Reading the title of this post you're probably thinking I've gone off the deep end. Some of you are probably calling me names like "Captain Obvious" or saying things like "No s@#$ Sherlock". Well now that I have your attention, before you disregard this post entirely I'd like to bring a scenario to mind.
Watch most exercisers do a plank, a push-up, or even move heavy weight. One of the first things you may notice is their forward head posture, or their face contorting into a look of pure constipation. We'll come back to this in a moment.
Our bodies are naturally lazy. They to do whatever they can in the easiest manner possible, and it takes quite a lot of figurative butt kicking to teach our bodies to stop being so lazy. Case and point right now as I type this my shoulders are hunched forward, this is a lazy position, because my muscles don't have to work as hard to maintain this position. Is it good for me, heck no. This adds to my point though.
When training, because our bodies want to do things in the easiest manner possible, they begin to compensate. When left unaware of these compensations bad things happen. From weak body parts staying weak, to possibly even injury.
One of the most common areas that compensation happens is in the neck.
Picture your middle school PE Class. Remember doing the fitness testing. All those kids that would do push-ups and the first thing to drop was almost always their head?
This is because the body prefers using our neck as a stabilizer as oppose to the core. In all actuality the core should be the main stabilizer. Not only are the muscles in the core stronger and bigger than the neck, they also do a lot better job of stabilizing our spine.
When lifting heavy weights, and we scrunch up our face, it's much of the same thing. Our neck is actually tensing up, and we're taking the stability away from the midsection and putting in onto the neck.
This is a lot more common then you may think and an extremely hard habit to break.
If you're not sure whether or not you're compensating with your neck here are a couple things you can look out for:
- Does your neck feel persistently tight?
- Do you get a lot of tension headaches?
- Do you find your back hurting or at least somewhat sore after performing core work, or even doing heavy lifting?
There are other questions we can ask; however, answering "yes" to any of the above questions gives indication the neck is doing too much.
While in our head we know that our necks are not our abs, it's important to be cognizant of this when we train.
When you do planks think about making a "wrestler's neck". Pulling your neck into your throat by pulling your head back. Same with push-ups. When lifting heavy practice relaxing your face. You'll find on subsequent days that the muscles in your neck and shoulders actually feel looser, and your back may even feel better too.