It’s no secret that weight-bearing exercise is an integral aspect of rejuvenating and building bone. But you may not have considered strength training and the remarkable number of body systems – including your skeleton – that are positively affected by it.

For example, strength training the neck, as in today’s exercise, actually influences your breathing. And that’s not all. As you perform this weekend’s exercise, you’ll be working toward improving your posture, reducing your risk of head injury, enhancing your balance, improving your gait, and more.

So let’s get started!

Why:

If you take a closer look at the muscles in the neck, you will be amazed at their interconnected nature. First, let’s look at some of these specific muscles.

Splenius cervicis

The splenius cervicis is often overlooked, but its size and location make it a very pivotal muscle. It looks something like a sling, with two narrow strips of muscle running down the sides of the neck and joining at the first thoracic vertebrae to form a wider band of muscle.

The splenius cervicis actually begins at the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth thoracic vertebrae, where it is attaches to the bony processes. From there it divides and runs up either side of the neck to insert at the sides of the top two cervical vertebrae. It is involved in flexion, extension, and rotation of the neck.

Levator scapulae

This muscle is often the culprit in a “stiff neck.” It begins at the topmost cervical vertebrae and attaches to the innermost corner of the scapula. As the name implies, it lifts the scapula when contracted. If you shrug your shoulders, you’re using the levator scapulae.

Scalenes

Named for the Latin word meaning “uneven,” the scalene muscles are an asymmetrical set of three muscle pairs: the anterior, middle, and posterior scalenes. Their points of connection are interesting – originating at the second through seventh cervical vertebrae, they attach to the very top ribs right below the collarbone.

Masseter

Now we move round the front of the head to the jaw area. The masseter is a facial muscle used in chewing, as it connects the mandible (lower jawbone) to the cheekbone. It is a rather bulky muscle, and very strong. It has a deep and a superficial insertion point (head), with the deep layer being more muscular while the superficial one is larger.

Digastric

Despite the name, this muscle is not directly involved in the gastric system. It does, however, have two “bellies” connected by a tendon, which is where it gets its name. This curved muscle lies beneath the jaw, beginning at the bone just below the ear (the mastoid process) and inserting at the front center of the jawbone (the symphysis menti).

When you contract your digastric muscle, it lifts a bone called the hyoid, or chin bone.

Sternocleidomastoid

This rather superficial muscle can be felt on the side of your neck when you tilt your head from side to side. It begins at the very top of the sternum, or breastbone, and the medial ends of the clavicle, or collarbone. It runs up the side of your neck and inserts at the mastoid process just below your ear.

The sternocleidomastoid is involved in neck flexion and rotation of your head from side to side. It also helps your head stay still when breathing, which brings me to the next point.

These Muscles Do More Than Just Move Your Head

The muscles of the head and neck have a variety of roles that may surprise you.

Strong head and neck muscles help prevent injuries, particularly concussions, according to a 2014 study that analyzed the the connection between muscle strength, impact to the head, and degree of injury sustained in female varsity soccer players.

The results showed that players with weaker neck muscles “sustained greater impacts,” suggesting that “neck strengthening may be an important component of any head injury prevention/reduction program.”

Who would have thought that neck exercises would be a part of impact sports training! However, strength training in the head and neck has a place in protecting players. It also has a place in protecting you from injury in the event of a fall or accident.

Balance is significantly influenced by these muscles. Try this: place your fingertips lightly on the back of your neck near your hairline. Now move your eyes from left to right. Do you feel the slight muscle movement under your fingers? That’s your body preparing for motion based on the movement of your eyes.

This visual component to motion ties in with proprioception, or your sense of your body’s position in space. Fatigued neck and head muscles can negatively impact posture due to their strong influence on this system, and strength training in these muscles affects both static and active posture.

When it comes to muscles involved in breathing (including deep breathing), we tend to think of the diaphragm. But amazingly, the scalene muscles and the sternocleidomastoid are both pivotal in breathing, with the sternocleidomastoid being directly involved with deep breathing.

You’re probably aware that breathing deeply is excellent for your bones. Not only are deep breaths scientifically proven to alkalize the body; but deep breathing also reduces stress, which has a detrimental effect on your bones.

It’s remarkable to realize how many roles these muscles have!

How:

You can perform this exercise while sitting or standing. Either way, make sure you are practicing excellent posture before you begin. If you’re not sure what that looks like, take a look at this post for further explanation.

  1. Sitting or standing tall, place the heels of your hands on your forehead.
  2. Gently but firmly press onto your forehead, resisting by pushing your head forward.
  3. Hold this resistance for about 10 seconds, and then release. Repeat this 10-second hold three to five times – but only if you feel comfortable. There should not be any pain associated with this move. If there is, decrease the pushing or stop altogether.

And that’s all there is to it! It’s an amazingly simple exercise, but its isometric nature directly hones in on the very muscles we discussed above.

And here are two other Weekend Challenges that I recommend along with this exercise:

Neck And Shoulders Aligner

Targeted Forward Head Posture Eliminator

Targeted Exercise Builds Bones In So Many Ways

When you think about it, exercises that improve your overall health also help your bones, and vice versa. When I created the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System, I considered the whole-body effects of exercise via targeted moves that are specifically designed to build bone density in key areas that are prone to fracture.

Densercise™ provides a month’s worth of over 50 bone-building moves, and it takes only 15 minutes a day, three times a week to reap all its benefits. So if you would like to exercise at your own pace, while enjoying significant progress no matter what your age or fitness level, Densercise™ is here to help you achieve that goal.

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Enjoy the weekend!

