Q: Is it important for bodybuilder’s to train the neck and, if so, what exercises are the best?
A: Yes, it is important for a well rounded physique to have a muscular neck. A thick neck, offset by huge sloping traps, is the epitome of raw power and manliness. A physique without good neck development is, quite simply, incomplete. Think of the last two Mr. Olympia’s – Coleman and Yates. Without thick, muscular necks they would not have been able to stand head and shoulders above the competition. Apart from the aesthetic appeal of a thick, strong neck, developing this area of your body can give you some major injury insurance. The effects of whiplash can be greatly reduced, if not eliminated entirely by the possession of a strong neck. In addition many of the nagging injuries picked up during training result from weak neck muscles. So, if you’re not incorporating neck training into your program, maybe it’s time you did.
So how can you go about building an impressive neck? Well, to develop the back of the neck, the old stand-by is the wrestler’s bridge. This is a great exercise that can be done anywhere as it incorporates bodyweight resistance only. However, you have to pay careful attention to what you’re doing as the risk of injury is quite high. Lie on the floor, facing up and bridge up on your head, raising your hips and arching your back. Lift your hands off the floor. Try to stay in this position for one minute, progressively increasing your time each workout.
An invaluable piece of equipment for building the neck is the neck harness. If your gym doesn’t have at least one of these, suggest that they correct that situation smartly. The neck harness has a cap that fits onto the head. Weights are attached to the harness. Get into position by bending at the knees with an arched back and resting your hands on your knees. Begin a repetition by bending your neck down to full extension and then lift back up to full contraction. Working from side to side will also work the sternomastoids, which give width to the neck.
Complete your neck work with body weight resistance neck extensions. Sit on a bench and, placing your hands on your forehead, slowly move your head from a position where you are looking up until your chin is resting on your chest. Keep constant tension throughout and keep your neck moving smoothly the entire time. Do 2 sets of 12 reps.
Finally, a bit of safety advice when it comes to neck training. The neck is a very vulnerable body part and safety should be a prime concern at all times. For this reason it is suggested that your neck workouts be done on your non-weight training days, perhaps before your cardio sessions. Make sure that you don’t do any sudden, jerky movements when training neck. Always have a smooth, slow execution of movement, concentrating on the feel of the target muscle. Go through a full range of motion on all exercises. This is especially important with regard to the harness exercises. Finally do some specific stretching exercises for the neck as a precursor to your resistance workout.