Neck strength – important or not?
Renowned exercise scientist Bret Conreras writes: “It is my opinion that targeted neck training for collision sport athletes is a wise idea and should be implemented for maximum neck strength, which could decrease the likelihood of injury and increase performance.”
And it is not energy/time consuming endeavour: “Neck training is not demaning on the CNS, does not require much volume to see good strength gains. They can easily be integrated into the training session during the warm-up or interspersed between sets of lower or upper body movements.”
Check out a classic drill for developing a powerful neck from one of my favourite old-time strongman, Siegmund Klein.
Klein gives in his booklet Super-Physique following set of instructions:
After the harness is securely fastened around the head and attached to the weight, assume position Figure 1, keeping a flat back, hands on the knees and legs slightly bent at the knees. This position should be kept throughout the exercise. Raise the weight by carrying the head as far as possible, Figure 2. lower slowly until weight almost touches the floor and repeat. Remember all the action should be from the neck only. Otherwise you will not get the full benefit of this exercise. Inhale raising weight – exhale lowering.”
See the photos above.
Few additional notes:
- Make sure to “elongate the spine”.
- Use slow, controlled movement – use strength.
- Spread the load – don’t jam your neck at one spot.
(All well known and very useful 3S principles of Jon Engum’s Flexible Steel, which btw. covers many excellent neck mobility and strength drills).
Start with a light weight. Although you will improve significantly just in few weeks, think in months. Neck is a delicate thing – do not get injured. Contreras writes that it is not necessary to go into the fulll range of motion – don’t overstretch your neck when you bend forward.
Are Other Neck Strengthening Exercises Necessary?
Klein’s drill about is definitely one of the key and most popular exercises, but – it strengthens only one of the possible movements of the neck, neck extension.
Contreras notes: “While neck extension strength is important, it is my belief that for many sports the neck should be strong in all directions, such as martial arts, football, rugby, and hockey.”
It means that it is a good idea to add other neck strengthening exercises for the remaining neck movements (flexion, lateral flexion, rotation), like manual resistance from all sides, isometric holds, various forms of wrestler’s bridges (both with weight and without weight), or my personal favorite, Pavel Tsatsouline’s special rolling neck bridge.
How to Include Neck Strengthening Exercise into Your Program?
Do 1 set of 10 of each exercise, twice a week.
Resilient neck: check.
Yours in Health & Strength
- Bret Contreras, Neck Training 101.
- Siegmund Klein, Super Physique. Body-Building Bar-Bell Course, Chas. T. Trevor, London.