Training neck Why and how

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If you want to increase your neck strength for a particular sport or your neck muscle size for an aesthetic purpose, common back exercises such as shrugs, rows, and deadlifts are probably not enough on their own. However, there are direct neck exercises for a firm and wide neck.


You don’t see direct neck training that often. Nevertheless, direct neck training is, in our opinion, a valuable addition to the exercise repertoire of a serious bodybuilder. If there are two body parts that are almost always visible, it is the head and neck. A wide, muscular neck completes the bodybuilder’s physique. And not only from an aesthetic point of view: a strong neck also ensures more balance and less risk of injury. Neck training is therefore also important for rugby players, for example.

In fact, you train your neck all day long, but in the wrong way. Many spend hours at the computer or bent over on smartphone and tablet. This causes complaints, such as a stiff neck or back pain. Direct neck training can also help with that.

Neck strength can even affect the quality of breathing.

The anatomy of the neck. The main muscle groups are the sternocleidomastoid (front) and the splenius (back).


Some coaches claim that the neck muscles can get hypertrophy from shrugsrows, and deadlift variations, and that direct neck exercises are not necessary to achieve this increased muscle size. But a closer look at this shows that direct exercises are indeed necessary for a full-fledged neck physique. This depends on how wide you want your neck to be.


Next, we discuss best exercises for direct neck training. From our own experience we can say that the muscles in the neck grow relatively quickly, which is very motivating.


The exercise for a wide neck is the nuck curl. With this exercise you specifically train the sternocleidomastoid, a two-headed muscle in the neck area, with attachments to the shoulder girdle. The muscle is very visible from the outside.

How to perform this exercise? Lie down on a bench and do a good warm-up based on the bodyweight neck curl. Then you place a halfter disc on your forehead (preferably you wear a hat). It takes a while to figure out how heavy you can go; aim for a weight you can do about 15 reps with. Now make a controlled curling motion and feel how the muscles in the front of your neck are put to work.

Make sure you don’t use a lot of arms and abs. Also check out this video of common neck curl mistakes explained by Alex Leonidas, a YouTube coach and strong advocate of direct neck training for bodybuilders.

Train to something for muscle failure; keep two reps “in the tank.”

In principle, do the neck curl twice a week, always with three sets.


With the neck extension you train the back of your neck, the splenius. You can do this lying on your stomach, with a weight plate against the back of your head.

Because your neck is much stronger in the extended position, you will notice that you have to train with high weights, which is not recommended for practical reasons with this exercise . That is why you better train with a so-called head harness. Indeed, not a usual appearance in the gym, but the fastest way to a thick neck. Of course you can also train at home.

In principle, do the neck extension twice a week, always with three sets.


Finally, there is the lateral neck flexion. This exercise is not really necessary, as it mainly targets the sternocleidomastoid, the muscle group you already train with neck curls.

Do the lateral neck flexion once a week, with three sets.


Don’t just rely on regular back and trapezius exercises, do direct neck training, even if you’re the only one in your gym.

You don’t have to grow a bull’s neck, but a somewhat muscular neck is a nice finishing touch for a bodybuilder that is also always visible, even with clothes on. In addition, neck training contributes to a strong neck that helps prevent neck pain and injuries.


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