Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Core Muscles of the Neck

This is the third and final article in the series of core strength. As previously noted, the core isn’t limited to the abdomen, but each section of the body depends on active function of core muscles to work optimally. The neck’s unwieldy task of balancing a 10 pound head makes deep muscles vitally important in this fragile part of the body.

Most people feel tension in the superficial muscles of the neck. The trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles are common headache culprits. While the usual complaint is pain in the back of the neck, many of the core muscles are located in the front, such as the longus colli, longus capitus, and scalenes. When these muscles aren’t used, they become stiff and inflexible and the neck loses its ability to manage the weight of the head. (Imagine trying to balance a full one-gallon milk jug on a wooden dowel.)

Core muscles are small, so it is best to use small movements to strengthen them. In addition, their slow twitch muscle fibers contract and relax more slowly than other muscles. Keep this in mind when doing core exercises and be patient as these muscles develop.

Exercising the core muscles in your neck, shoulder, hips, spine, and torso will make all other movement easier and reduce your risk of injury. The core muscle exercises described in this series are easily done and won’t even cause a sweat. Devote time every week to keeping your core—and therefore your entire body—strong.