Neck training has been around for quite some time in the boxing and wrestling world. Fighters like Mike Tyson would often be seen doing neck bridges and other various exercises to strengthen and build his neck. Even MMA fighters, football players, and other combat sport professionals have began to focus more on neck training.
However, in the past few years more and more guys have started to incorporate neck exercises into their gym routine. Not just boxers or combat athletes. Regular guys are starting to realize the importance of neck training in terms of function and overall aesthetics. A thick wide neck represents a strong powerful man, and can be noticed even when wearing a t-shirt or sweatshirt. The neck is always exposed, and a big neck compliments facial aesthetics nicely. Although, a bigger neck is not only just for looks. A big strong neck is great for head support and protection too. This article is going to discuss the anatomy of the neck, why you should train your neck, benefits of neck training, and a complete guide on how to build a bigger neck.
Anatomy Of The Neck
First, let’s look at the anatomy of the human neck. It is important to understand the anatomy of the muscles you are going to be targeting while neck training. The two biggest muscles that make up the thickness and width of the neck are the trapezius and the sternocleidomastoid muscles. Both of these muscles are responsible for the bulk of our neck size.
The trapezius muscle commonly referred to as “traps” extends from your mid back all the way to the back of your head where it connects. When people think of “traps” they think of the top of your shoulders, which is correct. However, the trapezius muscle actually extends all the way up the back of the neck and connects to the skull. So, it is a huge muscle, and makes up most of the posterior neck.
The sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) is found on the front of your neck. You have an SCM on each side of your neck. You can see in the image how this muscle starts behind the ear and wraps all the way down to the top of your sternum. When you turn and rotate your neck side to side you will feel this muscle pop out. So when you turn and look to the left, you will feel the right SCM contract and pop out. The SCM muscle makes up a large portion of your neck thickness and width. This is because the SCM is on the front and side of the neck, so by targeting this muscle your neck will appear much bigger.
Other small muscles within the neck are the scalene muscles. The scalene muscles are divided into an anterior, middle, and posterior head. These muscles are found in between the SCM and trapezius muscles, and lie slightly deeper within the neck. Lastly, we have the levator scapulae muscle which lies right behind the SCM, and helps to lift the shoulder blades. All these muscles play important roles in your neck mobility and stabilization, and are the main muscles you need to target when building a bigger neck. Especially, the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles (SCM).
Who Should Train Their Neck?
I believe every single person could benefit from some neck training. Not just boxers and combat sport athletes. Every single person, even those who are sedentary could benefit from a stronger bigger neck. Even females would benefit from training their necks. I know so many females who have weak skinny necks, and they are constantly complaining of neck pain and poor posture. I wonder why? Neck training could really benefit everyone. Not only is it protective to have a stronger neck, but a bigger neck looks better on everyone.
However, neck training is especially important for all athletes and weightlifters. Many athletes face the risk of neck injuries or head contact, and a strong neck is one of the best ways to prevent head injuries. Also, it is incredibility important for combat athletes such as boxers, MMA fighters, and wrestlers. Weight-lifters and bodybuilders should be training their necks as well. It is important to strengthen your neck which will help stabilize your head and spine when performing weight lifting exercises. You are only as strong as your weakest link. A bigger stronger neck will correlate with most exercises in the gym and benefit most sports.
Benefits Of A Bigger Neck
A bigger neck just looks better, and is more visually appealing. Most women who have been interviewed agree that a bigger neck is attractive on men. Also, most men would agree that a skinny twig neck doesn’t look good on females either. Every single person would look better with a slightly bigger neck. You don’t wanna be that guy who has big arms and chest, but has a toothpick neck.
If you are into aesthetics and looks, then neck training should be a priority for you. It is easily one of the best ways to increase your attractiveness. For example, look at the image of Brad Pitt with a big neck on the left and skinny neck on the right. I think we would all agree how much better the version on the left looks. However, you do not want to overdo it. Make sure to keep it proportional. The exercises and training methods below will add size to your neck quickly, so make sure to keep monitoring your size. You do not want to get your neck too big, and then end up looking like “Wide Neck”.
Another main benefit of a bigger neck is protection from head injuries and concussions. A strong neck can help stabilize the spine, and better withstand a blow to the head. This protection is key for those who may take blows to the head like boxers, MMA fighters, football players, soccer players, and wrestlers. However, it is even important for the average individual. Every single person could use extra protection for their neck. Accidents like motor vehicle accidents, falls, and other random events can cause injuries to the head and neck. So it is crucial to have that protection.
