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Strengthening Exercises for the Upper Back and Neck

by
author image Jessica Owens
Based in Denver, Jessica Owens is a yoga teacher and a writer. She began writing in college for the school newspaper and currently writes for online publications about health and wellness. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hamilton College in 2009.
Strengthening Exercises for the Upper Back and Neck
A woman is crunching her neck upwards. Photo Credit KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

Strengthening exercises for the upper back and neck are neglected in many workout programs. It is important to strengthen these muscles to support and promote full range of motion for your head and to prevent injuries in sports and everyday life. You can do simple exercises to target your upper back and neck muscles, but if you have chronic problems with your cervical spine, you should consult a doctor first.

Standing Row With Exercise Band

Perform a standing row with an exercise band to strengthen your trapezius muscles, stretch your chest muscles and improve your posture. Wrap an exercise band around a pole at a height that is in line with your elbows. Hold the exercise band in each hand, and stand far enough away from the pole so that the band is taught. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, abdominals engaged, back straight and shoulders tall. As you exhale, pull the band toward you, hugging your arms against your rib cage and squeezing your upper back muscles together. As you inhale, release the band. Perform three sets of about 20 reps.

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Bent-Over Row With Barbell

Perform a bent-over row with a barbell to target the muscles in your upper back. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a barbell in your hands with an appropriate amount of weight for your level of strength. Your palms should face down, and your hands should be about shoulders-width on the barbell. Maintain a slight bend in your knees, with your knees stacked over your ankles, and hinge forward at your waist. Keep your back straight and your abdominals engaged. As you exhale, draw the barbell up toward your belly button and squeeze your shoulder blades together. As you inhale, lower the barbell and straighten your arms. Perform three sets of 20 reps.

Anterior Neck Sit-ups

If you experience neck pain, it could be due to weak muscles in your neck. Perform anterior neck sit-ups to strengthen the flexion movement of your neck. Lay face-up on a bench with your neck on the edge of the bench and your head gently hanging down. Slowly lift your head up flexing your neck muscles, then slowly lower your head. During this exercise, you are simply using the weight of your head to challenge the muscles in your neck as they contract. Gradually increase your reps every couple days until you reach 10 reps. Perform three sets. If you have chronic problems with your neck or spine -- such as a herniated disc -- you should consult a doctor before performing this exercise.

Posterior Neck Sit-Ups

Posterior neck sit-ups will strengthen the extension movement of your neck and should be practiced in conjunction with anterior neck sit-ups. Lay belly-down on a bench with your neck on the edge of the bench and your head gently hanging down. Slowly lift your head up, extending your neck muscles, then slowly lower your head. The weight of your head challenges your neck muscles so they can get stronger. Gradually increase your reps every couple of days until you reach 10. Do three sets. Consult a doctor before performing this exercise if you have chronic problems with your neck.

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