Neck Training Options

Mike Tyson Neck Training
Mike Tyson training his neck

Speaking as a former fighter and current boxing coach, I can say without question that neck strength is imperative for anyone involved in a contact sport. Unfortunately, many athletes tend to ignore neck training until there’s a problem. That is a mistake. Rather than waiting to react to problem, it’s best to be proactive regarding neck development.

Long time readers of the site have surely heard me discuss neck training before. It’s something I take seriously and have written about in the past. More recently though, I demonstrated two neck bridging exercises to my Instagram page. Shortly after, my inbox was flooded with questions. With that in mind, I will use this entry to discuss those exercises, while also offering some additional options.

Neck Bridging Demonstrations

I grew up watching Mike Tyson perform a variety of neck bridging exercises (ex. see here). As an ambitious, young fighter, I naturally copied Tyson and began performing the same exercises. Over 25 years later, I’m still bridging, and my neck feels as healthy and strong as ever.

Two variations that I often include can be seen below.

In the second video, I’ve added a piece of foam underneath my head (a towel could also be used). Adding foam or a towel will be more comfortable, particularly for those who are new to bridging. You may also wish to start from the knees to reduce difficulty while acclimating yourself to these movements.

Safety

Whenever I demonstrate bridging variations, it is all but guaranteed that someone will ask about the safety of these exercises. My response is always the same. Bridging is safe for those who possess the necessary strength and flexibility required to perform the movements. With that in mind, bridging is not an exercise that a beginner should perform without first developing the neck with less strenuous options.

Beginner Options

Resistance bands are one of the better ways to begin training the neck. All that you’ll need is a resistance band and Velcro strip to attach the band to your head. As for band resistance, a small or medium band will typically suffice for neck training. It is unlikely that you will outgrow either, as you can always add manual resistance by pulling down on the band when performing the exercise. The Velcro strip that I use is 30 inches long. It is 2 inches wide and rated as industrial strength. An image of the setup can be seen here.

A demonstration of band resisted neck training can be seen below.

Manual Resistance

Manual resistance from yourself or a partner is also an option for neck training. As a coach, I typically use a towel to provide resistance in this fashion. The fighter will rest his head off the end of the ring (or a bench). I will then provide resistance by pulling down on a towel that is draped around the fighter’s head. We will work in four directions (facing up, facing down, and each side).

Weighted Neck Strengthener

Another option for neck training is to use a weighted neck strengthener similar to what Gennady Golovkin can be seen using below. With the neck strengthener, you can work facing up, facing down, and each side.

Neck Harness

Floyd Mayweather neck harness
Floyd Mayweather with his neck harness

Another option for neck training is to work with a neck harness. A neck harness can be used by beginners and advanced athletes as you can set the load specific to your ability. Beginners should start light and progress gradually.

As for neck training frequency, two or three brief neck sessions per week will be adequate in most cases. You don’t need a lot of time to strengthen the neck. Just be sure to gradually ease into neck training if you haven’t done so before.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, listen to George Chuvalo reiterate the importance of the neck. Chuvalo had one of the best chins ever. And while some of that was natural, he also made a point to develop his neck. It certainly helped as he was never knocked down in over 90 professional fights.

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“A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain.” – William James

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6 comments:

    1. Hey Jon, I think the quote used at the end of the article hints at the answer to your question: “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain.”

      It stands to reason that an overall stronger body will be stronger.

  1. As a man with a neck injury and have been working out for 28yrs, I have learned a lot. I found that if one wants to train the neck, they should focus on front neck, back and side neck extension exercises first before bridging. These will build more strength and endurance in the neck to withstand the forces of bridging. I started off bridging and I found it did not strengthen the neck like it should have. I still work my neck today, but no bridging, mostly extension work and cycle everything all the time, but again, that is just me :))))…If bridging works for you then go right ahead..

    Bridging can work good after a while of doing the extension exercises. Neck offers a lot of variety too, from band work and even doing them against the wall standing on a swiss ball.

    Wrestler bridging Holds can be the worst if one does not have good strength first. Neck does not need to be held in one position for timed hold or even need heavy weights all the time, all it needs is to be worked often.

    Its really good to vary the intensity, reps, weight, frequency all the time with neck. Don’t get me wrong I do like bridging, but caution must be used hugely and don’t think one is superman with neck work. Neck work is no joke.

    Quick mention that neck work does not only work the neck, but a lot of surrounding muscles as well from the traps, upper back and even oblique’s and grip, if one is holding the plates :)))..

  2. Hey Ross I noticed that in the section where you discuss neck harnesses you provide a link to the dmoose neck harness on amazon. I looked up this neck harness and it has a lot of good reviews and it’s only around 20 dollars. Have you personally tried the dmoose harness out? If so what do you think of it? Thanks

    1. I have one that some of the boxers use. It’s not as strong as my homemade harness, but a decent option for most users IMO

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