Why You MUST Train Your Neck

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Training

neck-workout“Ya best protect ya neck.”
-Wu Tang Clan

In the past I’ve always recommended neck training but said that it was optional.

That was a mistake.

It’s not optional.

It’s mandatory.

You look infinitely cooler and more badass with a bigger neck and it’s a life insurance policy.

No one can argue either of those two facts.

Countless athletes and lifters have sustained injuries that, based on their own accounts, could have been life threatening or left them paralyzed, had their necks not been as strong as they were.

I was genetically cursed with a pencil neck so I will never be mistaken for Kurt Angle, but I couldn’t allow myself to be seen in public without training my neck. 

Like Kurt, I am also a bald headed white dude.

For me, that means I’m always one missed-neck-training-session away from being mistaken for Moby or Michael Stipe.

The first time someone tells me I resemble either of those cats I’ll know my days are numbered. 

So you’ve gotta train your neck at least once per week. Twice is better.

Wrestlers have huge necks from all the bridging they do and because of the fact that they use their necks constantly to move or resist their opponents.

If you apply that logic you’d think that training your neck every single day would be the best option.

But you’ve gotta remember that wrestlers build up to that volume and frequency from the time they’re little kids.

If you’re 32 and have never done a set of neck you don’t want to immediately start doing what guys with tens of thousands of hours of the mat do. That’s how you get injured. Be smart and ease into it with two short workouts per week. You can always add more down the road if you find you can tolerate it.

Here’s a good beginner neck workout:

Day 1
1) Rear Neck Extension with Neck Harness– 2 x 20 x 60 seconds rest

Day 2
1) Forward Neck Flexion with Plate on Forehead– 2 x 20 x 60 seconds rest

After a month of that, build up to three sets and then four. Eventually if you want to experiment with a third day where you add side flexion in that’s also a great option.

For the forward flexion you should lay down on a bench with your head hanging off the end. Fold up a towel and put it over your forehead with a plate on top of it. A five-pound plate would be fine to start with, then jump up to a ten in a few workouts.  Hold the weight in place and nod your head up and down slowly.

If you have a partner this can be done with manual resistance by letting him hold a towel or t-shirt over your head while you nod “yes.”

training for a big neck

Bridging is also a great option, however, I prefer isometric holds as your first step. Don’t start doing reps until you’re experienced and comfortable with simply supporting your bodyweight on your head with the strength of your neck.  If you have access to one of those blue Airex pads you can use that as a cushion. If not fold up a towel a few times.

Below is a more advanced, higher volume, neck-training workout, incorporating iso hold bridges.

Day 1
1a) Iso Hold Rear Neck Bridge– 2-3 x 30 seconds rest

1b) Iso Hold Front Neck Bridge- 2-3 x 30 seconds rest

1c) Iso Hold Side Neck Bridge- 2-3 x 30 seconds


Day 2

1a) Neck Harness Extension- 2-3 x 15-20
 x 45 seconds rest

1b) Lateral Neck Flexion- 2-3 x 15-20 x 45 seconds rest

1c) Front Plate Raise- 2-3 x 15-20 x 45 seconds rest

The lateral neck flexion can be done by lying sideways on a bench and putting a towel and weight on the side of your head the slowly bring your head up and down. You can also do this with manual resistance from a partner.

A third option is to use a low incline bench and run weights through only one side of the neck harness then hold the other side with your hand so it doesn’t fall off while you do your set.


Always remember to stretch your neck.

Six to nine sets of total neck work will be a lot if you are starting from zero. So do one set each if you choose to start with this workout. Then assess your tolerance and work up over time.

Assist yourself when you first start on the bridges by using your arms to support a portion of your bodyweight. The front and rear bridges can be done on the floor.

The side bridge should be done by placing your pad or towel against a wall and leaning sideways into it. You get the added benefit of some extra oblique work there as well.

Iso hold bridges can also be done by placing your head on a stability ball and doing them in each direction that way, either on the floor or against the wall. Just make sure the ball is blown up fully.

These neck workouts can be done at the end of either an upper or lower body day or you can even train neck on off days. If you choose the latter option you won’t be as warmed up so take your time to get loose and warm and slowly ease into it.

Neck work is essential for preventing injuries but it is also risky and can get you injured if you’re stupid. 

