A good neck training routine is essential for football players and combat athletes as it can literally be the difference between life and death. But do the rest of us really need to follow a neck training routine or are shrugs and other trap exercises enough, as some trainers have said?
If you want to build a big, powerful, intimidating neck that may very well help ensure your survival, you will more than likely need a dedicated neck training routine. The genetically blessed will build a big neck with nothing more than shrugs and upright rows but the rest of us will need some specialization exercises.
The oldest, most basic neck training exercise is the wrestlers’ bridge. There are many variations of this and some may be considered unsafe by many experts. To reap the benefits of this exercise without taking any unnecessary risks you should only bridge until you are comfortable and don’t go into any extreme ranges of motion. In other words, lie on the floor and just raise up on the back of your head so that most of the stress is on the neck musculature and not your spine. This can also be done off the end of a bench or on a stability ball. Personally, I prefer the stability ball. This allows you to keep your neck straight while holding your bodyweight up with the strength of your neck.
The next neck training exercise on the list is the old school head harness. Simply put the harness over your head and move it back and forth into extension for 10-30 reps per set. Be sure to keep the reps slow and controlled and don’t use extreme ranges of motion.
For the sides of your neck, have a partner apply manual pressure with a towel placed your head while you flex your neck to one side. This should be done for 10-30 reps, per side.
For the front of your neck you will need some sort of flexion exercise. This could be a bridge or a manual resistance exercise. For the bridging movement, place a stability ball against a wall and put your forehead against it. Now lean into the ball with all of your bodyweight and let your neck support you. As this gets easier you can lower the ball and even move to different surfaces such as the pad on a glute ham bench and finally some sort of padding placed on the floor.
The other neck flexion exercise begins with you lying down on a flat bench with your head hanging off the edge. Hold a plate on your forehead with some sort of towel or padding between the iron and your skin. Now simply lift your head up and down for 10-30 reps. You can also have a partner apply manual pressure with his hand or with a towel draped over your head.
Pick one exercise for the front, one for the side and one for the back of your neck and do two to three sets of 10-30 reps, three days per week. For example, on Monday you would do the rear bridges, on Wednesday you would do the lateral flexion and on Friday you would do the manual resistance front flexion. That neck training routine should pack and inch or so on your neck in just a few weeks.
Time to move up a shirt size…