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When setting your fitness goals, you’re probably not making a list of exercises under the “neck” category, because, well, why? Most likely you aren’t a football player or an athlete who relies on a strong neck for performance. But, the neck carries a lot of weight – that of your head – and is directly connected to your spine. It bears a lot of responsibility in keep your headaches at bay and your alignment in check. Here are 3 nifty neck exercises that strengthen without bulking. Enjoy!

Before you get started with any of these, take the time to stretch. Stand straight and relax your shoulders. Tilt your head to the left, using your left arm to grab over your head and pull your right side of your head towards the left shoulder. Hold for 20 seconds with mild pressure. Repeat on the other side. Now, you are ready to work the neck!

1. Isometric Neck Exercises – Front and Back

Stand straight with your head facing straight and your shoulders relaxed. Clasp your hands together and place them flat against your forehead. Push your head against your hands without allowing your hands to be pushed forward, creating pressure. This works your back neck muscles. Next, clasp your hands and place them behind your head, this time pushing your head backwards against your hands without having them move forward. This works the front neck muscles. Continue to apply pressure for both sides until tired.

2. Isometric Neck Exercises – Sides

Stand straight with your head facing straight and your shoulders relaxed. Raise your right arm and place your hand flat against the right side of your head. Push your head to the right, against your hand, without allowing the hand to move outward. Repeat on the left side of your head. Continue until you tire.

3. Neck Planks

Lie face down on a flat bench so that your shoulders are just past the edge and everything above is hanging off the bench. Put your hands behind your head (optionally holding a weight for more resistance) and breathe in, letting your upper body to bend forward and down. When you breathe out, roll your upper body up so it is straight and aligned with the bench and your lower body. Repeat until you tire.

Next, turn around so that your back is on the bench and your face is up. Your upper body should be off the bench to where your shoulders are just past the edge. Place your hands on the front of your forward (optionally with a weight). Breathe in and let your body fall backward. When you breath out, roll your head upward, keeping your hands in place and your body as flat as possible on the bench. Focus the pressure on your neck area, not your core. Repeat until you tire.

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Image: Doc Buide