October 18, 2020 | John Paul Catanzaro
Everyone trains their upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, but neck training often gets neglected. That’s a mistake! Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link – your posterior chain of muscles is no exception!
A strong neck is important and a great method to use involves eccentric training with a head harness. Use your arms for assistance and lower the weight slowly for 8 seconds. Do 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps with this method.
By the way, the towel helps to reduce rubbing on the ears and makes the exercise more comfortable. It also makes a great Iron Sheik costume at Halloween!
Let’s focus on an isometric method now – the neck bridge. A Swiss ball works great for this. Do 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps holding each isometric contraction for 8 seconds. Once it becomes easy, you can hold a dumbbell or weight plate on your chest for added resistance. If it’s too challenging with your body weight alone, try doing it against a wall to start.
Believe it or not, the neck bridge can have a dramatic effect on curling and pulling strength. If done right, it can increase biceps strength by as much as 10%. It’s true! Learn all about it in my book, The Warm-Up: Modern Methods for Strength Training, available on Kindle.
Here’s a simple dynamic training method to strengthen your neck using a resistance band. Do 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps at a moderately-fast tempo twice a week.
A great periodization plan is to do a phase of each of these 3 methods (eccentric, isometric, and dynamic) followed by a phase of shrugs, and then repeat the cycle. If each phase lasts 4 weeks, you should be able to complete 3 cycles in a year using slightly greater resistance each cycle.
Bottom Line: Neck training is not just for athletes. Make it a priority for a year and you’ll see a marked improvement in your posture and strength.