Sticking your neck out!

“What we love usually manages to get into our conversation. What is down in the well of the heart will come up in the bucket of the speech.”  -Vance Havner
greetings and let’s hear it for pain-free necks!  we all know how lousy in general it can make us feel when our neck hurts…thus the refrain ‘don’t be a pain in the neck!’.  poor posture can be a likely culprit causing our pain as of course can stress and fatigue.  the posture issue we can do a lot about…hooray!  a study done in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that five moves dramatically reduce neck pain and increase neck strength.  to get the most from these moves try for three times a week of twelve reps done in two sets with a rest in between. 
1)  shoulder shrug- stand straight while holding small weights or bottles of water (yea for cheap!) at your sides with palms facing in.  keep your neck straight  (head over shoulders, shoulders back and ribcage slightly lifted) slowly lift your shoulders up toward your ears in a shrug and lower them back down again.  repeat slowly while breathing with an exhale on the uplift.
2)  one arm row- with a weight or bottle in one hand place the opposite knee and shin on a couch and the opposite hand on the arm of the couch so that your back is at a 45 degree or less angle (slightly tilted up).  keep head in line with back and not sagging downward.  bend arm with weight and lift your elbow upwards past your back as you pull your naval into your spine to support the lower back (you knew i would throw that in :).  think sawing a log type action. slowly lower the weight down to a straight arm and repeat.  do this same move on the other side.
3)  reverse fly- stay in the same position but this time keep the arm straighter with a slight crook in the elbow and again palm facing in.  go for bringing the arm down then slowly raising up to the side to back height (again while pulling naval firmly in).
4)  upright row- stand up straight with weights in each hand.  pull arms up, bend elbows and bring hands right in front of upper chest (think wings) with palms facing downward.  raise elbows up slightly past shoulder height then slowly lower elbows down to sides and allowing hands to follow breathing as before with the exhale on the uplift (sounds like a little song :).
5)  shoulder abduction- stand holding the weights at your sides with palms facing in and pressing them against the sides of your thighs. with your elbows slightly bent again, extend the weights out to your sides until your arms are parallel to the floor, palms down.  repeat.  keep your neck straight and relaxed, head over shoulders and core firm.  again exhaling on the upswing.
excellent!  follow these wonderful neck renewers with some static (held) stretches to lengthen and relax the muscles.  one super one is to sit on your ball with shoulders blades back and flat.  without raising shoulders or turning face downward, bring ear toward shoulder and hold for several breaths.  helps to close eyes and clear mind. repeat on other side.  another good one is to sit on your ball (subliminal encouragement) clasp your hands out in front of you with straight arms and slowly pull your hands away from your chest while bending head down and rounding shoulders and scooping out chest and abs.  as you hold this you should feel your shoulder blades separate slightly and relax.  follow with sitting back up and bringing clasped hands up over head and pulling up toward ceiling for several breaths.  end with clasping hands behind back, straightening out arms as much as you can while raising chest up and tilting head upwards and raising chin up.  deep breath as chest is opened up to fill lungs and stretch- then release.  good to repeat all stretches one more slow time because a relaxed neck is a happy you!
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