The neck truly is the forgotten muscle; and it truly is rare to see anybody in the gym working on their neck muscles. Not only does having a thick, strong neck enhance the physique of a bodybuilder, but also improves the protection of the spine. And, in sports where neck injuries or shock are common – rugby, boxing – it can be of huge benefit and advantage to maintain a strong neck.
The neck should be trained pretty much the same as any other muscle group. It needs training with progressively heavy weights, and then it needs nutrients and rest to repair and grow.
There are two parts of the neck which you’ll need to work on. Those are the muscles at the back of the neck which you can feel pulling when you lift your head to look skyward. Next are the muscles which reside at the side of the neck known as the sterno-mastoid muscles, which are used to rotate the neck and pull the head forward.
You should know that, when you first begin building the neck – you’ll find it tough going, and will probably feel like you’ve got minor whiplash for several days afterwards, so ease into it and don’t work the neck again unless you feel it’s fully recovered.
Ok, let’s get into it.
To hit the side muscles, the best exercise I recommend is to lay on your back, with your neck/head hanging over the end of the bench (so it can move up and down), and holding a plate you can comfortably lift with your neck, support it on your forehead (I use a towel or a beanie hat to cushion it), and slowly and smoothly lift your head up and down, giving your neck a good squeeze at the top to really work the muscles. Again, you’ll find it tough going, believe me, but you’ll soon be using heavier and heavier weights.
Right, now for the back of the neck muscles, you need to simply do the same as above, only this time you’ll be laying flat on your stomach with your neck over the end of the bench, and holding the plate on the back of your head.
I would recommend beginners work the neck only twice a week maximum, with plenty of rest in between each session – you’ll need it.