You should always keep your eye on the prize when working out. It’s important to avoid doing anything that could hurt, strain or injure your muscles while trying to reach your goal. We spoke to Robbie Mann PT, DPT OCS, CMTPT and Mideast Regional director for FYZICAL Company Clinics who shared the worst neck exercises that you should know.

It is important to be able move your neck properly for many daily tasks. In today’s world, many of us are forced to spend the majority of our workday hunched up over a computer or laptop. In our free time we often scroll through social networks, play games on phones, or read books on tablets while maintaining bad posture. Get up and move to change this bad habit. Mann says that “proper alignment of our spine and neck is not always a priority.” Even worse, the improper alignment can remain with us even when we are doing physical activities like working out, swimming, or golfing.

If you have neck pain, it is important to identify the movement that causes your pain and stop it immediately. “Some rehabilitation techniques might contradict this statement. Please speak to your physical therapy who can help you to learn which movements are right for you,” Mann says.

Below you’ll discover some of the worst neck exercises that can cause pain and discomfort, as well as safer alternatives. Continue reading to find out more and then check out 7 Fitness Habits that are Destroying Your Body before 60.

1. Neck Circles


You might be surprised to find out that neck circles could pose a risk to your thoracic spinal cord. Mann says that these circular movements are meant to stretch your neck muscles. However, there is a safer alternative. He says neck stretches are the best way to loosen tight neck muscles. “Start by seated upright and looking straight forward. Apply pressure with your hand on your left shoulder, and slowly tilt your neck to the right. Hold for five seconds and repeat the exercise on the other side. “

2. Swimming Laps


You may not be aware that you are breathing on one side more than the other when you go to the pool. This can cause serious neck problems. Mann explains that this can be problematic over time because you are building muscle on one neck side and shortening muscles on the opposite. “Try to alternate your breathing sides to build muscle on both sides of the neck. Start by sitting up straight, with your shoulder down and looking straight ahead. Slowly turn your neck toward your right shoulder for as long as you are comfortable holding it. Then return to your starting position. Repeat the same motion on the other side. This is one complete rotation. Mann tells you to aim for a total of three rotations.

RELATED 7 Exercise Habits that are Destroying Your Arms after 50

3. Heavy Lifting


If you feel your neck aching, you should reduce the amount of weight you lift. This is true especially for exercises where you have to lift the weights above your head. This can cause neck strain.

Mann suggests asking a friend to help you and rearranging heavy objects on lower shelves or eye level. It’s important not to overstretch a sore muscle. Try a heating pad instead and gently massage the sore spot.”

Alexa Mellardo

Alexa is the Mind + Body deputy editor of Eat This, Not That!, where she oversees the M+B channel, and delivers compelling fitness, self-care, and wellness topics to readers. Read more about Alexa