Don’t go too heavy, don’t use extreme ranges of motion, get a good pump, and always stretch your neck in all directions after you’re done.

Combine that with some serious trap and upper back work and you’ll be on your way to possessing the “Tom-Hardy-in-Warrior” badass look every man should strive for.

Leave a Reply

21 Responses to Why You MUST Train Your Neck

  1. Cody December 19, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Good post ill take the rock look over tom hardy anyday though, the man’s a tank

  2. John Phung December 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    “You look infinitely cooler and more badass with a bigger neck and it’s a life insurance policy.” Totally agree.

    The way I train my neck is with a neck harness attached to the low pulley cable. Allows me to do neck extension, flexion and lateral flexion with ease.

  3. Dylan December 20, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    Moby or Michael Stipe…. Holy shvt you killed me JF!!! LOLOLOL

  4. Gabri December 20, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    Man, Tom Hardy looks incredibly badass in that movie, i have watched it twice this last month!!

  5. Craig L. December 20, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    “For me, that means I’m always one missed-neck-training-session away from being mistaken for Moby…”

    That’s too funny! The neck is one of those muscles that isn’t considered a “showy muscle group”, as John McCallum calls them. Admittedly, when managing the time I have to train each week the neck tends to get lost in the shuffle.

    I too have a fairly skinny neck, though, and your words have struck a chord. It’s time to add another 5 minutes of neck-blasting supersets to a couple of training sessions each week. Thanks for the conviction to finally take action!

  6. david December 20, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    Neck bridges are great for building your neck, but you’ve gotta be reasonable about it. As a HS wrestler I used to do bridges with a team mate sitting on my abdomen and do bridge presses, and now, 40 years later, I’ve had to deal with arthritis in my cervical spine. In retrospect I realize that axial loading with >body weight is a recipe for joint problems, while flexion/extension is more joint friendly and is a better muscle builder.

  7. David Valdez December 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Am sorry, I would like to see pictures of the Neck Workouts.
    Thanks a lot People going to appreciate.

  8. Nick Goodall December 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    Never really thought about training my neck to be honest, can hardly argue with your points! Can’t say I have that much of a skinny neck, but will definitely start doing some of those exercises, although I won’t be looking like any of those wrestlers any time soon! :)

  9. Jon Herting December 20, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    I think training the neck is certainly a good idea in order to help prevent injury however I would argue that you do not want to train within faulty movement patterns. Make sure that you are not training strength over dysfunction. If your neck is not moving properly or its mechanics are screwed up somewhere (i.e. soft tissue restrictions, rounded shoulders, forward head posture, increased T-spine kyphosis), fix these things first then train the neck.

  10. Pedro December 21, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    From Pencil Neck to Python Neck! Love it, going to plug the Beginner program into MGS 2.0! I used to do Bridging & My Neck, Back & Posture have never been better, but stopped cause so many people said it was so dangerous, but never had a problem, quite the opposite! Do you think one day you can put videos of Neck Drills in the Inner Circle? Love the Inner Circle bro!

  11. David Morgan December 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Jason- Try the new device called the HALO. The only device that allows flexion/extension and rotary movements that can be attached to a cable system or with bands. Check out my Face Book Page for video demos http://www.Halotwister.com

  12. Peter December 23, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    Great tips, I need to get a better neck for my shoulders.

  13. Redban December 24, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    Great post Jason. I love training my neck!
    Mike “the machine” Bruce has alot of great neck training info too.

  14. Ty Wall December 25, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Perhaps we should see what Jeff King did for neck training. He had it figured out fa sho

  15. Brandon December 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    Alright, I’m sold. Neck work starts tomorrow. I don’t have a harness though so is it okay to do rear extensions with a plate?

  16. Sam February 10, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Nice article Jason.
    A strong neck is indeed a sign of strength. I’ve found that my neck could be easily over trained; It would be nice to find out if anyone else shares this point.

  17. John Thompson March 21, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    The side flextion with the harness is a great tip.

  18. Jack April 19, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Hi Jason, I play rugby and play in the front row where during games my neck takes a lot of pressure, normally by about Wednesday im pretty much pain free and I’ve nearly got full range in it again after a Saturday game, is there a good way to train my neck without wrecking it for a game the next Saturday?

  19. Sam October 11, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    The good thing for us old guys is that as we age our necks get bigger.


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