Training

Why Is Your Neck Popping During The Bench Press?

April 7th 2019

You have done the bench press over a thousand times. But for some reason, you experienced a neck pop here and there. What is going on? Is neck popping natural during the bench press?

Neck Pop During The Bench Press

Neck popping is not a common symptom for doing the bench press. Your head should not be pressed hard into the bench and should be in a neutral and natural position throughout the entire movement. All conditions and events need to be taken seriously and should be evaluated by a medical professional.

With that said, the best thing you can do after your neck pops during or after the bench press is to calm down. Whatever needed to happen already happened. So, athletes cannot change that. What you can do is to think logically and stay calm, despite the neck pops that occurred.

Neck pops, isolated from other symptoms, are inherently harmless and are usually nothing to worry about. Neck pops with pain and other lingering symptoms are much more serious and can be a sign of a more serious medical concern.

Anatomy of the neck

Your neck is made up of two parts, the vertebrae and the facet joints. The vertebrae are facing the back of the body and the facet joints face the front of the body. In between each vertebra is the intervertebral disc space, which has the intervertebral disks. On the ends of each smooth surface of any bones, there is cartilage. In between each facet joint, there is a joint capsule and joint captivity, which has synovial fluid to lubricate the joints.

Neck crepitus is thought to occur when structures in the spine rub together and make sounds. You will soon understand that it can be a single factor or a combination of reasons that can cause your neck to pop. Add in doing bench presses, this mystery just became increasingly more complex.

What causes neck pops?

Neck crepitus, another term for noise and sensations a person feels during joint movement, is thought to occur when bones come together and rub against one another.

But what causes neck pops? Whenever people move around, our joints need to move as well. As a result, there can be incidents where our bones move in a particular way and create feelings and sensations that are a result in cracks, pops, grinds or snaps.

Here are three ways that you can experience neck sensations:

Bone on bone grinding

When facet joints degenerate, due to many different circumstances such as old age, disease or osteoarthritis, the protective cartilage wears done and the adjacent vertebral bones can rub against each other. This will usually create a grinding noise or sensation.

 

For the most part, neck popping will not deal with this reason since a grinding feeling is much different from a popping feeling

Ligaments or tendons moving

Ligaments and tendons are both attached to the bones on your neck. The spine itself has many ligaments that prevent it from sliding out of place as well as provide it with a limited range of motion. In several cases, it can be possible for ligaments or tendons to make a snapping sound when moved around each other or around the bone. One common explanation for this is when muscles get too tight and inelastic.

Here is a chart of the different ligaments that are attached to the spine at the neck:

Ligament

Description

Anterior Longitudinal Ligament (ALL)

 

  • A primary spine stabilizer
  • About one-inch wide
  • Runs the entire length of the spine from the base of the skull to the sacrum.
  • It connects the front of the vertebral body to the front of the annulus fibrosis, which is the outer portion of the intervertebral disc.

Posterior Longitudinal Ligament (PLL)

 

  • A primary spine stabilizer
  • About one-inch wide
  • Runs the entire length of the spine from the base of the skull to sacrum.
  • It connects the back (posterior) of the vertebral body to the back of the annulus fibrosis.

Supraspinous Ligament

  • Attaches the tip of each spinous process, a bony projection off the posterior (back) of each vertebra, to the other.

Interspinous Ligament

  • A thin ligament attaches to another ligament called the ligamentum flavum that runs deep into the spinal column

Ligamentum Flavum

 

  • The strongest ligament
  • It runs from the base of the skull to the pelvis, in front of and between the lamina
  • Protects the spinal cord and nerves.
  • Also runs in front of the facet joint capsules.


Neck popping will not usually occur with this reason but it can be one of the reasons that can cause many different and unique symptoms to occur. Making sure you protect and take care of your spine health is very crucial for a long term lifting journey.

Joint cartilage pressure changes

There has been great controversy on whether or not gas bubbles are created and collapsed within the synovial region on the neck’s facet joints. The theory stated that tiny gas bubbles are created within the synovial region in the neck’s facet joint. When these gas bubbles collapse, they create a popping sound, which is similar to that of when people crack their fingers. Typically, these cracks are not harmful or painful. In fact, there have been many professions and treatments designed to around this natural movement, such as being a chiropractor.

With all that stated, however, studies cannot definitely point out whether or not all these different pressures changes are factual. While most of the medical community can agree that these gas bubbles collapsing cause these popping sounds, there has not been a defining research paper to fully support these claims.

Chin And Neck Position For The Bench Press

Your chin and neck should be on a neutral position on the bench press. This way, you do not put any excessive strain when doing a heavy bench press load. Do not turn your head or twist your neck while bench pressing as you will injure the delicate neck muscles. There should be no reason to look in any other direction other than at the ceiling when doing a bench press. It is the most natural position your head can be when lying down on the bench press.

One common query asked if whether or not lifters should push their head into the bench press. No, you should not push your head into the bench press as this can cause neck pain and issues. Keep your head on the bench and make sure you can maintain full body tension.

Another common question asked is if lifters should tuck in their chin during the bench press. No, you should not tuck your chin. Tucking your chin in has a tendency to pull your head off the bench, which is what we do not want. Also notice if you push your chin away from your body, that is exactly the same situation as pushing your head into the bench press.

Why Do People Lift Their Head Off The Bench Press?

Bigger lifters and a lot of geared lifters lift their heads off the bench press to see where the bar touches on their chest. It is crucial for these lifters to nail that exact spot because even small amounts of variations can throw off their insane bench press PR.

But should you do it? Is there a secret to their madness?

To remain in the most optimal bench press position, you need to have these three things:

  • Thoracic extension
  • Scapula Retraction
  • Scapula Depression

When your head on the bench press, you are maximizing thoracic extension, while maintaining both scapula retraction and scapula depression.

When lifters, typically smaller lifters, lift their heads off the bench, they release a lot of upper back tightness they would have been channeling if their heads were planted on the bench press. Typically, you will see these lifters be unable to maintain a great shoulder position after lifting their head off the bench press. In some cases, lifters may even go into scapula protraction and thoracic flexion. If you are a serious lifter who wants some gnarly bench press gains, you definitely do not want to cripple your bench with poor technique.

Head off bench press

The head off bench press is a technique used to further emphasize spinal extension. Naturally, your body wants to extend and elongate our spine in orer to put our shoulders in the bench position to press weight upward.

You are not driving your head back. You are not picking up your head. You are focused on trying to extend your spine while your head lying off the bench. Your head should fall into its most natural and powerful position.

How often should your neck pop at the gym?

This can range from cracking every day to cracking every so often. Depending on the lifter’s neck condition, it will vary. Age can play a role but grinding and crunching sounds are more prevalent than loud, snapping and popping sounds.

Should you rest or continue to go to the gym?

If neck popping is followed by pain, stiffness or other outstanding symptoms, it is best to see a medical professional. The last thing we want is for you to suffer a spinal injury and be unaware of the dangerous circumstances that can result from neglect of treatment.

You know your body best and it should be fairly easy to detect whether or not you have suffered an injury due to your heightened body awareness from going to the gym.

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