Workout for Neck Strengthening

My favorite workout for neck strengthening involves a series of exercises that hit all areas of the neck.  It’s important to address all of the movements including flexion, extension, lateral flexion, shoulder girdle elevation, scapular retraction and tucking & raising the chin.  A complete workout for neck strengthening will include all of these.

While I prefer multiple sets of some exercises, in a group setting, a good workout for necktrap bar shrugs strengthening does not have to take a lot of time.  Especially with a group, most coaches don’t want to spend a ton of time, so efficiency is a priority.  If you are in the weight room, a great place to begin is the shrug and shoulder elevation.

Shrugs are done with the arms extended holding a trap bar, straight bar or dumbbells.  Shoulder elevation is done with a bar on your back like a squat, then you raise your entire shoulder girdle.  This is an especially good option to do while you’re performing your warm-up sets of squats.  This allows you to begin your workout for neck strengthening without spending excess time setting things up and getting in and out of equipment.  Efficiency is always a priority when training athletes, so think about how you can use the least amount of time and still get maximum benefit.

I like to have athletes do a couple sets of either shrugs or shoulder elevation before they begin the direct neck work.  Research has shown that direct neck work increases neck strength and size to a much greater extent than non-direct work.  In other words, if you want a strong neck, you have to train it.  It’s not going to get bigger or stronger by doing exercises like shoulder presses or cleans.  You may hit the traps with other exercises, but the neck needs direct work.

Manual Resistance Neck FlexionIf you have quality neck machines available, you’re in luck.  Unfortunately, most people (especially working with groups) don’t have this luxury, but you can get it all done with manual resistance.  Fortunately, manual resistance is a fantastic workout for neck strengthening that allows large numbers of athletes to train together anywhere.  Just make sure that everyone involved knows how to properly perform all of the exercises or you could be setting people up for injury.  This site has more information on manual resistance training for the neck, so make sure to thoroughly educate yourself before you implement this kind of exercise.

The most common mistakes I see with MR neck strengthening workouts are using an excessive range of motion and excessive force.  The neck is capable of large movements, but that does not mean it should be resisted through the entire motion.  While the neck has plenty of motion, it is also relatively delicate.  Excessive force in the extreme motions can cause damage to the intervertebral disks and can even damage bony structure and connective tissue.  Too much resistance also changes the performance of each rep, leading to technique breakdown.  Take your time with MR neck exercises so they are done correctly.

MR lateral flexion is often the cause of problems because spotters mistakenly think they should push the head all the way to the shoulder.  This is very dangerous.  Remember, this is a workout for neck strengthening, not an attempt to increase range of motion (ROM) or cause damage.  The ROM can be greater on the concentric, but should not go far past neutral on the eccentric portion of the exercise.

Use slow, controlled reps and get at least one set done of:

Flexion (front)

Extension (back)

Right & left lateral flexion (side)

This can all be done with partners rotating back and forth.  In a group setting, you can do this just about anywhere, so there are no excuses for lack of equipment.  In fact, if this is all the neck work you get done, you’re probably ahead of 90% of the people in America.  Add in the shrugs and perform scapular retraction properly during your rows and you’re even farther ahead.

Scapular retraction and depression can be worked through individual exercises, but these movements can also be addressed through a properly performed row.  Chin tucking and lifting can also be done separately, but they require detail oriented coaching and/or specialized equipment.  We’ll cover these movements in future articles.

In conclusion, the quality workout for neck strengthening will include a shrug and/or shoulder elevation, flexion, extension and lateral flexion.  Other movements can be added, but this list will work most of the involved musculature in a very efficient manner.

As always, keep coming back to for the best Neck Training information on the net.

Ted Rath Teaches Neck Training Techniques

This short video on neck training is an absolute gem.  Detroit Lions Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach Ted Rath recently spoke at a Smarter Team Training clinic  (some of the best clinics around) and spent a few minutes teaching some of his neck training techniques.  The way he teaches neck training is much safer and more effective that just about anything else you’re going to find on the internet. He even showed how to do a manual resistance “nod” which we refer to as the “chin tuck” in our programs.  Take a look at the video.  Watch it a couple of times if you need to.

