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Tone and strengthen your neck and shoulders by using hand weights to perform a variety of exercises.
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Spending long periods of time sitting, such as in front of a computer or while driving, can cause these muscles to become weak and/or tight. Working out with hand weights can strengthen your neck and shoulder muscles to increase function and relieve pain. If you are new to exercise, consult your physician before starting a new workout routine. Always warm up before working out by performing low-intensity cardiovascular exercise such as jogging or walking and stretching to minimize the risk of injury.
Begin Light and Master Form
Choose the amount of weight used based on your fitness level; beginners should start with 2.5-pound weights. Perform 12 to 20 repetitions for two or three sets of each exercise three times per week, using smooth, controlled movements. When you no longer feel challenged by the amount of weight, increase it by no more than five pounds for each hand weight.
Lift to the Side
Side lateral raises target the medial, or side, deltoids - the muscles on the outside of each shoulder. This exercise can be performed while seated or standing, depending on your preference. Hold a weight in each hand and turn your palms in so they are facing your thighs. While keeping your arms slightly bent but rigid, raise your arms to about shoulder height. Lower the weights to your thighs and repeat.
Shrug it Off
Shrugs emphasize the upper trapezius muscles, which are located at the back of the neck. These muscles are important for stabilizing the head and neck. Hold a weight in each hand and place your arms at your side while standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Shrug your shoulders toward your ears as high as possible. Lower your shoulders and repeat. Do not roll your shoulders backward or forward - this is unnecessary and can result in injury.
Lift to the Back
The muscles at the back of your shoulders - posterior deltoids - are highly important for good posture and work with the middle trapezius and rhomboids to keep your shoulders and back in good alignment. The dumbbell rear lateral raise exercise focuses on all of these key muscles. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, bend your knees slightly and lean forward from your hips until your body is just short of being parallel to the floor. Let your arms hang straight down from the shoulders. Move your arms up and out to the side to form a T-shape with your torso. Lower your arms and repeat.
Try Weighted Neck Extensions
Overly forward head posture is often the result of significantly tight front neck muscles and weakened rear neck muscles. This imbalance can be corrected by stretching the muscles at the front of your neck while strengthening those at the back. Sit in a chair and lean forward at your hips. Place and hold a hand weight wrapped in a towel at the back of your head. Lower your chin toward your chest and then raise your head against the resistance of the weight, repeating the movement for the prescribed number of repetitions.