Strong core, back and neck muscles are crucial for maintaining proper posture, protecting your spine and giving the rest of your body a solid foundation to work off of. If any of these muscles are weak, you may experience back pain, headaches and even some mobility problems. Exercises to strengthen your core, back and neck should be done three nonconsecutive days a week.
The plank exercise is highly effective for strengthening the core and back, and because your neck must support your head throughout the exercise, your cervical muscles will also become stronger. Begin by lying face down on the floor, and prop your upper body up on your forearms so they are directly below your shoulders. Lift your hips and legs off the floor so your lower body is supported by your feet. Contract your abdominal muscles, straighten your back and stabilize your hips so your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat the exercise two to three times.
Deadlifts work nearly every muscle in your body and do a wonder for your core, back and neck. Stand facing a loaded barbell that rests on the floor. Position your shins close to the bar and your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart. Stabilize your core, straighten your back, and bend your knees and hips to lower down into a squat. With your arms extended, grasp the bar with an overhand or mixed grip wider than your legs. Keeping your abdomen engaged and back straight, exhale as you press through your heels to lift the bar by straightening your legs. Once the bar reaches your knees, push your hips forward and pull your shoulders back to reach the standing position. Carefully lower the bar back to the floor to prepare for the next repetition.
Bent rows dynamically work the bulk of the back, including the trapezius, which runs up the sides of your neck, while isometrically working the spinal muscles. Your core muscles are put through a workout as they support your torso and the added weight. Stand with your legs slightly bent and hold a barbell with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Straighten your back, contract your abdominal muscles, bend your knees slightly and lean forward at the waist 45 degrees so the bar is at knee level. Exhale and pull the bar up to your chest by bending and lifting your elbows as high as possible. Slowly extend your arms to lower the bar back to the initial position.
Neck Isolation Exercises
Most strength-training exercises work the back of the neck, but neglecting the front and sides can lead to muscle imbalance and poor posture. Because of this, it's important to add in exercises that specifically work these parts of your neck. To strengthen the sides of your neck, try lateral isometric contractions. Sit or stand with your back and neck straight. Place your right hand against the right side of your head. Press your head into your hand while simultaneously resisting any head movement with your hand. Hold this contraction for 10 seconds, and then repeat the exercise with the left side of your neck.
Isolate your anterior neck muscles with a weighted head nod. Lie face up on an exercise bench with your head near the end of the bench. Place a light plate weight -- 2 1/2 to 5 pounds -- on your forehead and hold it in place with your fingers. Then simply lift your head off the bench. Carefully lower back to the starting point.
Jen Weir writes for several websites, specializing in the health and fitness field. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Montana State University, is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist and maintains a personal trainer certification from the American College of Sports Medicine.