Keep coming back for more neck training information.

Dangerous Neck Exercise

When it comes to neck training or neck exercises, you need to understand that there is a lot of crap that’s on the internet.  There are a lot of great neck exercises, but there are even more dangerous neck exercises that you have to be aware of.  If you haven’t been looking closely, you may not be aware of how bad the neck training scene actually is. Well, this is an example of a neck exercise you SHOULD DEFINITELY NEVER DO!  Unfortunately, it’s being promoted as a great neck exercise by this guy.

This is a great way to fracture a vertabrae, herniate a disk, get your muscles to spasm or completely mess up your cervical spine and end up in the hospital. Don’t do this dangerous neck exercise….ever.

No matter how strong it gets, the neck is a delicate area that needs to be trained SAFELY. Safety should be your number one priority when strengthening the neck because one poor choice could stay with you for life.  We will bring you safe and effective neck exercises and neck training technique here on, but we can guarantee that this will never be one of them.

I believe the guy in the video is well-intentioned, but completely mis-informed and it’s dangerous for him to be putting this kind of information out on the internet. This is how people get hurt.

If you’ve ever done any manual resistance neck exercises or done any work on a quality machine, you understand how important it is to control the resistance throughout the range of motion.  It is next to impossible to adequately control this movement.

Stick with exercises like flexion, extension, the chin tuck and small ROM lateral flexion, and stay away from any neck exercise that creates discomfort.  Of course, you’re going to feel the muscles working and gradually fatiguing, but this is a very different feeling than the discomfort of an injury.

Neck Training: Points & Reminders

Neck exersise, manual resistance neck, neck flexion, neck workout

Manual Resistance Neck Flexion

Some of this seems quite elementary, but a few of the videos posted on the Internet lately have made me feel like it’s worth going over. I hope that we can agree that the muscles surrounding the cervical spine should be strength trained. However, there’s been a lack of attention to important strength training principles in the examples I’ve been watching. It’s not good enough to just do it, it’s how you do it.

First and most important, be safe! There should be no acceptable room for error while performing a workout for neck strengthening.  Understand acceptable ranges of motion, loads, direction of loads, speed of movement and anatomy.  Cause no harm should be your motto when engaging in any neck strengthening program.  If you don’t know how to do it safely, don’t do it. Period.  Hurting your (or someone else’s neck) because of poor training is completely unacceptable.  Of course, accidents happen, and we can’t control everything, but do your best to understand what should and should not be done and always take care when performing any neck exercises.

Do neck training that has a purpose. We only get so much time to train, so don’t waste it slopping through a set of manual back neck so that you can claim you trained the neck. The tension on the muscles should be sufficient enough to stimulate a strength gain. The rest between workouts should be sufficient enough to allow an adaptation to occur.Then, repeat.

Use rules of progression just like you would on any other exercise. Everyone has their rules for moving up in weight for their squat and clean, but what about neck flexion in the hammer 4-way neck machine? A 10-15 repetition rule will work well. Once the exercise can be completed for 15 or more repetitions with a certain weight, increase 2.5-5 lbs. for the next workout.

As a side note on progression, some of the literature is claiming that you should not train your neck to failure. I assure you, if you are performing the repetition correctly and the weight is appropriate for your rep-range, there is nothing wrong with demonstrating failure on a neck exercise.

You’ll never eliminate momentum when performing a repetition, but it’s important in neck training, to limit it. Emphasize the negative portion of the repetition when you’re training the neck. You can put great emphasis on it by giving a 3 second rule for the negative. The counting should be like this: One Thousand and One-One thousand and Two-One Thousand and Three. This rule can make your neck training safer and potentially more productive.

