Bulging biceps might save you from dateless Saturday nights, but a strong neck can save your ass. A muscular neck screams "don't screw with me" and separates you from the "pec-and-bi warriors." Whether you're lifting, boxing, playing football, or doing any other high-contact activity, neck training should be at the heart of your program.
Your neck supports the weight of your head and safeguards the nerves that transmit sensory and motor information from your brain to the rest your body. In a perfect world, one without kinks and crimps, your neck is both sturdy and flexible. But it doesn't get that way all by itself.
To build overall neck strength and maximize hypertrophy, you need to train extension, when your head is back, and flexion, when your is head forward. You need to train rotation, when you twist your neck to look over your shoulder, and lateral flexion, when you move your head from side to side.
This routine provides neck training that strengthens your neck in all these dimensions. Aim to do this routine 1-3 times a week.
Before you get started, watch the video to see how to warm up your neck.
Attach a band to a pole, power rack, or another immovable object. Place the band across your forehead slightly above eye level and step away from the immovable object so the band pulls moderately on your head and neck. While maintaining good posture and a straight neck, rotate your head to the right so your chin is over your right shoulder, then return to the center and rotate your chin over your left shoulder. Perform 25 reps, alternating from side to side for a total of 50 reps. Do this for 2 sets.
Training Tips: This exercise is more of an activation exercise than a balls-to-the-wall heavy pull. Protect your neck by applying too little resistance instead of too much. If you want to decrease resistance, move closer to the immovable object; to increase it, move away. Always start your neck workout with this movement because it provides great activation and puts the finishing touches on your warm-up.
Perform this movement with strict form. Since the range of motion is short, turn your head as far as is comfortably possible. If you don't have a band, do these rotations manually by resisting your head rotation with your hand.
Wear a comfortable beanie or place a folded towel on your forehead to cushion the weight plate you'll be using. Lie on a bench on your back with your head hanging off the end and your feet on the floor. Place the plate on your forehead. Moving slowly, flex your head up until your chin touches your upper chest. Extend your neck backward to a comfortable stretch. Repeat for 3 sets of 20 reps.
Training Tips: Again, start off light, then gradually increase the load by 2-1/2 pounds or less per session. Focus on strict execution of the movement and achieving a full range of motion. Don't be explosive or jerky on these neck movements. Perform them under control.
Lie face down on a bench with your shoulders just beyond the end. This is the starting position. Holding a weight pate plate firmly against the back of your head, lower your head until you feel a comfortable stretch. Under control, bring your head up briefly. Hold your head in this extended position, then lower it again. This is one rep. Do this for 3 sets of 20 reps.
Training Tips: For your first session, do this exercise without added weight. At each following session, add a maximum of 2-1/2 pounds. As you perform the exercise, make sure your neck moves through a full range of motion, using good form and at a controlled speed. If you don't have access to weights, use your hand or a band to create resistance against your neck as you come up.
Neck Lateral Flexion
Place a folded towel on a weight plate. Position yourself perpendicular to a flat bench with your legs on the floor and your left forearm on the bench. Place the weight and towel on the right side of your head and hold it in place with your right hand.
Move your head up to the right shoulder by laterally flexing your neck up, then laterally flex it back down again. This is one rep. Do this for 15 reps, switch to the other side, and do 15 more reps. Complete two sets of 15 for each side.
Training Tips: Normal-size folks can do this exercise just by lying on your side on a flat bench, whereas big guys have to approach the bench from the side. Move through the entire range of motion following a strict, controlled cadence.