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The 3 worst exercises that completely destroy your neck

When you train, keep your eyes on the prize. But keep in mind that it’s just as important to make sure you don’t do anything that will injure, strain, or injure your body as you strive towards your ultimate goal. For example, we talked to Robbie Mann, PT, DPT, OCS, CMTPTand Middle East Regional Director for Corporate Clinics at FYZICAL, who shares the worst neck exercises you should be aware of.

Being able to move your neck correctly is essential for most daily activities. Unfortunately, nowadays, many of us spend a good part of the working day hunched over a laptop or computer. And in our free time, it’s common to scroll through social media, play games on our phones, and read books on our tablets, all while practicing bad posture. So get up and move to reverse this bad habit! “Proper neck and spine alignment isn’t always high on our priority list,” says Mann. “Even worse, this improper alignment can stay with us when engaging in physical activities, such as working out, golfing or swimming.”

If you’re dealing with any type of neck pain, it’s important to locate the movement behind the pain and stop doing it immediately. “Some rehabilitation techniques can counter that statement, so be sure to talk to your physical therapist who can help you figure out which movements are best for you,” adds Mann.

Below you will find some of the worst neck exercises that can cause further pain or discomfort, along with much safer alternatives. Read on to find out more, and after that, be sure to check out the 7 Fitness Habits That Are Destroying Your Body Before 60.

1. Circles of the neck

neck circles illustration
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You might be surprised to learn that neck circles can pose a threat to the thoracic spine. These circular motions are done to stretch the muscles in your neck, but Mann explains that there’s a much safer alternative exercise to consider. “Neck stretches are best for loosening tight neck muscles,” he says. “Start by sitting upright and looking straight ahead; press your left shoulder with your hand and slowly tilt your head to the right. Hold for five seconds and repeat on the other side.”

2. Swim laps

swimmer's swim laps, demonstrating when to train during intermittent fasting
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When you go to the pool to swim, you may not realize you’re favoring one side when breathing, which can lead to neck damage. “This can be problematic after a while because you’re building muscle on one side of the neck and shortening muscles on the other,” explains Mann. “Try to alternate sides of your breathing to build the muscles on both sides of your neck. Outside of the pool consider neck rotations; start by sitting upright with your shoulder down, looking straight ahead. Slowly rotate your head toward the right shoulder as far as possible. Hold comfortably for five seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat on the left side. This marks one full rotation. Mann tells you to aim for three rotations total.

RELATED: 7 Exercise Habits That Are Wrecking Your Arms After 50

3. Heavy lifting

woman performing overhead barbell press, strength building exercises
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Last but not least, when your neck is already sore, you should definitely decrease the amount of weight lifting you’re doing. This is especially true for exercises that require you to press the weights overhead, as they can put extra strain on your neck muscles.

“Ask a friend for help, and consider rearranging heavy items on lower shelves or at eye level,” suggests Mann. “It’s important to be careful and not overstretch an sore muscle. Instead, try a heating pad and gently massage the sore area.”

Alexa Melardo

Alexa is the Deputy Mind + Body Director of Eat This, Not That!, who oversees the M+B channel and brings readers interesting topics on fitness, wellness and self-care. Read more about Alexa

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