Research, from the National Health Interview Survey, reveals that most adults (approximately 8 out of 10) in the United States do not strength train. Of those that do, an even smaller percentage train the cervical spine (neck). Many fitness professionals believe that the muscles of the cervical spine are the most important muscles in your body, because they protect the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Injuries to the central nervous system can be catastrophic, while degenerative diseases often lead to chronic pain and dysfunction.
Not training your neck is a serious mistake. Sarcopenia (muscle wasting disease) effects your entire body, including your spine. A report from the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois reveals that: over 50 percent of adults have had neck pain in the last year; the incidence of neck pain is increasing in younger ages; females who sit at a desk all day suffer from neck pain proportionately more than males; and people with chronic neck pain use the healthcare system twice as much as the rest of the population.
In an attempt to reduce the financial burden of inactivity and muscle weakness, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has set a goal to increase the number of adults that strength train. The goal is summarized in the “Healthy People 2020” report. It states that one of the biggest challenges Americans face when it comes to strength training is safety.
Knowing how to strength train safely is critical, given that injuries are a leading reason why people stop strength training. When it comes to strengthening the muscles of the neck, safety is even more important. The structures of the cervical spine (vertebra, intervertebral discs, muscles, tendons and ligaments) can easily be injured when exercises are improperly performed. Proper neck training improves flexibility, reduces pain, and decreases the risk of degenerative spine disease (spondylitis, stenosis, compression fractures, etc.). In other words, a healthy neck reduces doctor’s office visits and the use of pain management medications. Neck training has also been shown to be effective at reducing risk for cervical spine and traumatic brain injuries.
An evidence-based approach to neck training improves function by strengthening the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones of the cervical spine. Neck workouts are typically designed around a 4-Way Neck Machine. The Neck machine has an adjustable seat (for proper fit). Its’ customized cams (pulleys) that eliminate sticking points, allowing you to work the neck through a full range-of-motion. Progression on the neck machine is small (1 to 2.5lbs.) which allows for safe, consistent progression that matches the strength curve of the cervical spine.
In the end, training the muscles of your neck and spine will generate the same adaptive response and improvements in function as training any other muscle in your body. At MEDFITNESS, our Spinal Fitness Workout is a targeted, full-body workout that focuses on the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. To learn more about the Spinal Fitness Workout talk to your MEDFITNESS Trainer.
1. Asanovich, M., Cornwall, R., 2015. Head and Neck Training Specialist Manual. An Evidence-Based Methodology to Strength Train the Head & Neck. Head Neck & Spine Institute.
2. McKenzie, R. Ninth Edition, Copyright 2011. Treat Your Own Neck. Spinal Publications New Zealand Ltd.
3. Moffat, M., Copyright 1999. The American Physical Therapy Association Book of Body Maintenance and Repair. New York NY. Owl Books.
4. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. https://health.gov/paguidelines/
5. National Health Interview Survey. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5528a1.htm