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I've got a set of aero bars on my tourer, and now I've got the hang of them I rather like them, especially when solo and into headwinds or trying to put some distance behind me on a long straight.

A couple of weeks ago I did a rather long ride with a gentle headwind on a fast road at the beginning, so started out by using them rather a lot, and I made good use of them later too. By a rough estimate I used then for over 100km in a day, likely much more. But for a few days afterwards I had real neck ache (DOMS) in the muscles that hold my head up - I'm only a touch lower than in the drops but it seems to make a difference (my bars aren't that low to start with - the forearm pads are ~7 cm below the saddle and they don't stand very high above the handlebar). Yesterday's shorter but still respectable ride wasn't conducive to so much continuous use, but I could still feel those muscles getting tired - no aches today though.

While I try to get some use out of them as often as possible, I'm not happy on them in a group, and my longest regular solo ride is only 30km. So are there strengthening exercises that can be done off the bike? Perhaps something from the long time trial people.

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    I reckon we need an aero bar tag but I don't think I can create it on mobile. For an extreme example, Michael Broadwith finished his successful LEJOG record attempt in a neck brace, after riding much of Scotland in a pose akin to Rodin's Thinker – Chris H Apr 7 '19 at 18:56
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    Does your helmet have a visor/brim/peak ? If so, try removing it so you don't need to angle your head up so much to see. – Criggie Apr 7 '19 at 19:44
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    @Criggie, no, I've bought a nice new road helmet because even in the drops the brim on my cheap commuting one is a bit much. But good thinking – Chris H Apr 8 '19 at 5:51
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    The reduced weight of a good helmet should also help. I’m into calisthenics and weight lifting and I’m not aware of any exercises to target neck muscles specifically. You could do the Plank exercise and look straight ahead (instead of down) but it’s probably not intense enough. I’m not sure how healthy additional weight or resistance bands would be. – Michael Apr 8 '19 at 9:07
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    Create a chair to desk drop at work and sit typing in an aero pose. Sure to generate some odd looks, but as a cyclist most of your colleagues probably already think you are odd – Andy P Apr 8 '19 at 10:52
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There are a number of things you can try.

Firstly the aero position on the bike and holding that position is often related to how flexible your hips and lower back are as well as the strength of your core, so yoga, stretches of those areas, and core exercises will make it easier to hold an aero position in turn taking strain off your neck.

There are some neck specific exercises that will improve neck strength specifically those similar to what f1 drivers use to handle the G forces through fast corners.

Take an exercise band and tie the two ends to a pole or bar at height so that if you were sat down it would be at approximately head height. This will essentially give you a loop. Sit down at distance away such that when you put the exercise band on to your forehead it is tight and offering resistance.

You can then pull your forehead forward to engage the muscles. There's a link to video if my description is terrible.

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    +1 on the hip/ lower back flexibility. Often people can compensate for poor lower back/hip flexibility by hyper mobilizing the thoracic spin (think back hump) which would the require the rider to over extend their neck to look forward in a TT position. This would have less to do with neck strength, but the full kinetic chain. – Rider_X Sep 13 '19 at 17:52
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This answer rolls up a couple of comments for completeness, and adds some more recent observations as I've been riding a fair bit in conditions amenable to aero bars - our long straights tend to be on roads that get a lot of fast traffic under normal circumstances.

If something obstructs the top of your vision, you'll have to lift your head higher. This could be a helmet visor (thanks @Criggie), the bottom edge of a helmet even without a visor (e.g. the one I use on the MTB), or, as I've found recently, the top edge of sunglasses. Even frameless glasses can be an issue if the top edge distorts the view and clouds easily with sweat. My Bolle Contour general safety sunglasses are much better than my cycling-specific ones in this regard. In an aero position they may slide down a tiny but significant amount, and pushing them back up from this position isn't as easy as it might be.

A lighter helmet is an obvious help, though limited. My much lighter helmet (replacing a crash-damaged aero hard-shell) feels only slightly less tiring, but I haven't had the chance to do a really long ride making good use of the aero bars.

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  • Did you also do neck strengthening or lower back flexibility exercise as suggested in the other answer? – gschenk May 10 at 10:44
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    @gschenk By the time the specific exercises where posted, I was too busy recovering from my crash. I did try to build in some extra flexibility stuff before that, and it's possible that helped a little: When I crashed I'd covered nearly 600 km heading broadly west/upwind in 3 days, and wasn't having any neck trouble despite making good use of the aerobars. – Chris H May 10 at 10:53

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