If there’s one thing gaming and office work have in common, it’s encouraging poor sitting posture. It’s practically an epidemic; Many of us lean forward for hours, stare at a bright screen, and put a lot of pressure on our spine. This leads to back painspinal dysfunction, joint degeneration, unattractiveness and other painful conditions.
Have you ever said to yourself, I want to get better at games, but I don’t want to destroy my life? We’re here to help with a special week dedicated to all things gaming and health.
After sitting with horrible posture for years, I was really feeling these effects. In particular, I began to experience severe discomfort and pain along my entire spine when lying on my back, as if I had a tight knot in it. As I always slept curled up and spent my days bent over a keyboard, my spine was not used to me lying flat! I also started to realize the consequences on my standing posture as well. My head seemed just a little too forward. It looked “off”. My neck muscles were weak from years of tilting my head forward.
I decided to try to practice maintaining good posture while playing, but inevitably and unconsciously fell back into a hunch. Drastic methods were needed.
That’s how I discovered something I like to call “the neck exercise”. It is exactly what it sounds like. By using the weight of your head and slow, steady progression, you can strengthen your neck and hold it straight, with good posture, much easier. If you want to make gains for players, here are two great drills.
The standard head-raising
You can do this super simple exercise at home or at the gym.
All you need to do is find something flat and comfortable to lay on that allows your head to hang over the edge. A firm bench or bed works well, but a gym bench would probably be the most practical.
Lying on your back with your head completely unsupported by the board, slowly lower it as far as you can, then slowly raise it in a slight chin tuck. Repeat this as much as you can, aiming for around 30 reps. Try to do about three sets of as many as you can under 30.
If you can easily do three sets of 30, with just your head weight, you can add a small exercise weight. I recommend small increments of 0.25 pounds. We’ll get to how to add and support that weight in a moment.
The raise face down
We’re going to do the same thing as before, but face down. We train the other side of the neck with this.
With your head positioned on the edge, slowly lower your head into an overhead position, then raise it back into alignment with your body. Don’t try to lift your head much further back. Normal standing alignment is what we are looking for. Do your best to achieve three sets of 30 reps; these are light, high-volume exercises.
When training your neck, it’s imperative to play it safe and take things slow. It is important to remember that neck damage can have profound effectsbut it will be good if we relax and loosen up in things.
For the standard head raise, place a towel over your forehead. This is to create friction to keep the weight secure and to act as a buffer against your forehead. Gently place the 0.25 pound weight on your forehead and hold it, pulling it slightly against you. Maintain this grip and continue the exercise.
For the face down raise, we will do the same. Place the towel and weight on the back of your head, using your hands to hold the weight securely in place, and proceed as normal.
The benefits of neck exercise
After doing this for a few days, I noticed that it became easier to support the weight of my own neck. This made it much less painful to maintain good posture, even unconsciously, while gaming.
Some people also swear that developing a thicker neck through working out can increase your physical attractiveness. I’ll let you make up your own mind, but it sounds pretty convincing.
In my own experience, other benefits include decreased back stiffness as your posture habits improve, as well as an increase in overall confidence in your ability to walk upright.
In terms of my posture, the improvement is day and night. I feel like I have a bigger presence in the eyes of those around me. Bent over, I had always felt a little invisible. It may be purely mental, but confidence is mental! I also felt encouraged to exercise more gradually and improve my overall fitness by starting slowly with neck training. Perhaps more importantly, my gaming habits are also much healthier, and gaming for ages doesn’t stress my back as much as it used to.
At the very least, it’s worth it; then you can decide if the neck exercise works for you!