How to stop your neck aching when you do ab exercises


Ever felt neck pain when you’re doing a set of stomach crunches? Here’s why that could be and how you can fix it, with a little help from Jessica Ennis-Hill

Have you ever experienced neck ache or neck twinges when knocking out a set of sit-ups or crunches? Then there are two important things you need to know: 

  1. It’s not supposed to feel like that.

  2. There are quick-wins to stop those twinges that will give you even more abdominal gains with every crunch, as Jessica Ennis-Hill explains…

What’s the common problem when it comes to sit-ups and crunches?

The main reason that people suffer from neck ache when they’re performing ab exercises is poor form – and it comes down to the fact that you are probably not crunching from your abdominal muscles.

“This is a common mistake people make,” says Jess, “but it’s an easy one to rectify.

“The most important thing you need to remember when you do a sit up or crunch is to initiate the movement from your core, so that your stomach muscles engage and start the movement, rather than your neck.

“If you don’t focus on your core, you will often make the first movement come from your head and neck, which is why you experience neck pain.”

Why the neck pain?

Drilling down a bit deeper, leading the movement with your head, neck and shoulders rather than your core makes it much more difficult to keep your head moving in line with your spine, which in turn puts a lot of strain on your neck muscles.

If you don’t focus on your core, you will often make the first movement come from your head and neck, which is why you experience neck pain

How can you fix it?

“The key with any abdominal exercise is to focus first of all on drawing in your abdominals so that they are fully contracted,” says Jess.

“Then, as you perform the exercise, you initiate the movement with your core, rather than leading with your head. It’s a subtle tweak to the technique, but it makes a huge difference.

“Another good tip,” says Jess, “is to slow down the exercise so that you are conscious of where the movement in your ab exercise is coming from and perhaps take a small break in between each movement.”

Failing that, you could film yourself doing your next crunch set and see where the start of your ab exercise movement is coming from. If it’s all neck and the ideas from Jess above aren’t working for you, it may be that the exercises you are doing are too challenging for you, so it could be worth modifying them temporarily until your core gets stronger.

Focus on drawing in your abdominals so that they are fully contracted

Want to put your new technique to the test?

If you’re keen to improve your ab definition or just fancy a new challenge, Jessica Ennis-Hill has created a 30-day ab challenge in the Jennis app, which includes 5-minute ab blasts, HIIT circuits, mini HIIT circuits, rep challenges, and ultra ab sessions.

It’s designed for all fitness levels, there’s tons of variety to keep things interesting and it’s a day-by-day guided plan, so you don’t need to think about a thing – except that exceptional form, of course.

Check out the  Jennis CycleMapping  app for daily workouts and advice that’s synced to your menstrual cycle

Sign up to our waitlist  to be the first to try CycleMapping for Perimenopause –  expert fitness and lifestyle advice for your hormones and symptoms.

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