References:

1 Gutierrez G.M., Conte C., Lightbourne K. “The relationship between impact force, neck strength, and neurocognitive performance in soccer heading in adolescent females.” Pediatr Exerc Sci. 26. 1. (2014): 33-40. Web. December 1, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24091298

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22 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Joyce Darby June 3, 2018, 4:37 am

    I am enjoying the info you provide. In fairness to the physical ability to perform some of the exercise in my range of abilities is in question. I am at the lowest no.one the bone density chart. To far gone to do the majority of these exercises. would you consider I am realistic in my view. Isometric ones look ok. Thanks for saving bones.

  2. Carol H December 9, 2016, 6:57 am

    WOW, Vivian! Another winning suggestion for me in my 24/7 quest to rid my life of the industrialized “COPD” label. Not only did your forehead-pressing exercise improve my body and breathing overall, but it reminded me that I regularly did this exercise a decade ago when I was bodybuilding, along with 4 other neck-strengthing exercises; and, when I applied your 2-hand-pressing method to the back of my head, it enabled me to take my breathing even deeper! And when done gently enough, it also helps to strengthen those weaker muscles in my arms.

    Another million “Thank you’s” to you!

  3. Annette December 5, 2016, 5:20 pm

    Thank u Vivian for this neck exercise I will surely use it . Just a question what are your thoughts on vitamin K two . Thank u so much for all u do for us.

  4. Linda Trotter December 4, 2016, 8:57 am

    I love the diagram of the neck muscles! It’s easier to picture what’s going on inside there.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 4, 2016, 9:28 am

      Glad you found that helpful, Linda. 🙂

  5. anna December 3, 2016, 5:45 pm

    hello Vivian, thank you
    for this neck exercise I will
    try been going to the physio
    and not sure if I doing the
    right think, suffer from bursitis what is the exercise
    for this? Thank you Anna

    • anna December 3, 2016, 5:50 pm

      Thank you vivian for the neck exercise, I go to the physio but my neck still hurt along with left arm bursitis
      cannot move my left arm, are there any inflammation
      medication natural alternative for inflammation of my
      left shoulder blade. I will try the neck exercise like you
      explain and see how I go and will tell the physio on this
      neck exercise. Thank you allot for your help & assistance. Thanks.

      • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 3, 2016, 7:04 pm

        I hope this exercise works for you, Anna! I think your idea of telling the physio about it is prudent. Perhaps that same professional can help you work out some targeted exercise to reduce the inflammation in your arm. In the meantime, try incorporating these anti-inflammatory foods into your diet:

        https://saveourbones.com/top-8-foods-that-lower-fracture-causing-inflammation/

  6. Nicole December 3, 2016, 5:04 pm

    Would it be beneficial if I only put pressure on the left side of my forehead? I suffer from chronic nerve pain (now almost 5 years) thanks to a bad case of shingles on the right side of my face & head. I can’t even touch that right side without severe pain. I just want to make sure I don’t create anymore pain. I lready have too much to deal with. Thank you Vivian for all your help. It’s much appreciated – Nicole

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 3, 2016, 7:00 pm

      Hi Nicole,

      You might try pressing on the center of your forehead so the pressure is not one-sided – would that be comfortable for you?

      • Nicole December 4, 2016, 12:18 pm

        Thanks Vivian for your quick response. Your suggestion might work occasionally when the pain isn’t too intense, which is not very often. Maybe one day a miracle will happen & I’ll be pain free… Thanks again for all you do for us – Nicole

  7. Chrissy December 3, 2016, 2:56 pm

    My mother was in bed for 3 days because of a bad neck ache. I showed her this exercise, and it seems incredible, but she is now abel to get up and walk around. We don’t know how to thank you, Vivian… very grateful!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 3, 2016, 6:59 pm

      Isn’t it amazing how such a simple exercise can be so effective? What fantastic news about your mother!

  8. Gillian December 3, 2016, 12:40 pm

    Hi Vivien , I have a lot of neck problems and have been told I have a slippage of one of my vertebra in my neck where one has slipped back and slightly behind another. I was diagnosed with oestepenia 8 years ago but refused biophosphanates and just eat healthy. A Physio told me the neck problem was caused by osteoporosis! Not sure what to do . Any advice welcome

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 3, 2016, 6:58 pm

      Hi Gillian,

      It’s always a good idea to seek out a second or even third opinion before making your decision about how to proceed. Another doctor might have some different ideas about your neck situation, and may even suggest therapeutic exercises that will fit your needs. Remember, though, the ultimate decision is yours – stick to your beliefs, and don’t feel that you have to follow “doctor’s orders” for your bones to be healthy. 🙂

      • Gillian December 4, 2016, 4:10 pm

        Thanks Vivien. I will maybe seek a second opinion.

  9. Carol December 3, 2016, 12:12 pm

    Thank you Vivian for this wonderful exercise. It will be very helpful to me.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 3, 2016, 5:08 pm

      You are welcome, Carol!

  10. Tammy December 3, 2016, 10:48 am

    Very good exercise to give strength to my neck. Sometimes I feel my neck hurts because my shoulders get tight. Can you recommend exercises for the shoulders? Greatly appreciated, Vivian!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 3, 2016, 11:30 am

      Hi Tammy,

      Yes, tight shoulders can cause neck pain or certainly exacerbate it. There have been some Weekend Challenges that target the shoulders – you might want to do a search for “weekend challenge shoulders” and check out the various exercises. 🙂

  11. Eva December 3, 2016, 10:16 am

    When I told my doctor my neck was hurting, he said ‘welcome to the club’. What? I have to live with neck pain for the rest of my life? You give me so much hope, Vivian. God bless you!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA December 3, 2016, 11:29 am

      No one should have to live with neck pain, Eva! I am glad this exercise is a good fit to help with your neck.

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