Training: Strengthen your neck & shoulders

Upper body strength helps with comfort & control

When you are hitting the trails hard, it doesn’t take long before the back of your neck can start to ache. There can be a number of reasons for this. For starters, your bike position may be making you lean forward too much, so adjust the bars to bring them closer to you.

Try to relax more – gripping the handlebars tightly will cause your neck muscles to tense up. It may be that the rest of your body isn’t strong enough, so you are subconsciously tensing your neck to help hang on.

If you strengthen the tops of your shoulders and arms, you’ll find the trails easier and you will feel in better control. Fit the following three exercises into your weekly routine and you’ll be ready to take on the hardest, longest of descents.

1. Shrugs

With your feet shoulder width apart, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your arms straight by your sides and shrug your shoulders slowly upwards. Focus on lifting the outside of the shoulders rather than your neck. Hold for 2-3 seconds at the top and then lower your shoulders slowly. Breathe out on the way up and in on the way back down. Do 3x12 reps and increase the weight as you get stronger.

2. Lateral raises

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, holding dumbbells with straight arms down by your side. Slowly raise your arms out to the side until your arms are parallel to the ground. Hold, then slowly lower the arms back down. Take 2-3 seconds for each direction of the movement. Breathe out as you lift the arms and breathe in as you lower them. Do 3x12 reps and increase the weight as you get stronger.

3. Upright row

Stand with feet shoulder width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand down in front of your waist.

Slowly lift the dumbbells up under your chin by bending your elbows and taking them out to the side. Once the dumbbells are at chin height, pause for two seconds and then slowly lower the weights back down. Make sure the elbows stay above the wrists all the time. Take 2-3 seconds for each direction of the movement. Breathe out as you lift the dumbbells up and in on the way back down. Do 3x12 reps and increase the weight as you get stronger.

If you feel tension in your neck when doing these exercises, stop and rest, then try again with a lighter weight. It can be a sign that you are recruiting the wrong muscles, as you do when riding to give that horrible aching neck. Gradually build up your neck strength and aches will become a thing of the past.

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