It’s pretty much a widely known fact that the human head weighs 12 pounds. Not as widely known? Our heads only weigh 12 pounds when we have perfect posture. But since most of us spend the day sitting at a desk or are simply craning our necks forward out of (bad, bad, bad) habit, our posture likely needs a lot of work!
Here comes the scary truth. For each inch we crane our neck forward, taking our head out of proper alignment with our spine, our 12-pound head, gains 10 pounds. This causes a myriad of problems including chronic neck and back pain. Thankfully Melissa Putt, fascial expert and former elite runner, can help! Use the following neck exercises to help put your head where it belongs and achieve optimal alignment.
Supine Neck Curl:
Lay on your back. Allow the chin to first gut up, then draw the chin down and lengthen the posterior neck. Hesitate into the position. Lastly curl the head and neck off the floor. Take 10 seconds to complete the routine. Repeat 6-12x.
Lay on the floor with legs straight. Connect as much of the spine to the floor as possible. Inhale and draw the chin down towards the throat. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat 6-12x.
Shoulder grip stretch:
Stand with feet firmly planted. Reach one arm over the head and the other behind the back. Attempt to grasp hands. If able, tug the top arm down and the bottom arm up. Hold 60 seconds. If unable to touch join the hands with a towel and add the tension up and down.
This next move is an excellent release stretch and load for the neck and back posture. If done properly it will show how functional the latissimus Dorsi is (the largest muscle in the back that connects the low back to the arm).
Step 1: Start kneeling, elbows planted on a bench or chair seat, spine as flat a possible, core engaged, neck should not be extended or flexed. Keep palms facing up and tension in the hands.
Step 2: Sit back onto the heels and simultaneously pull the hands to touch the shoulders. The elbows need to stay firmly planted on the bench.
Good range of the back musculature is when the back does not round or arch when sitting and the head does not pull up. To affect the fascia maintain full tension throughout the entire body during the move. Repeat 8-12 times. A small barbell can also be held in between hands to increase the stretch.
To release the fascia of the neck and the muscles that pull the head forward and down, practice the following move.
Step 1: Sit tall on bench or chair with feet firmly planted on the floor, never releasing the pressure into the feet.
Step 2: Tilt head to one side, and with the hand from the same side, pull the head a bit deeper into the side tilt. The other arm will be wrapped behind the back reaching for opposite hip for support. Turn the chin up towards the ceiling.
This stretch will release the fascia that connects the back of the head to the front of the collar bone. Hold the end point for 60 seconds, repeat both sides 3 times.