5 Exercises to a Bulletproof Neck

Emily Beers


Vancouver, Canada



Whether your neck pain stems from a car accident or other acute injury, a lifetime of bad posture, sleeping on your stomach with a giant pillow, or sitting at a computer with your head tilted forward for hours each day, in my 10 years of coaching I have discovered neck pain is a common complaint.


Before I get into some exercises you can do to alleviate neck pain and build stronger, bulletproof neck, let’s talk about some lifestyle changes you can make, as well.



  1. Rethink Your Pillow: You might love that big, poofy pillow of yours, but the reality is it’s probably stopping you from sleeping with a neutral spine and neck, which could be causing you neck pain. A thinner pillow that supports your neck’s natural curve is a better bet, especially if you’re a stomach sleeper (or an orthopedic pillow that has a deeper depression to place and support your head and neck). Also, consider sleeping on your back. All the experts say it’s the best position for your spine.
  2. Rethink Your Laptop Position: It’s probably not something you think about too much, but if you spend a lot of time at a computer, it’s a good idea to position it at eye level, so you’re not spending hours looking down or up, which can place undue stress on the neck.
  3. Rethink Your Texting Position: You might look silly holding your phone higher than everyone else, but the same is true of your phone when you’re scrolling. Looking down and logging hours upon hours scrolling those social media feeds could be taking a toll on your neck.
  4. Consider a Supplement: Magnesium is commonly used as a sleeping aid, and it’s also a great muscle relaxant. If you find your neck, and the muscles around your neck, perpetually tight or tense, consider adding a magnesium supplement to your nightly routine.
  5. Hydration: Drinking enough water is important to keep you hydrated, and also to keep the discs of your spine hydrated. Hydrated discs help keep them strong and pliable.


Okay, now on to five exercises you can do at home or at the gym to help improve your neck health.


1. Straight Jacket Sit

Bad posture is one of the most common reasons for neck problems. A straight jacket sit is a great way to practice having perfect posture, which can essentially help re-program your bad posture. It will also tell you where you’re weak, as people tend to feel the weakest part of their body break down the fastest during a straight jacket sit.


Sit with your legs stretched out straight, hip-width apart, and your back, spine, and head perfectly neutral. Pull your shoulder blades together and down and tighten your thighs. Dorsi-flex your feet by pulling your toes toward you.


Then cross your arms and gently place your thumbs and pointer fingers on the opposite shoulder. From there, simply sit and maintain this perfect position for 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, etc.


Can you work up to five minutes without breaking form? Where do you feel it first? Your low back? Your neck?


It helps to have a coach present to watch so he/she can correct you if you start to lose that perfect position.



The Straight Jacket Sit


2. Feet-Planted Deadhang Hold

Stand on a box at a height where you can easily reach the bar above you. Grab onto the bar with your body directly underneath the bar. Then bend your knees and sink your weight into the box as if you’re trying to let all your weight sink into the box.

You should feel a good stretch and release all throughout your neck and back, helping release any tightness running through your spine.


Hang out for 1 minute at the end of a training session.


Feet-Planted Deadhang Hold


3. Cat-Cow

The cat-cow is a classic yoga pose that gently moves your body from spinal flexion to spinal extension, all the while helping you gain control and postural awareness over the movement of your spine.



On all fours, focus on controlling your movements and moving one vertebra at a time until you’re at your max spinal flexion. Then take a couple of deep breaths and see if you can push the range of motion a little further. Then, starting at the lower back again, move in the opposite direction, one vertebra at a time, until you’re at your max spinal extension. When you do this, keep your head neutral the entire time, especially if you have neck pain.


Spend 2 minutes working the cat-cow positions in your warm-up.



4. Prone Plate Neck Raises

If you experience neck pain doing this, then abort this exercise for now. But if your neck is healthy and you’re looking to strengthen it, this is a good one for you.


Lay prone (face down) on a bench, with your head and neck hanging off the bench. Place a 5lb plate behind your head, holding onto it with both hands, and slowly lower and raise your neck through a comfortable range of motion.



Keep that plate right against the back of your head as you move your neck by dropping your chin and raising your head. Keep a nice, slow tempo on these. No sudden movements.


Do 10-20 of these at the end of your workout.



5. Supine Plate Neck Raises

This is essentially the opposite of the above. Lay on your back on the bench and place the plate on your forehead and then raise your neck as high as you can by tucking your chin to your chest, and then return to a neutral position.


Again, if you experience pain, do not do this one.


Do 10-20 of these at the end of your workout.



Good luck turning your neck into a strong, stable, bulletproofed one!

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