Where does the neck look the happiest to you?

Where does the neck look the happiest to you?

Have you ever felt neck pain when you lift your head off the ground to do an abdominal exercise?

If yes, you’ve come to the right place.

If no, you may be the luckiest person on the planet.

If you have a neck injury (have had whip lash, have a disc-related issue, or slept on it funny, etc.) than you need to relax.  That is not pain you want to work through.  You may need to reign in the exercises you are doing and only do ab-work with the head down for the time being.  You can get a really good abdominal challenge with your head on the floor.

If you don’t have any neck issues, but your neck often or always hurts when you do ab work, there is also no reason you should work through bad pain. But it is worth experimenting to find a place you don’t feel pain.  What I’ll call bad pain puts your neck at risk and is a sign that you’re abs aren’t really doing the work.  So, why work through it?  You have pain with no gain.

Here’s probably the real reason your neck feels strained on ab exercises: You have bad alignment.  Meaning your head is forward or your chin is crammed to your chest.  Your neck is not in line with your spine.   Most of the time, if you can play around the with positioning of your head (pull it back in space, tilt it up slightly or down slightly), you can find a place where that pain goes away.  And often, that place will make you feel more work in the abs.

The body is smart.  It will find ways to make the exercise easier.  The abs are trying to get the neck to help do the work.  In this case because your neck is made up of much smaller muscles than the abdominals, the neck can’t do the work of the abs without pain.  It’s not supposed to.  The abs are just being slackers.

You also may need to build up slowly.  Your abs may be getting tired and then the neck starts to strain.  So if you can’t find a happy place for your neck to reside, take a break.  Do a little less until you can build up without neck pain.

Here are two videos that might help:

  • This will show you where your neck should be placed on ab exercises and some tricks for getting it there.
  • This video explains how to do the Turkey Trot. This is generally the exercise people need to be able to do while doing ab work to get their neck properly aligned.

Hope your neck feels happier going forward so that your abs can get a better, pain-free workout.