Does your neck position really matter in your lifts?

Short answer: Yes. Yes it does. So it’s never really a good cue when people say to “look up” in a squat. And we’ve all seen the cranked head position to “help” get out of the hole. I get it, you don’t want eyes down (something I’m still working on), but you don’t want your neck in a hyperextended or forward position either. Doing this once in a while, you’ll likely be fine. And even a little forward head posture is considered normal. It’s the repeated stress, especially during strenuous activities (like heavy lifting) where problems can start to set in.

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Forward head posture stresses your neck. This is where the sternocleidomastoid and scalene shorten over time and the levator scapulae and upper thoracic erectors have to step in and start supporting your head. And if you look up, and put the neck in a hyperextended position, that can cause the lumbar spine to be in an overextended position at the bottom of the squat. Ideally, you should maintain a neutral cervical spine where you don’t look up, down or jut your head forward.

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I’m a walking testimony of this issue. Personally, I had some major neck and back pain until my physical therapist and I started actively working on the following:

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  • Tucking chin during lifts
  • Chin tuck exercises
  • Strengthen deep neck flexors
  • Posture checks during life activities (desklife, phonelife)
  • Thoracic extensions

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What about you? Do you actively think about your head and neck position when you lift?

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