Neck Stretching Routines to Avoid Injury, Reduce Stress, and Feel Better

Neck Stretching

Have you ever considered neck stretching routines as part of your overall fitness plan?

According to the American Council on Exercise, over 70% of adults will have some form of neck injury or pain in their lives. Given that the neck, like the back, is a central hub in nearly all motion that we perform, a neck injury can be very debilitating. (1)

Wouldn’t it make sense to take some simple steps to avoid this hassle in your life?

An effective stretching routine for your neck is one of the most effective ways to reduce, or even eliminate, the chance of a painful neck injury. As part of an overall stretching and fitness plan, neck stretching will not only reduce injuries, but also improve your overall wellness.

Your neck, back, and body will just feel better if the muscles are properly stretched and exercised, and you follow a consistent plan to achieve this.

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Neck Stretching Benefits

Neck StretchingThere are many powerful benefits to a consistent neck stretching routine:

  • Reduces stress in the neck, which will improve muscle tension throughout the body.
  • Improves flexibility in the neck which will reduce injuries in your daily life.
  • Greatly reduces the chance of injury in physical workouts and sports.
  • Improves your neck’s range of motion, which can diminish with age in the absence of stretching.
  • Improves your posture by reducing the tightness of your primary neck muscles.
  • Improves circulation by increasing blood flow to your muscles.

And because you will feel it throughout each day, the most important benefit of all might just be the improvement in your overall well-being.

When your muscles are flexible, stretched, and relaxed, your body feels better and is more at ease. It is more prepared for all of your daily activities, which of course includes workouts, sports, and physical activity.

Neck Stretching Routines

Consistent and effective neck stretching is a critical part of any overall stretching program. The following outlines the steps to follow in your routine, as well as the stretching exercises.

Warm-up – 1-2 minutes

The first step, prior to any stretches, is to warm-up your muscles and body. This prepares the muscles for stretching. Stretching cold muscles is a surefire way to a painful injury.

Perform some quick and simple cardio for two minutes:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Gentle walking
  • Jump rope
  • Jogging or Hopping in place

Dynamic Stretching – 2 minutes

Start by rolling the neck in a very slow and controlled motion. Move it to down to the chin, then to the left, then to the right. Do this several times, and then roll the neck in a complete circle – 360 all the way around. Then roll the other direction. Slowly increase the speed, but only slightly.

Make sure the neck roll is always a controlled motion, and never bouncy or jerky.

Static Stretching – 2 minutes

There are 6 main static stretches that will improve flexibility, and help you to achieve all of the benefits listed above. Follow the stretches in the order and manner listed. Stretch to the point of slight discomfort, and hold each stretch for 5 to 10 seconds.

Neck Flexion Stretch

Neck Flexion Stretch

  1. Stretch the rear neck muscles by moving your chin slowly to your chest.
  2. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Recover.
  4. Repeat 5 times.

Neck Extension Stretch

Neck Extension Stretch

  1. Stretch the front and side neck muscles by moving your head slowly back as if to look at the sky.
  2. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Recover.
  4. Repeat 5 times.

Rotation Neck Stretch

Neck Rotation Stretch

  1. Slowly rotate your chin to your right shoulder.
  2. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Recover.
  4. Repeat 5 times.
  5. Then repeat the stretch to your left shoulder and left side.

Assisted Neck Rotation Stretch

Assisted Neck Rotation Stretch

  1. Position your right hand on your chin as shown, and grab your right elbow with your left hand as shown.
  2. Slowly rotate your chin to your left shoulder using your hand as a lever to apply light pressure to the stretch.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Recover.
  5. Repeat 5 times
  6. Then reverse your hand positions and stretch your neck and chin to your right shoulder.
  7. Make sure to keep the motion very controlled and deliberate, and the pressure should be very light.

Lateral Flexion Neck Stretch

Lateral Neck Stretch

  1. Move your left ear to the left and down as your rotate your head to the left and down until your head is nearly horizontal, still looking forward.
  2. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Recover.
  4. Repeat 5 times.
  5. Then repeat the stretch to your right side.

Assisted Lateral Flexion Stretch

Assisted Lateral Neck Stretch

  1. Using your right hand placed on the top of your head as shown, slowly and softly pull your head to the right and down until your head is nearly horizontal, still looking forward.
  2. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Recover.
  4. Repeat 5 times.
  5. Then reverse the motion to your right side.

Again, make sure to hold each stretch for 5 seconds, and it is critical to never bounce or jerk. The motion is slow, controlled, and fluid.

Tying Your Neck Stretches All Together

Neck StretchingFollowing a simple neck stretching routine on a consistent basis will greatly improve the flexibility and strength of your neck. This will not only improve your overall wellness and appearance, but also reduce the chance of injury to your neck.

So follow a simple and consistent routine, for improved neck healthy.

Additionally, avoid these that further contribute to neck pain:

  • Poor posture
  • Tight upper leg and back muscles (see lower back stretches)
  • Poor mattress support
  • Improper support in your shoes

Avoid these factors above, stand up straight, perform consistent neck stretches, and you should be able to avoid your local orthopedic repair shop!

Reducing Stiffness in Your Neck

When your neck muscles are stiff and tense, your body will not be at ease, and you are more prone to injury and tenseness. Especially during resistance training! 

If your neck is not loose and supple prior to resistance training (lifting weights), then you will eventually strain or tweak your neck. And sometimes the smallest tweak can haunt you for months. 

You may not realize how easy it is to strain a neck muscle, so many people do not focus on stretching their neck prior to workouts…it’s a big mistake!

You will be surprised at how quickly and easily it can happen.

It might even be a nuisance strain where it really does not hurt. But you can feel it in everything you do for weeks, especially working out. So stretch your neck each and every day, and especially prior to a workout.

Check out other stretching routines to improve your fitness and overall wellness.

David Williams

David Williams

A diet and fitness enthusiast, David is an ex-Army Airborne Ranger and Infantry soldier with decades of fitness and wellness experience. A West Point graduate with a degree in engineering, he focuses on technical research related to fitness, nutrition, and wellness. He loves the beach and working out, and spending time with his wife and daughters.

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  1. Certified personal trainer: Ace Personal Trainer. ACE. (n.d.).

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