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Lifting Q: Neck Pain

Is poor form to blame for pullup pain?

Q: Sometimes I hurt my neck doing weighted pullups. What can I do to prevent it?

A: You're probably bringing your chin to the bar, rather than the bar to your chin, says Jeff Cavaliere, P.T., C.S.C.S., physical therapist and assistant strength coach for the New York Mets. "This happens when you're a few reps into the set and fatigue starts setting in," he says, and then you start to compromise form and jerk your neck and body in order to get your chin over the bar. "You think you're completing a rep, but you're actually cheating, and this can cause pain in the back, sides, and even front of the neck." It can even damage the discs in your cervical spine.

To avoid the problem, simply reduce the weight you use and focus on keeping better form. If you still find that you're hurting your neck, try an alternative exercise, such as an inverted row, while wearing a weighted vest. Set up a bar on a low rung in a power rack, lie underneath it, and pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar (you'll look like you're doing a bench press in reverse). This way, you'll still work your back muscles hard, says Cavaliere, "and your neck will thank you."

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