Welcome to the third and final piece of the Bulletproof Shoulders Series. In part three, we’ll learn how to maximize mobility and stability of our neck. When it comes down to it, shoulder issues almost always derive from the neck and vice versa. Seeing as our cervical spine (neck) and scapulae (shoulder blades) share many of the same musculature, you can see why addressing issues within the neck is just as important as addressing issues within the shoulder.
Let’s begin with addressing some of the tissue restrictions of the neck. It’s not uncommon that most people who suffer from chronic shoulder pain also suffer from extreme tightness around the neck. This first mobility drill will address both the lateral (side) and anterior (front) flexor muscles of the neck. Like we mentioned in part one, these muscles adapt to the shortened position that comes with bad posture. This exercise will help us undo some of that chronic stiffness.
Lateral Neck Stretch
Using a light gauge resistance band, fasten one end to a stable structure and loop the other end around your hand. Start by allowing your arm (the arm with the band attached to it) to drop by your side in a completely relaxed position. Relaxation is key here, as it will allow us to target the deep flexors of the neck and even allow for some flossing and mobilization of the brachial plexus (the nerve network that travels from the neck region down though the arm). Take a step away from the band and gradually increase the band tension. Your arm should be directly out to the side at this point. Now, once you’ve established your position, shrug the same shoulder up towards your ear, hold for five seconds and release. Once you release the shrug, it’s time to actuate the stretch by tilting the head in the opposite direction. Aim for five seconds of contraction (the shrug), followed by ten seconds of relaxation as you gently deepen the stretch. Complete the five second contract/ten second relax sequence for a total of five to six times. You should experience a nice, gentle stretch down the side of your neck, referring down your shoulder and arm. It is completely normal to experience some slight neural tension during this stretch.
Now that we’ve addressed some of the tissue restrictions within the neck region, it’s time to implement our neck stability exercise. This exercise will allow us to strengthen the extensors of the neck, providing the necessary stability to maintain a healthy, tall posture of the cervical spine (neck).
Begin by standing with your back to a wall. Your feet should be hip width apart and approximately six to twelve inches away from the wall. Now, lean back against the wall, squeeze your butt, keep your rib cage down and keep your abdominals engaged. Do not allow your back to arch away from the wall during this movement. Place the crown of your head against the wall while keeping your shoulders pinned back against the wall. From here, maintaining contact with your head and the wall, slowly roll your head down to a neutral, forward position, lengthening the back of your neck up against the wall. Your head should rub against the wall as your rotate your head back down to this neutral position. Lastly, keeping the back of your head against the wall, gently lift your entire body away from the wall while maintaining optimal posture. The only two contact points at this stage should be your feet on the ground and the back of your head against the wall. Hold the neck bridge for thirty to sixty seconds for a total of four to five repetitions.
Complete the entire Bulletproof Shoulder Series (parts one, two and three) on a daily basis and find yourself on the way to strong, fully functional, pain free shoulders.
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