We’ve all had fitness instructors stand at the front of the class and list off all the tenants of “good form”: shoulders down and back, chin up, pelvis tucked under, abs engaged, feet hip-distance apart with a slight bend in the knees. We could rattle off those directives in our sleep. Which is why when personal trainer Mike Alexander recently corrected my form, asking me to lower my chin, I was a bit taken aback. Here I am standing tall, diligently lifting and lowering my dumbbells with my head back and chin lifted, and the professional is telling me to lower my chin. Why? He said it was an all too common correction. My gaze was too high—there’s a difference between holding your chin up and holding it level. I needed to shift my gaze so I was looking at the horizon. The adjustment is minor but noticeable. Once I leveled my chin, I could feel how I was straining my neck in my previous chin-up position.
Alexander explained that I was putting pressure on my neck, forcing my neck muscles to hold up the weight of my head. When you tuck your chin, your neck stays neutral and your upper back and shoulders support the weight of head. Why does this matter? First, putting undue pressure on your neck opens you up to injury. Second, when you work your neck muscles in this manner you can start to bulk up your neck. Think the overdeveloped neck muscles that run down the sides of football players’ necks—not a good look. Alexander also reminded me to be cognizant of this posture in and out of the gym. Whether working out, walking down the street, or just looking at your computer, your chin should be level (it may feel like you’re tucking it under ever so slightly) and your gaze should be on the horizon.
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