This is extremely important for combat athletes, and the main reasons boxers and MMA fighters incorporate neck training into their routines. For them, it helps prevent concussions and brain damage from strikes to the head. When you take a punch or hit to the hit, the force is transmitted through the neck and skull. So a weaker neck will not be able to stabilize and reduce the force as well, and this can cause the brain to bounce around inside the skull. Causing concussions and/or brain damage. A bigger stronger neck can help reduce these forces, and limit the blow that the brain receives. This protection is really important, and one of the main benefits of a bigger neck.
Reduced Neck Pain
Last, but not least is reduced neck pain. A bigger stronger neck is one of the best ways to prevent issues and pain within the cervical spine. I see lots and lots of people who have chronic neck issues, which causes them tremendous pain and limitations with their daily lives. Most of these necks issues and pain can be avoided and fixed with neck training.
However, it is important to start neck training before these issues arise. It is way easier to prevent these neck problems rather than fix them. Either way, neck training can help prevent and fix most neck issues. I have seen many people reduce their neck pain when they started incorporating some neck exercises into their weekly routines. So not only does a bigger neck look better, offer protection, and prevent concussions. It also will help prevent and reduce neck pain.
How Big Should You Build Your Neck?
Another thing to consider is how big do you want to build your neck. This is important, and you should make sure to track your progress during neck training. In most cases, you won’t overdo it. However, you don’t want to build your neck too big and be un-proportional. It is best to follow ideal neck measurements for your height and size. So, make sure to measure your neck prior to starting neck training, and then monitor it throughout.
For example, for someone who is 72 inches or 6ft tall a good neck size would be somewhere between 16.8-18.1 inches. This would be a proportional neck size for their height. However, a shorter individual at 66 inches or 5’5ft tall, a good neck size would be 15.4-16.4 inches. It is good to use your height as a gauge for your neck proportions. Another quick rule of thumb is to achieve a neck size that is about 77-80% of your head size. This actually is a better gauge to monitor proportion in my opinion. Simply measure the diameter around your forehead, and then multiply that by 77% or 80%. So for a head size of 22.5 inches a proportional neck size would be between 17.3-18 inches.
How To Build A Bigger Neck
To build any muscle and cause hypertrophy you need to stick with the three main training principles which are intensity, volume, and frequency. Intensity refers to how hard you are pushing yourself, and refers more to the percentage of your one rep max you are lifting with. Volume refers to the amount of training you are putting in per session, sets and reps. Frequency refers to the total amount of training sessions you are performing each week.
To build a bigger neck you need to progress and target these training principles. In reference to neck training the main two components will be volume and frequency. Neck training is not something that you can change intensity too much with, because there is only so much weight you can progress with neck training. However, you can easily adjust volume and frequency. For neck training you want to keep the volume and frequency high. To build a bigger neck you should be focusing on about 10-20 total sets per week, and the reps should be high. You want to be performing higher reps of 12-25.
Also, I recommend short rest breaks in-between sets. You do not want to be resting 2-3 minutes between sets. It is best to keep the rep scheme high and to complete sets every 30 seconds or so. This will be best for hypertrophy and muscle growth. I recommend training your neck often, about 2-3 days a week. However, you can progress this overtime to 4-5 days a week. To achieve faster results train your neck 4-5 days a week with 20 total sets per week.
You need to target your neck from multiple angles. To build a bigger thicker neck you need to work the front portions, side portions, and back part of your neck. This will give you a complete well developed neck. The main muscle you will be targeting for the back portion of your neck is the trapezius muscle. This muscle is huge, and will quickly thicken the posterior view of your neck. However, you can’t ignore the side and front portions of your neck. The main muscles you will be targeting on the front portion will be the SCM’s. A well developed SCM muscle gives your neck great thickness from the front view. That is the hallmark sign of a big neck. Also, don’t neglect the side neck muscles which are the scalenes and levator scapulae. These muscles will complete your look, and give you a well rounded neck.
Best Exercises For Building A Bigger Neck
First on the list is the standard shoulder shrug. This is hands down one of the best exercises you can do to build a bigger thicker neck. The primary muscles targeted during a shoulder shrug is the trapezius muscle. So, this will give you great development of the posterior portion of the neck. However, the entire neck does get worked during a shoulder shrug. To perform the shoulder shrug simply try to raise your shoulders up to your ears. Hold for 1-2 seconds, and then lower your shoulders back down.