Along with taking your time to perform the negative, it’s important to pause in the contracted position of the muscle. For example, if you’re using a neck harness to perform a set of neck-extension, pause when your neck is extended at its end range of motion for a One Thousand and One count. Just like emphasizing the negative, emphasize the pause where there’s great tension on the muscles.

Train the neck comprehensively. There’s been plenty of talk lately on all of the movements that should be trained in order to train the neck the right way. Do some research and find out how you can work several different planes of movement for the neck, traps, and upper back into your workouts.

Be consistent when training the neck. It should be trained all year round, including in-season. Doing it in the off-season and pre-season is going to allow you to head into the season performing the same or similar exercises. Obviously careful and logical planning for an in-season neck training protocol should be well thought out.

Just like anything else you’re prioritizing, pay attention to the details and perform the exercises with purpose. Hurrying or slopping through a few neck exercises during the week so that you can report you’ve done neck training is silly and a waste of time.

Adam Stoyanoff MS, CSCS

What Neck Training is About

Neck Training - Jim Kielbaso & Kyle Vanden Bosch

Jim Kielbaso training Detroit Lions DE Kyle Vanden Bosch

There are a lot of opinions and misinformation on the internet regarding neck training, so was formed to educate all athletes, coaches, parents, trainers, therapists and exercise enthusiasts about the truth about training your neck. Whether you want to get a stronger neck, bigger neck, decrease neck pain or just learn new neck exercises or workouts for your neck, this site has it all.

If you take a look around the internet or ask coaches and trainers, you’re going to see and hear all sorts of different ideas and opinions on the best neck training strategies.  While it’s somewhat limited, there is enough information available about neck training to help us understand what works and what doesn’t.

To begin, you need to understand that neck training can have incredible benefits, but doing it wrong can also cause damage.  Even one of the leading proponents of neck training on the internet fractured his vertebra by improper spotting on a manual resistance lateral neck exercise.  Other people have caused disk damage and spasms, and who knows what else.  There are some really stupid things going on out there, so you need to educate yourself thoroughly before engaging in neck training.  Every strength and conditioning coach on the planet thinks he/she knows how to properly strengthen the neck, but you’d be surprised at what we’ve seen.

With concussions in the news every day, it is also important to know that neck training may have a role in preventing long-term brain damaged causes by repetitive sub-concussive blows in many sports.  The medical community may never jump on board with this theory because it will be difficult to provide scientific evidence of it’s validity.  That is because it will be difficult to conduct studies where human beings are subject to multiple blows to the head in an effort to measure impact forces.  It just won’t pass scientific ethics committees.  So, we may have rely on mathematical models and logic for a while.  That was good enough for a lot of people to stop smoking before it was “proven” to cause cancer, so we believe it is a pro-active stance.

If neck training may help prevent brain damage and there are no negative effects, why not include it as part of your training?

But, concussions are only part of the equation.  Injuries to the neck are some of the most devastating and debilitating of all.  Pain, discomfort, loss of motion, herniated and bulging disks, arthritis, spasms and even paralysis are all part of the picture.  Thousands of surgeries are performed each year, and who knows how many could have been prevented by properly training the neck.  If you’ve ever experienced problems with your neck or known someone with neck injuries or pain, you understand how all-encompassing and life-altering it can be.

While many people are interested in neck training for injury prevention or concussion prevention, there are also a lot of people who simply want a bigger or stronger neck.  Some people want this for sports performance purposes, others want it for aesthetic reasons and others simply enjoy strengthening their entire body.  Whatever your reason for being interested in neck training, will provide you with quality information so you can do things the right way.

We’ll talk about neck workouts and neck exercises, but we’ll also present the relevant research as well as reviews of different products associated with neck training.  We hope that this site helps you or those you work with.  Our number one goal is to deliver quality information so that neck training can be done safely and effectively in any situation and with any equipment.  Please let us know what you think of the site and what you’d like to see in the future.

Jim Kielbaso MS, CSCS and Adam Stoyanoff MS, CSCS

If you’re interested in football training, check out football speed.