As an athlete, you likely want your entire body to be tone—your neck included. While this will certainly help you gain that symmetrical look that most body builders aspire to build, it is essential that you train properly so that you don’t do damage to this area of your body that houses a portion of your spine, in addition to some very important muscles and other soft tissues.

With that thought in mind, here are some dos and don’ts that you’ll want to follow when training your neck muscles:

DO get a doctor’s approval if you have ever injured this area of your body. Some movements can aggravate current and past injuries, making this step critical to engaging in a neck-enhancing exercise routine.

DON’T overdo it. While your goal is to build your neck muscles so they become big and strong, overworking this region will only cause you pain and limit your progress, possibly even stopping you from working out other areas of the body.

DO use proper posture. If you are performing neck exercises without paying attention to your form, you may injure your neck and/or your spine, neither of which is a good thing.

DON’T try to work through any pain. Working your neck muscles should not be causing you pain, so if you feel even a twinge of pain (which is different than discomfort from pushing your muscles beyond what they are used to) or feel a pop, you need to stop. Immediately.

DO listen to your body while you are working out. If a movement isn’t comfortable, then don’t do it. You’re better off finding another exercise that can bring you the same results rather than trying to push it and hurting yourself in the process.

What do you do to ensure that your neck training routine is safe, yet effective?