I recommend performing the shoulder shrug with dumbbells or a barbell. Although, it can be done with any heavy object or even resistance bands. The shoulder shrug can be progressed very well with heavier weights. Unlike most of the other neck exercises. I recommend sticking with higher reps of about 12-20, and using heavy weight for the shrugs. This is a great exercise, and one of the best to perform for neck gains. However, make sure to monitor your overall trap size. I have seen people who overdevelop their traps, and then it looks stupid. Too big of traps actually takes away from your shoulder width, and makes it look less aesthetic. So, if you are training for aesthetics purposes, then monitor your trap size. The shoulder shrug is a good starting exercise, which will get you a bigger neck fast.
Neck Curl With Plate
Next on our list is the neck curl with a weight plate. This is a great exercises to develop the front portion of the neck. The primary muscles targeted during a neck curl is the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and scalenes muscles. So this will really give you great develop of the neck, and make your neck bigger from the anterior view. To perform the neck curl simply lay down on a bench or platform so that your head is hanging off, and then lift your head up while contracting the front neck muscles. This may feel weird at first, but you will get the hang of it.
I recommend putting a towel or cushion underneath the weight plate, because the plate can get uncomfortable. I recommend starting this without weight to get the form down. Then slowly progress this exercises starting with a 5lb plate. You can progress up to 10lb, 25lb, 35lb, and even 45lb plates. When performing the neck curl make sure to tuck your chin when you come up to the top. Also, use only your neck muscles to do the neck curl. I see lots of people basically doing an abdominal crunch with this exercise.
Neck Extension With Plate
Next, is the neck extension using a plate. This is very similar to the neck curl, but just opposite. The neck extension will be working the posterior neck muscles. You can develop a bigger neck just by performing the neck curl with a plate and neck extension with a plate. These are two key exercises. The neck extension primarily works the trapezius and splenius muscle groups.
To perform the neck extension using a plate, simply lay on your stomach and extend your head backwards. Make sure not to arch your low back too much. This can be difficult to perform with heavier plates, so I recommend sticking with 5lb, 10lb, and 25lb plates. Similarly to the neck curl, you want to perform higher reps with short rest periods. Try to perform a few sets of 20-25 reps. You will really feel the burn during this exercise, and it will be great for achieving a bigger neck.
Lateral Flexion With Plate
The next exercise on our list is the side curl or lateral flexion exercise. The side curl is great for an overall complete neck. The primary muscles targeted during the side curl is the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and scalene muscles. You actually will get a more direct contraction when performing the lateral flexion compared to the standard neck curl. If you could only choose 3 exercises to get a bigger neck, they should be the neck curl, neck extension, and side curl.
To perform the side curl using a plate, I recommend leaning over a bench or platform like shown in the image. You want to make sure you are in a stable position, and that you are completely on your side. You want to be completely on your side to get the downward force of gravity when performing this exercises. Again, you will need to stick with smaller plates for this exercise, because they are hard to hold. I recommend using 5lb or 10lb plates for this exercise. Make sure to take it slow, and start with no weight first to get a feel for the exercise.
Neck Extension With Harness
The good ole neck extension exercise using a harness. This exercise is a classic, and has been performed by many boxers and fighters over the last few decades. You can see here Floyd Mayweather performing the neck extension using a harness with a 25lb plate attached. Many boxers would perform this exercise to build a bigger and stronger neck for protection against blows to the head. Like I stated above, a stronger neck can protect and prevent concussions.
I recommend purchasing a neck harness to use for your neck training. They are relatively cheap, and are extremely effective. To perform this neck extension exercise, simply apply the harness around your head and attach your weights to the chain or strap. This exercise can be performed laying down on your stomach on a bench or platform, and even can be performed seated or standing. The primary muscles targeted during this exercise are the trapezius and splenius muscle groups. Stick with higher reps with the exercise. You can really load the weight during this exercise, but make sure to take it slow.
Neck Flexion With Band
Resistance bands are a great way to perform neck exercise while at home. You can attach the resistance band in the doorway, metal post, or even a tree outside. The neck flexion using a resistance band is a great exercise to target the anterior neck muscles. The resistance band gets harder the further it is stretched, so it is great to challenge the neck muscles and stabilizers. Unlike the neck curl using a plate, which is the same resistance the entire time. A resistance band provides linear variable resistance. Meaning, the resistance increases throughout the motion.
To perform the neck flexion exercise with a band you want to attach the resistance band around a secure surface. Put the resistance band around your forehead and take a few steps forward. Then simply bend your head down while contracting your front neck muscles. You can make this more challenging by stepping further out or by using a more challenging resistance band. I recommend performing a few sets of 20-25 reps with short rest periods in-between sets.
