4 Essential Exercises for a Stronger Neck

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. See a doctor before embarking on any new exercise program or if you experience any pain while exercising.

Necksercise! It’s a thing. And I feel like I’m taking crazy pills because yes, squats are important, and sure, deadlifts and power cleans stimulate the neck muscles some, but there are real, legitimate benefits to training your neck directly.

1) You look like a badass

First of all, let’s be superficial: people look at your head. And the closest bunch of muscles to your face is your neck. And if you have a thick, muscular neck, you immediately look like a badass. It’s the only muscle group that’s visible when you’re wearing a suit or a coat. You want people to know you work out even if you’re bundled up in winter? Train your neck. There’s a reason “pencil neck” is an insult.

2) It’s life insurance

This is the muscle group that supports your damn head. It’s super important to have a strong, healthy neck. Boxers and martial artists train their necks to reduce the risk of whiplash and neck strain when they’re getting punched in the face, but if you ever travel by car, it’s a good idea for you, too. Whiplash sucks.

A strong neck has also been linked to a lower risk of concussion, which is why a lot of NFL athletes work the neck. We don’t need to say why neck injuries should be avoided at all costs. Stronger neck = lower injury risk.

3) Fewer headaches

Tension headache have a ton of causes, but there’s evidence that neck exercises can help to both relax and strengthen the muscles that might contribute to them.

4) Less neck pain

This might seem obvious, but a Danish study found that female desk workers who had been suffering from neck pain experienced a significant decrease in pain when they performed dedicated neck strengthening exercises as opposed to general, full-body exercises.

How to Strengthen Your Neck

So how do you strengthen your neck? There are over a dozen muscles in the neck and it’s a delicate area of the body, particularly if you’ve never worked it out before. Shrugs, one-armed rows, upright rows, reverse flyes, and lateral raises will help, but here are a few direct exercises.

Note that these are not exercises for attempting a 1-rep max. They’re movements best utilized with a relatively high rep range, say two or three sets of 15 to 20 reps. Keep the motion smooth and don’t rush through reps. Stretch downward, sideward, and rotationally before you get started.

Flexion

Lie face up with your head off the side of a bench, put a light plate on your forehead — you might find it easier to put a towel in between them — and nod downward and upward.

Extension

If you’ve got a neck harness, this is a great time to use it to lift your head back against resistance. If not, a resistance band or your hand can work.

Lateral flexion

Place your palm against your temple and try to touch your ear to your shoulder, pushing into your head for resistance. Do the same in the other direction.

Look-aways

With a resistance band or your hand, use gentle pressure to rotate your head in both directions.

There are some more specialized neck programs out there but for the average athlete, doing a few sets of these exercises each week should be enough to make a significant improvement in your neck strength and size.

This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image via @therock on Instagram.

Comments

Previous articleThe Truth About Rhabdo: You Really Can Exercise Too Much
Next articleThe History of the Deadlift: How Did This Lift Become So Popular?
Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of different kinds of things, but his passion for health ultimately led him to cover it full time.Shanghai was where he managed to publish his first health related article (it was on managing diarrhea), he then went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before he finished his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and headed to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.Nick’s interest in health kind of comes from an existential angle: how are we meant to live? How do we reach our potential? Does the body influence the mind? (Believe it or not, his politics Master’s focused on religion.)Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.