The head-forward posture that comes with desk work can aggravate other neck muscles besides the ones that move your head forward and back. The exercises on this page can help undo the neck stiffness that comes with head-forward posture.
Once you have the hang of these exercises, you can quickly do them in succession whenever and wherever you’d like.
The most obvious benefit of maintaining smooth neck rotation is the ability to smoothly and painlessly look over your shoulder to check for traffic when you’re in your car. But even if rarely drive, you can benefit from a smoothly rotating neck.
Your neck turns best when it is properly positioned, so to rotate your neck:
- tuck your chin back to retract your head,
- keep your head level throughout the rotation (don’t tuck or lift your chin), and
- rotate your head as far as you can to one side, then the other.
At the end of each turn, try to rotate one or two degrees more at the end of the motion. Rotate only your neck and head, not your shoulders and torso.
This video shows this simple exercise. The instructor also shows what not to do with your shoulders and torso.
This video shows how to do neck rotation against resistance with an exercise band.
This video shows an isometric-resistance version.
There are two kinds of neck flexion. The first kind, flexing the very deep muscles on the front of your neck to tuck your chin down, is part of the head retraction routine. The second kind of flexion involves bending the whole neck forward from its base on top of the torso.
The simplest way to exercise your neck flexors is to:
- lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor,
- tuck your chin, and
- lift your head off of the floor.
This video shows how you can also hold your neck in flexion just a bit off of the floor to make this an isometric exercise.
This video shows how to add eccentric neck flexor muscle contraction (using the muscle as it lengthens) by positioning yourself so that your neck can extend out over the edge of your bed or exercise bench.
If you are into body building or just enjoy more strenuous gym workouts, you can also do neck flexion exercises against resistance, as shown in this video (just ignore the robotic-sounding narrator).
Neck Lateral Flexion
The simplest way to laterally flex your neck is to stand up and:
- tuck your chin in,
- bring your ear toward your shoulder,
- return to upright, and
- bring your ear toward your opposite shoulder
This video from a physical therapist shows how he uses this exercise in a clinical setting. I like this one because he shows you how to position yourself first before doing the exercise.
This video shows how to laterally flex your neck while lying on your side. She also shows you how to assist the lateral flexion motion at the end of the move to add a little more range to the stretch.
This video shows how to do resisted lateral neck flexion with a weight (you might want to protect your face and head by putting a towel on the side of your head first).
The simplest way to extend your neck is to stand up and:
- tuck your chin in,
- roll your neck toward the back, initiating the motion at the base of your neck, where it attaches to your torso,
- look at the ceiling, and
- return to neutral.
This video shows how to extend your neck standing up (just ignore the background music).
This video shows how to add isometric resistance as you extend your neck to enhance the effect of the motion.
This video shows how to do next extension exercises hanging over the edge of a bed or massage table. The weight of your head adds some resistance when you are positioned this way.