20 Direct Neck Training Tips (2015)

20 Direct Neck Training Tips (2015)

20 Direct Neck Training Tips

I wasn’t blessed with the best genetics. I was a skinny guy and on top of that I had a pencil neck. One day I woke up and didn’t want to look like most of the people in the gym who have a big chest and big arms. I have also accepted the fact that I’ll never look like a big bodybuilder unless if I get on a bunch of drugs which isn’t my intention in the first place. I started becoming more interested in the way that the fighters looked, they all looked very powerful and many of them weren’t extremely big, but had physiques that could be attained naturally. I noticed that many fighters have huge necks which gave them that look that most bodybuilders don’t have because they trained differently. One thing that many fighters also do is direct neck work which is important for fighting and avoiding head injuries. The funny thing is that the neck isn’t like the arms and legs, it’s not a muscle that you can hide. Unless if you are going to be wearing turtlenecks for the rest of your life, the neck is always being revealed. Not only does it look good and powerful, but it is essential for combat sports. I have been training my neck for about 6 months and I have added at least 2 inches to it. Right now I am sitting at 17″ and my neck continues to get stronger, here are some random neck training tips that I came up with.

1) Neck curls are not crunches

Many people do neck curls and turn them into an ab exercise. If you are trying to isolate the neck then don’t use other muscles to lift the weight. The neck should be the only muscle moving.

2) Zero momentum and controlled tempos work well with neck training

Don’t move your arms, legs or lower back when training your neck. Many people go extremely fast when training they’re neck and they also go way too heavy. There is a time and place for everything and I would only recommend going heavy on neck work if you are advanced, but even if you are advanced it still isn’t mandatory. Try to go at least 1 second up, 1 second pause and 1 second down, that’s one rep.

3) Train for the pump in most cases with higher reps

In most cases, neck training is like direct bicep training. Train to get a pump and get a lot of blood into the muscle. I also like higher reps of 20-50. Sometimes I will even do 100 reps with light weight to finish the workout and get a good pump.

4) For neck width, hit the lateral part of the neck with lateral neck curls

Lateral neck work could come in handy if you want to develop the sides of your neck. All you need is a bench and a bit of weight and you are good to go.

5) Manual neck resistance works very well for neck training (especially if you have a partner to help you)

Make sure that you (or your partner) keep(s) the same tension and pressure throughout the whole rep. The hand shouldn’t be giving soft resistance on the first rep and hard resistance on the second, try to even it out.

6) If you have access to a 4-way neck machine then use it

A 4-way neck machine is not something that you can find in your typical YMCA, but it makes it very convenient to train the neck. If I had it at my gym I would use it quite a bit.

7) Remember that the neck is involved in every exercise, keep your chin tucked

From push-ups to chin-ups to planks, remember to keep your chin tucked without exaggerating.

The photo on the left is how to properly engage your neck during the deadlift and the right photo is how you shouldn’t do it. Doing it with your chin tucked will work the strap muscles in the front of your neck which help keep your head in the proper position and can help reinforce good posture.

8) Neck bridges aren’t for everybody, try the Swiss ball

If the neck bridges that many wrestlers due are hurting your neck or lower back then a friendly alternative would be to do Swiss ball neck work. These also don’t hurt your neck as much as you having to put it on the floor.


9) If your neck is very prone to injuries then isometric holds might be your best bet

Some people can’t tolerate neck work very well for whatever reason. If that’s the case then you could try doing isometric holds for neck work, these can be done with weight or manual resistance from you or a partner.

10) Take weeks off from neck training, you shouldn’t be training it all year long

I made a huge mistake when I started neck training and that was not taking weeks off. Now I do 6 weeks on and 2-3 weeks off for neck training to prevent overuse injuries.

11) Warm-up properly

If you are going to be doing neck curls with a 25lb plate on your face then you could at least try doing bodyweight neck curls first, followed by 10lb, 20lb and then 25lb.

12) Lacrosse ball work on your neck could be good to get rid of knots and pain

To avoid neck pain and tight knots, it is very important that you do some lacrosse ball work on the areas that feel tight.

13) Always stretch the neck when you are done

This rule is very important, don’t forget to stretch your neck after neck training sessions to help prevent overuse injuries.

14) GTG works well for the neck if you are limited with time

If you are one of those people who are extremely busy but still want to do some neck work then you could do 1-2 sets in the morning and 1-2 sets at before bed. It’s very simple and the volume and frequency will still produce results. I used to do this by keeping a neck harness next to my bed.

15) Good posture is your job 24/7

Stop hyper extending your neck on the computer and try to imitate the skeleton on the right side of the picture. Good posture is a full time job, don’t forget that.

16) For targeting the front of your neck during isometric holds, keep the tongue on the roof of your mouth

When doing exercises like chin tucks, it’s very important that you keep the tongue on the roof of your mouth to activate the right muscles.

17) Stop shrugging during neck work

If you really want to isolate the neck then stop shrugging during neck work, it only takes away from your neck training.

18) Lead with the chin

When doing back work you are supposed to lead with the elbows, well with neck work you should lead with the chin. Leading with the chin has helped me a lot and if you have trouble doing this then try putting your hand on your chin and use your chin to push your hand during neck work.

19) Manual resistance can be done yourself with a towel or a shirt

If you don’t have a partner for manual neck resistance, then you could place a shirt or towel on your head and use your hands for resistance.

20) PR’s are still important for neck training, but only to a certain point

If you can do neck curls with a 45lb plate on your face like Mike the machine then good for you, but neck training gets to a certain point where more weight won’t equal more size and eventually you will just be loading the joints instead of the actual muscle. Once you can do neck curls with 45lb then you could focus on doing higher reps, slower reps, less time between sets and other ways of getting less out of less weight are smart because going to heavy on direct neck work could be dangerous, believe me.


The tips above were for training your neck directly but there are still exercises that hit your neck indirectly such as:

Deadlift Variations

Olympic Lifting variations

Shrugging variations

Work up to some heavy weights on all 3 of those categories and your neck will put on some size but to take it to the next level you should hit it with direct work like neck curls.

I hope you enjoyed these tips and it is always a pleasure to give the supporters knowledge on different fitness related topics. Let me know how your neck training goes.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.