How to do the Seated Clasp Neck Stretch

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

A young woman seated on the floor sretching her neck.

Pixdeluxe / Getty Images

Targets: Neck.

Equipment Needed: None.

Level: Beginner.

Raise your hand if you could use a good stretch (come on, most of us can always use a good stretch). Now, raise your hand if you’re not sure where to start. We hear you! There are so many stretches out there, it can feel impossible to begin a stretching routine. 

How about starting with a stretch that’s great for all fitness and flexibility levels—one you can do anywhere, at any time, and enjoy a multitude of benefits? That’s the seated clasp neck stretch for you. In this article, learn how to do it and why you should add it to your stretching routine. 

Benefits

Simple and Beginner-Friendly

Anyone can do the seated clasp neck stretch, regardless of how flexible you currently are. This stretch doesn’t require advanced mobility to perform, and it doesn’t take up much time or space. It’s perfect for anyone who experiences neck pain or tightness and needs an easy stretch to relieve aches.

Relieves Neck Pain

The seated neck clasp stretch is a simple yet effective way to relieve pain in your neck. This gentle movement stretches the muscle fibers that run from the base of your head through your upper back, as well as mobilize the small cervical spinal joints in your neck. 

Stretches the Trapezius Muscle 

Your trapezius is a large muscle that starts at the base of your neck and runs across your shoulders and down your back. Because of its size and position, the trapezius is often responsible for what we perceive as neck, shoulder or upper back soreness. This muscle enables you to shrug and compress your shoulders, perform pulling motions and much more. Stretching it out regularly can improve overall mobility and relieve pain. 

Helps Identify Mobility Limitations

You might notice something funny when you try the seated clasp neck stretch. When you tip your neck forward and apply gentle pressure with your hands, you may feel a tingling or even burning sensation through your back and possibly even down to your hips and thighs. This is called “nerve flossing” and can help you identify areas of your body that are tight. 

Nerve flossing can feel uncomfortable, so don’t push it if you do feel this sensation. It’s typically a practice used to alleviate pain from sciatica and related conditions, but it can work for any compressed or irritated nerves. If you experience flossing during the stretch, you’ll likely feel an alleviation of pressure or pain afterward. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s how to relieve neck pain with the seated clasp neck stretch.

  1. You can do this stretch seated on the floor or in a chair. Either way, just be sure to sit up tall: Tighten your core, pull your shoulder blades back and down, and keep your chest high. 
  2. Place your hands behind your head (palms touching your head) and clasp your fingers together. Your elbows should point out to the sides. 
  3. Gently tip your neck forward, using the weight of your arms to apply subtle pressure. 
  4. Hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds before returning your neck to its neutral position. 

Common Mistakes

Stretching Too Far 

This is a mistake anyone can make on any stretch, especially if you’re unfamiliar with your current level of flexibility. With neck stretches particularly, it’s important to avoid overstretching, as a neck strain can cause a lot of pain and lasting mobility issues (which is the opposite of what you’re trying to do!). 

Not Holding the Stretch Long Enough 

When it comes to static stretching, the benefits lie in the seconds. Research suggests that holding a static stretch for 15 to 30 seconds results in the most significant benefits, so try not to cut your stretches shorter than that. 

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

To modify the seated clasp neck stretch, simply reduce the range of motion—don’t push your neck as far. You may also do this stretch without clasping your hands behind your head, which may allow you to better control the pressure on your neck. People who have very tight neck and upper back muscles may want to try this stretch sans clasp first, in order to get a feel for the range of motion needed. 

Up for a Challenge?

To make this stretch a bit more challenging, try adding in half neck circles. Complete all the steps as described above, but after holding your neck down in the center, shift it to the left and right, using your hands to guide it. This will give you an overall better neck stretch because you’ll stretch the muscles from multiple angles. 

If you’re up for even more of a challenge, try to complete a full neck circle with your hands clasped behind your head. First, push your neck down in the center, tucking your chin to your chest. Then, shift to the left and continue the circle, allowing your head to drop backward. Bring it around to the right before returning to center. 

Safety and Precautions

Respect Your Range of Motion

If you stretch, you’re likely trying to improve your range of motion, and that’s great! However, make it a point to respect your current range of motion. You definitely don’t want to overstretch and strain your neck. 

Don’t Push Through Pain

If you reach the point of pain during this stretch (or any other stretch), you’ve stretched too far. During stretching, you should aim to reach the point of mild discomfort—enough of a sensation to know you’re stretching and improving your flexibility, but not so much that it takes all your willpower to endure the stretch.

Don’t Forget to Breathe

Because stretching can feel uncomfortable, it’s not unusual for people to forget to breathe. Try to practice a deep breathing technique, such as box breathing, while doing the seated clasp neck stretch. You’ll reap the benefits of both stretching and deep breathing, and you’ll end your stretch session feeling great. 

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  1. Page P. Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitationInt J Sports Phys Ther. 2012;7(1):109-119.