Neck Strain

I’ve noticed that during some exercises, or after a while into my workouts, I begin to strain my neck. It used to happen on just overhead press and seated incline db curls (after multiple sets of each), but now that I’ve been doing full body workouts, I notice it happens halfway through the workout.

Any tips to avoid this?

Am no expert but this happened to me too. I think you might be straining or forcing your neck to move the weight. Maybe too much weight? What I found to help with dumbell shoulder presses is to use a 90 degree bench and push my back and head into the bench hard when doing shoulder presses. I had the same problem with bench press, first I dropped the weight and put a towel under my neck. Seemed to do the trick for me. I concentrate on form to make sure I don’t do this anymore, it hurts…

Anyway - some self massage, stretching, heat and ice seemed to work for me. IF it’s really bad take a few days off and rest, maybe pop an advil.


I had a real problem with neck strain for a couple years due to a car accident. I often hurt it while straining for a last rep. My big discovery came a couple months ago on this site when I read about how stretching can weaken your muscles. Before, whenever I strained it, I stretched it religiously, and the pain persisted for at least a couple days if not more, though a quick trip to the massage therapist usually did the trick. After reading the article, the next time I strained it I just ignored it, maybe a bit of heat, and it was good in a day. This wasn’t the kind of ‘can’t turn my head’ strain, just a niggling weakness, but definitely something that intefered. I actually just got over a little strain, don’t know how it happened, but I got rid of it again after about 2 days. This is what’s worked for me, but maybe more heat based therapy and stretching could work for you, especially depending on the severity.
Now onto how I corrected the constant recurrence of the strain:

  1. Proper technique. Can’t stress that enough.
  2. Teaching my neck it’s OK to strain. I was told by my physiotherapist that due to my injury my neck/upper traps had some ‘muscle memory’ that caused them to seize up whenever they were fully activated as a protection mechanism - sure it hurts likea bitch, but my spine is protected! lol Anyway, I don’t know if that’s really what goes on, but it made sense to me. So I had to teach my neck it’s ok to strain IN AN EXERCISE WHERE IT BECOMES ACTIVATED (e.g. I often hurt it doing arnie presses) by using decently heavy weights and following proper technique. I really worked on that mind-muscle connection, and I’ve been rewarded with a neck that still needs a lot of strengthening (so bloody long…lol) but doesn’t seize up at the slighest provocation anymore.
    Damn, I think I typed a lot. Oh well, hope you can get through it and pick out something useful - good luck! PM me if you have more specific questions re: stupid things I’ve done to my neck.

If it is indeed a muscular problem the main culprits are probably your upper traps and levator scapula. If either of these are short they can lead to pain/strain in the neck. Watch your form when doing the exercises that casue discomfort, if you are flexing your neck excessivly this could be the reason for the strain. Specific stretching of these muscles will help, and you might want to also consider some isometric work for strengthening the surrounding neck musculature.