One of the most common injuries I see with strength athletes is upper back/neck pain. They will usually report “tweaking” their neck or their neck “locking” up frequently, and it’s usually after a workout involving HSPU, pull-ups or barbell work overhead. These same athletes can’t come close to performing the advanced variation of the front bodyline drill.
Why is this? Life in general – sitting at a desk, driving, our cell phones – all tend to be upper trap dominant activities. The majority of all upper body push/pull exercises we perform in the gym are more on the side of upper trap dominant.
Imagine walking around all day with a three pound weight in a mid bicep curl; your bicep would be sore as hell and would eventually tell you it has had enough and lock up or go into some sort of spasm. This is exactly what is happening with these athletes that have chronic upper neck pain/stiffness.
One exercises I program for my athletes and patients to combat this upper trap epidemic are front bodylines.
Set-up: Lay face down with your nose and toes maintaining contact on the floor. Make sure your belly button remains off the floor the entire time – think hollow body. Position your arms just outside of shoulder width and maintain a straight line through the shoulders, elbows and wrists. Lift the stick off the floor and hold. You should be feeling this primarily at the bottom of the shoulder blades. How do you know if your lower traps are strong? If you can’t hold this for sixty seconds, this should be incorporated into your training.
Check out the video for the beginner, intermediate and advanced variation of this drill.