How Can I Build Up Muscle and Thickness in My Neck?


question-icon-newI really like the look of those big mixed martial arts fighters who have huge thick necks. I also noticed many of the collegiate level wrestlers also have impressive necks. I’ve been working out for a few years and I’ve been able to pack on a good amount of muscle but my neck looks skinny and it’s out of proportion with the rest of my body. I looked all over the gym where I workout at but could not find any type of machine that directly works the muscles of the neck. Can you recommend any exercises to build up muscle mass and to increase the overall thickness of my neck?

answer-icon-newCome to think about it, you are right about the lack of neck machines in most gyms. Maybe this has to do with the potential liability since the neck is a sensitive area and the machines could cause pain and injury to the neck and spine which is something that the owners of the fitness facilities probably want to avoid at all costs. Or, maybe those types of machines are just not that popular among the gym members and they would rather fill the space with popular machines that will be used the most. It definitely warrants a conversation with the manager at the gym to learn more.

I remember back in my high school football days when we had these crazy neck machines that were bolted against the wall and provided killer neck workouts. I remember our coaches made us train on them before the season started because they wanted to make sure our necks were strong enough to handle the impact of head-on collisions. Our entire team did a ton of reps on these neck machines that looked like something straight out of the movie “Hellraiser” and I remember waking up the next day in absolute pain because I had never trained those muscles before with any type of resistance exercises. I could barely get out of bed and when I got to school, it was absolutely hilarious to see every one of my teammates in the exact same condition! We had to take off about 3 full days of practice just to recover from the insane neck workout that left us brutally sore and practically bedridden.

neck-harnessThere are a few options for you when you’re looking for ways to work your neck with weighed resistance training. One of the most popular is the head harness where you attach a weight plate to a chain which is connected to a head strap. You put the harness on your head and slightly bend over letting the weight plate dangle in front of you. Then you perform the exercise by slowly raising and lowering your head up and down which really works the neck muscles. You can buy a neck harness for around $25 at your local sporting goods store and you might even be able to find one at Walmart.

Your other option is to buy a big neck machine which will set you back anywhere from $500 to $1,000. This is a standalone unit that you sit in and then you place the side of your head onto a pad that is attached to a lever that goes to a stack of weights which you can adjust to your desired level of resistance. If you don’t have the budget for one of these neck machines, you might want to call around to several of the gyms in your area to see if they have them.

Your last option is to simply use a towel or your own hands to create resistance for a number of different exercises that will add some tension to your neck and build up strength. These types of exercises will not build up the same amount of muscle that the machine or neck harness will but they should give you a solid workout and be able to provide a good level of resistance to get started with. The great thing is that they are all free and won’t cost you a penny. Below are the exercises you can use anytime during the day by just using your hands or a small towel for added resistance. Use a repetition range of around 20-25 per set for the best results:

Neck Exercises (Non Weight Bearing):

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  1. Nice article. I would just recommend people should take a break from neck exercises if pain and headaches start to happen. If not, you should be fine but pay attention 🙂

  2. Informative article. I was wondering if neck bridges are safe. I’ve been performing them lately, but haven’t felt any sort of pain. Would you recommend them and how do you perform them safely?

    • Hi Ayman – We definitely would not recommend doing neck bridges since they are way too dangerous. If you happen to slip or get out of alignment, you can easily cause injury to your neck and spine. It’s better to be on the safe side and stop doing them. Try to focus on performing the movements in our neck exercise guides.

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