Strengthening the Deep Cervical Flexors

head forward posture

There are several muscle groups that can participate in flexing the neck forward. The most obvious ones are the SCM (Sterno-Cleido Mastoid) – plainly visible as “cords” in the front of the necks of some older, thinner people.

longus colii actionMany people are unaware of the most important ones – the Deep Cervical Flexors, Longus Capitis and Longus Colli. These muscles are located deep in the neck, behind the esophagus and windpipe.

In is not obvious, but these muscles also retract and centrate the head over the cervical spine and the cervical spine over the thoracic spine. Strengthening them is a vital part of any neck, shoulder or upper back rehabilitation program.

We recommend starting with a truly easy exercise that can be done laying down, seated or standing against a wall. We recommend laying down at first so that you can keep the rest of your spine straight and relaxed.


To initiate this movement, begin with slightly tucking the chin, then push your head straight back (down in this position) into the floor. Hold for one second.

Check in with your lower and upper back – did you use those muscles too? Try again and make a conscious effort to use only your neck. Hold the position for two seconds and then a third time for three seconds.

These muscles are pretty delicate so we are going to stop there. Over successive days you should increase the number of repetitions to 10, holding each for 10 seconds.

We are using repetitions to build strength and holding the position to build endurance. After all, these muscles are supposed to be assisting in keeping your head over your body all day!

As you improve you can transition to a sitting or standing position. With proper assistance and cueing you can also learn to add resistance safely. Due to the deep location in the neck, additional treatment of these muscles should be done be a skilled therapist. This might be considered when they are in inhibited by a neck injury such as whiplash.

Contact us today for more information – email or call 630-858-0000