return to the neutral position and then tilt to the right. This prepares your neck for the complete roll.
  • Commence the Roll: Slowly lower your chin to your chest, feeling a stretch along the back of your neck.
  • Move Sideways: Begin rolling your head to the left, feeling the stretch move from the back to the left side of your neck.
  • Back Stretch: Continue the roll until your head tilts back, eyes gazing upwards. This stretches the front of your neck.
  • Complete the Circle: Continue rolling your head to the right and then down again to your chest. You can also reverse the direction for balance.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

The movement is simple - but there are a few common mistakes we see individuals make at first that we want you to avoid from the start:

  • Fast Movements: The neck roll should be a deliberate, slow movement. Rapid motions can strain muscles or lead to dizziness.
  • Forcing the Stretch: Never force your neck into a position that feels painful or significantly uncomfortable. It’s a stretch, not a competition.
  • Rolling Backwards: Avoid full circles where you roll your head completely backward. This can compress the cervical spine.
  • Using the Shoulders: Ensure your shoulders remain relaxed and stationary throughout the exercise. The movement should be isolated to the neck.

Remember, while the neck roll can be therapeutic for some, it's not for everyone. If you ever feel neck pain after working out, stop immediately. And, we want to take a moment to highlight some of the reasons why we don’t recommend neck rolling below in the interest of transparency.

Why Don’t We Recommend the Neck Roll Exercise?

Just as with the neck bridge, the exercise has its place - but is it the optimal approach to training your neck? We don’t think so. In fact, there are a plethora of potential pitfalls to be aware of before adding this movement to your regimen.

Risk of Overstretching

Neck rolls often give the illusion that the deeper the stretch, the better the benefit. 

This can lead individuals to push their necks into extreme ranges of motion, potentially leading to strains or ligament damage. 

A controlled, focused stretch often serves better than intense, forced movements.

Concerns With Cervical Spine Rotation

The cervical spine, or the uppermost part of the spine where the neck is located, is delicate. 

When we roll our neck, especially in the backward motion, it can compress the vertebrae and the discs between them. 

This compression could exacerbate conditions like herniated discs or even cause them in susceptible individuals.

Inconsistency in Resistance

One of the principles of effective exercise is consistent resistance, which ensures muscles are worked uniformly. 

However, the resistance isn't consistent throughout the neck roll movement. This inconsistency can lead to some muscles being overworked while others aren't engaged adequately.

Lack of Comprehensive Neck Training

The neck roll primarily provides a stretch, but it doesn't offer much in the way of strengthening. A well-rounded neck exercise regimen should incorporate both stretching and strengthening for balanced muscle development and functional fitness.

Alternatives to the Neck Roll We Recommend

As you can see, the neck roll is not without its detractions. The truth is that there are better movements in this day and age that can be performed with the help of the Iron Neck - the best neck exercise equipment

We’ll talk about what Iron Neck is and what it can do for you in a moment. But before we do, here are some of the top alternatives to the neck roll that offer all the same benefits and more - with fewer drawbacks. 

Top Alternative Exercises to Consider

Isometric exercises involve contracting muscles without visibly moving the body part. They're fantastic for strengthening without straining through large movements. You can perform these neck exercises for mass to build a stronger, more mobile, and more fluid neck:

  • Neck Flexion: Stand or sit upright and anchor a resistance band behind you at head level. Placing the band firmly around your forehead, engage the muscles at the front of your neck by pushing against the band's resistance. After holding briefly, release and relax.
  • Neck Extension: This time, set up your resistance band anchored in front of you. With the band positioned at the back of your head, push backward, activating the muscles that run along your spine. Like before, hold the position momentarily and then give yourself a breather.
  • Lateral Neck Flexion: For this exercise, your resistance band should be anchored to your side. Loop the band around the side of your head. Using the muscles on the neck's side, resist the band's pull. Ensure you balance things out by repeating on the opposite side.
  • Neck Rotation: Still using the side anchor point, adjust the band so it wraps around your forehead. Try turning your head towards the anchor while resisting the pull of the band. Again, it's essential to train both sides for even development.

We have an array of other movements to consider adding to your regimen as well. You can read our guides to neck tightening exercises, exercises for turkey neck, neck spasm exercises, neck exercises for neck fat, exercises for neck arthritis, neck exercise for vertigo, neck mobility exercises, neck stability exercises, and more.

But, let’s talk about how to get a thicker neck with Iron Neck - a game changer in your neck training goals.

Introduction to the Iron Neck: A Game Changer in Neck Training

Iron Neck is the next-generation solution for comprehensive neck strength and mobility. This neck trainer offers adjustable resistance that caters to both novices and elite athletes. 

Whether you're aiming to alleviate neck pain, improve your athletic performance, or simply fortify your neck muscles, the Iron Neck stands leagues ahead of conventional methods. 

Its 360-degree rotational capabilities ensure that every angle of your neck gets the attention it deserves. Traditional neck training often misses out on this holistic approach, leading to uneven development and potential vulnerabilities.

But with the Iron Neck, not only do you achieve consistent muscle development, you also benefit from enhanced flexibility, better posture, and reduced risk of injuries. It’s the best neck harness alternative for a reason (but we do sell a neck weight harness if you’re on a budget) - why not take a chance on it and see why firsthand?

Learn more about the Iron Neck today as we bring our conversation to a close. Your neck transformation is just a few clicks away.

Bringing Our Conversation on the Neck Roll Exercise to a Close

It’s time to make weak neck muscles a thing of the past. Maybe you were drawn to the neck roll exercise as a means of remedying tensed neck muscles and you want to stop carrying stress in shoulders and neck. Or, perhaps you want to perform neck workouts at home to get a stronger, more mobile neck.

Either way, you’re at a crossroads now. You can choose to try neck rolls and see what results you get or you can dramatically increase your chances of success by investing in your health and wellness at Iron Neck. Trust us - the neck training before and after results will be worth it!

Learn more about how often to train neck, how to build neck muscles at home, how to stop cracking your neck, pinched vagus nerve in neck symptoms, and more in our blog. Otherwise, take the first step to bulletproofing your neck today at Iron Neck!