Ditch your stiff neck and shoulders in 5

Rubbing Neck Holding Phone

3 exercises to get you feeling like a champ asap

Ditch your stiff neck and shoulders in 5

Many clients come to me with neck and shoulder stiffness as the bane of their existence. 

It's on my list of most common problems people deal with for years before figuring out it's something they can fix through training.

In this article you'll find a 5 minute exercise sequence to unfuc...I mean liberate your shoulders and neck. 

By trying this sequence you should immediately feel some relief (think 5-10% better at minimum). Doing it regularly should substantially improve how you feel over the next 2-3 weeks. 

You'll also not only getting some temporary relief, but also be empowered with concepts to tackle issues like this in the future.

Why you're stiff

You're not broken, regardless of what I say next. What the stiffness often tells you is that muscles of your upper body (shoulders, neck, back and chest) are out of balance (weak, tight, or inhibited). 

This collection of issues has been coined Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS).

Common symptoms of this you might experience include:

  • General and constant neck, shoulder, and chest stiffness
  • Mid (especially around shoulder blades) to low back pain
  • Headaches 
  • Difficulty putting hands overhead, or weakness overhead
  • Pain during upper body pressing, pulling or throwing movements

Your body is always trying to make your common postures, patterns and movements (of lack thereof) more efficient. It will adapt based on the things it's exposed to such as:

  • Stress (shoulders shrugged to your ears)
  • Repetitive work (typing, scrolling, lifting)
  • How you spend your time (hunched over phones, laptops or crushing your favorite series on the couch).

Training can also create an imbalance. Many people focus more on the front side of the body namely the chest, shoulders and biceps which can create more stiffness if not properly balanced with the right training for the opposing back half of the body.

There's an adage that recommends you do 2-3 times more pulling exercises than you do pushing exercises. It's a good place to start, but what you do and how you do it matter a lot more.

How to start fixing it, for good

When working with a client I'll always go through a thorough assessment to figure out the specific things that will give them the most return in the least amount of time. The following 3 exercise sequence though I've found consistently useful for most and helpful to getting on the road to being strong and free of pain and discomfort. 

the formula

Step 1 - Release the tension

Why: We want to turn down the tension in the muscles of the chest, this is where self massage is great.

Assignment: 1-2 mins per side, spend more time in areas that have the most discomfort 

Step 2 - Mobilize the area

Why: The goal here is to open up the tissues on the front side of the body now that we've released some tension.

Assignment: 1-2 mins per side, focus on take deep breaths and relaxing in this position.

Step 3 - Stabilize and activate

Why: This one is a catch all to create strength through the postural muscles of the midback. shoulders, and neck which helps us retain our newly opened up positions over time.

Assignment: 1-2 Sets of 10-20 seconds per position, intention is everything with this movement.

Putting it all together

Complete this sequence 2-3 times per week ideally. Either before a workout or any time you can carve out the 5-10 minutes to do it.

As with everything consistency is key and time is always at a premium. That's why personalized sequences like this are baked into all my training programs. The more you can marry things that you should be doing, to the things you are doing, the easier it is to be consistent.

About the author 

Coach Jason

Coach Jason Ingham is a personal trainer, nutrition coach, and founder of BID Health and Performance. Jason has spent more than 20 years practicing the art of lifting and coaching, continually refining his skill set to help his clients build bodies they're proud of pain-free while doing what they love.

When he's not in the gym you'll probably find him buried in a book, exploring the city's restaurants, or crushing the latest streaming sci-fi or fantasy series with his partner Bailey.

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