Exercises for sedentary office workers with neck pain: Bench press

Neck pain is a common ailment in Singapore. It particularly affects people who are sedentary, spend long hours at desks, or engage in repetitive activities. As chiropractors, we often see patients seeking relief from neck discomfort caused by poor neck conditioning. Chiropractic care plays a crucial role in addressing neck pain. Incorporating specific upper body exercises can complement treatment and promote better neck health. In this blog post, we share how the bench press can help alleviate neck pain and improve overall upper body strength and flexibility.

Bench Press: A Surprising Solution for Neck Pain Relief

The bench press is a well-known and popular exercise for building upper body strength. It targets your chest, shoulders, and triceps muscles. What many may not realise is that this compound movement can also be beneficial for relieving neck aaches and soreness.

For sedentary individuals, compound exercises are great because they offer a time-efficient way to engage multiple muscle groups. This allows for whole-body activation and strength development. Since the bench press targets multiple muscles and joints in a single exercise, it is an effective solution for individuals with limited time for physical activity. Compound exercises can shorten your workout and make it easier to incorporate a fitness routine into your busy schedules.

Understanding the Bench Press Technique

bench press technique
Bench press is a great isometric exercise for your neck muscles. If you do not have access to a barbell, you can also perform the exercise with dumbbells.

1. Lie flat on a weight bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
2. Grasp the barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip, ensuring your wrists are straight.
3. Lower the barbell to your chest in a controlled manner while keeping your elbows close to your body. For beginners and neck pain patients, avoid letting your elbow flare outwards.
4. Press the barbell upward by extending your arms fully. Avoid locking out your elbows.
5. Lower the barbell back down to your chest and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Because the bench press does not directly target the neck muscles and cervical spine, it is suitable for most neck pain patients to do without any problems. During the chest press, you may feel your neck muscles activating. This is normal. While there is no movement happening in your neck, the neck muscles still play an accessory role during the lift. This type of no-movement muscle contraction is considered an isometric exercise. They can be used to treat neck pain.

Be extra cautious during setup. It is possible to accidentally injure your neck when you are moving the bar and weights around. Also, try to lie down on the bench gently and without too much neck movement.

If you feel some tension or discomfort during the exercise, you may be tempted to move your neck while the weight is on you. Please refrain from doing this. To move your neck under load can cause accidental sprains or strains. You would want to rack the barbell back before moving your neck.

How to increase stability during chest press

bench press technique, leg drive
There are many ways to achieve a leg drive during a bench press. The easiest is to drive through your heels. As you advanced, you can move on to more complex techniques. Finding what works for you is the most important.

To increase stability in your lift, you can consider paying more attention to your footwork. As you lift the barbell off the rack, focus on driving through your heels to push your body into a stable position on the bench. This helps engage your legs and create a solid foundation for the pressing movement. If you find driving through the ball of your feet to be easier, this is also acceptable for a start.

Once the barbell is lowered to your chest, you can engage your leg muscles by using a slight leg drive to help you push the weight back up. This leg drive should be controlled and not excessive. The primary focus should still be on your chest, shoulders, and triceps doing the work.

Proper breathing during the bench press can also help with stability. Before starting the lift, take a deep breath to fill your lungs with air. This increases intra-abdominal pressure and keeps your trunk stable. You can either choose to hold your breath or continue to inhale steadily through your nose as you lower the barbell towards your chest.

Hold your breath briefly at the bottom of the lift to maintain stability and control. As you push the barbell back up, exhale through your mouth, engaging your core muscles and generating power. Remember to keep your breaths controlled and consistent throughout the movement, maintaining that intra-abdominal pressure to protect your spine and enhance your bench press performance.

How Bench Press Can Help Neck Pain

If you have been leading a sedentary lifestyle some time, your upper body muscles may have experienced significant deconditioning and weakness. By focusing on the muscles that are not currently painful, you increase your chances of success and avoid exacerbating any existing discomfort. Beginning your upper body strength training journey with exercises that target non-painful muscles allows you to build a solid foundation. By doing so, you can gradually introduce your body to the demands of exercise without overwhelming it or risking potential injuries. Starting with less intense exercises also helps you develop proper form and technique, which is essential for preventing strain on your neck and shoulders.

The bench press primarily targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. However, it also engages various stabilising muscles in the upper back and neck. Strengthening these muscles can help improve overall upper body posture and alleviate neck strain caused by muscle imbalances. Correct bench press technique also encourages healthy spinal alignment during the exercise. Engaging the core and maintaining a neutral spine position reduces stress on the neck and upper back. This may translate to less painful for you!

Regularly performing the bench press can enhance the flexibility and range of motion in your thoracic (mid-back) spine. By engaging the muscles in your upper body during the bench press, you encourage healthy movement patterns that extend to other parts of your body. Consequently, you may notice improved neck mobility and range of motion, resulting in reduced stiffness and discomfort in your everyday activities. Embracing this exercise as part of your fitness routine can lead to a more fluid and comfortable body, making your daily life more enjoyable and pain-free.

Taking a holistic approach to exercise for neck aches and soreness

chest press, scapular retraction
Did you know you can also bench press with a scapular retraction? By retracting your shoulder blades, you can train the muscles of your upper back. The middle trapezius and rhomboid muscles are activated when you squeeze your shoulder blades together.

When dealing with neck pain, it is easy to become fixated on doing exercises that solely target the neck in hopes of addressing the root cause. However, this approach can actually increase the risk of injury and worsen your pain, particularly if done without professional supervision. A big-picture approach is crucial when working with chronic pain. Emphasising the importance of exercising other aspects of your body for overall physical well-being will ultimately benefit your neck too. Focusing solely on neck-specific exercises may provide temporary relief, but without addressing the overall condition of your upper body, the pain is likely to return.

By adopting a comprehensive exercise routine that includes movements for your entire body, you promote balanced muscle development, joint mobility, and functional strength. When your upper body conditioning improves, it eases the burden on your neck and reduces the risk of overloading the muscles and structures in that area. This holistic approach not only aids in pain management but also enhances overall physical performance and reduces the chances of further injuries.

Start your journey to pain-free living today

neck pain, chiropractor singapore, jesse cai
When working with a chiropractor, you can also expect to learn accessory exercises that will help with your neck problems. This will maximise your chance of being pain-free and also allow you to train safely.

A well-rounded exercise program, supervised by a qualified fitness professional or chiropractor, can help you identify and correct muscle imbalances and aberrant movement patterns that may contribute to your neck pain. Strengthening the muscles of your core, back, shoulders, and chest helps stabilise the upper body and supports your neck during everyday activities.

Remember, consistency and patience are key when dealing with chronic pain. While it may take time to see significant improvements, embracing a big-picture approach to exercise will result in enhanced physical well-being, reduced neck pain, and improved overall quality of life.

Reach out to us using the form below to discover how weight training and muscle strengthening exercises can contribute to your neck recovery. We understand that heavy weights might appear daunting initially, but rest assured, with our expert guidance, you will gradually learn proper lifting techniques and gain the necessary strength to lift safely. As you progress, your confidence will soar, and you’ll experience reduced pain and improved overall well-being. Our team is here to support you every step of the way on your journey towards a healthier, pain-free neck. Let’s work together to achieve your goals and enhance your quality of life. Start your path to recovery today!


Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.

Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.

*We do not offer temporary pain relief such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, or any form of soft tissue therapy.