Neck Extension With Band
Like I said, I highly recommend grabbing a resistance band to incorporate into your neck training. It is always good to switch up your training to shock the body, and prevent any plateaus. You could do neck exercises one week with plates or a harness, and then the next week do some exercises using a resistance band. That would be the best way to keep your neck muscles shocked, and really get a bigger neck.
To perform the neck extension with a resistance band, attach the band to something secure. Then place the band around the back of your head, and take a few steps backwards. Simply move your head backwards against the resistance. Make sure not to arch your back. You want to remain standing totally straight with a slight bend in your knees.
Neck Lateral Flexion With Band
Lastly, you can perform a side curl or lateral flexion using a resistance band. I recommend performing side movements to work on the neck stabilizers. The primary muscles targeted during this exercise are the scalenes and SCM muscles. By targeting these muscles you can really work on your neck width, and this will help achieve a bigger neck.
To perform the side curl with a band, you will want to position the band around your forehead while you are facing to the side. Keep a slight bend in your knees, and don’t lean with the body when performing the movement. Simply tilt your head to the side by contracting the side neck muscles. Don’t cheat by tilting your entire body. I recommend keeping the rep range high with this exercise, and short rest periods in-between sets. Also, you may need to use a easier resistance band for the side curl compared to the neck extension or neck flexion. The muscles that help tilt our head to the side are often weaker than the muscles that tilt our head forward and backwards.
Neck bridging is a common movement performed by many wrestlers, boxers, and MMA fighters. Many wrestlers have a massive neck for this reason alone. You can build a big neck by just using your own bodyweight during the neck bridge. Neck bridging can be performed either forwards or backwards. Here is Mike Tyson performing a forward neck bridge.
However, neck bridging can be dangerous, especially when first beginning neck training. The problem with neck bridging is that it is a closed kinetic chain exercise. Meaning, your head is fixed to the ground with weight being transmitted through your head. Whereas, all the other exercises listed above are open kinetic chain exercises. Open kinetic exercises like the neck curl or neck extension using a plate or resistance band are much safer. Your head is not fixed to anything, and it is free to move. Hence the name “open” kinetic chain. I only recommend neck bridging for those who are experienced with neck training, and those who need to be able to perform the bridging movement for their sport, like wrestling or MMA for example.
You cannot forget about compound movements such as the deadlift, squat, and hang cleans. These movements will build a big neck indirectly. Meaning, you are not necessarily directly training your neck during these exercises, but your neck will still get stimulated. You can build a big neck by just performing these heavy compound movements. Why do you think so many football players have big necks?
I recommend a solid weight lifting routine that incorporates these compound movements. You can still perform your direct neck exercises like neck curls, neck extensions, and side curls on top of these compound movements. Doing all these will really get you a bigger neck quickly.
The Iron Neck
Last but not least, is the Iron Neck. This device is the holy grail of all neck training. The Iron Neck was invented in 2012 by Mike Jolly who was a former wrestler and football player. He wanted to develop a way to strengthen and build the neck safely, and help prevent football injuries such as concussions and CTE.
The Iron Neck is amazing, and hands down the best way to build a bigger thicker neck. This device is worn around the top of the head, and stays secure with an inflatable system. The Iron Neck works by incorporating both linear resistance through resistance bands and rotational resistance through a disc-braking system. They offer various models such as the pro model, varsity model, and home model. Although, the pro model is expensive it is definitely worth it. There is nothing that compares to the Iron Neck Pro Model. If you are serious about neck training or want to really get a bigger neck quickly, then this if for you.
Best Products For Neck Training
Neck training is extremely important, and I am glad people are starting to really understand the benefits of neck training. Not only will you look good with a bigger neck, but functionally you will perform better. Whether you are an athlete, police officer, construction worker, doctor, etc. Every single person could benefit from neck training. A stronger neck can protect your from head injuries such as concussions, whiplash, and brain damage. It is crucial to have a strong neck to support your head.
If you already lift weights then you are slightly ahead of the game, because you have a good understanding of muscle growth. However, if you are new to lifting weights then start slow, and incorporate the exercises I listed above. Remember muscle growth takes time, but you will definitely get a bigger neck by following this guide. Purchase a resistance band kit or small weight plates to add resistance to your neck training. However, if you want the Rolls-Royce of neck training then get the Iron Neck. Either way, you will be on your way in getting a bigger thicker stronger neck.