The title to this article isn't meant to be misleading. I truly believe training the neck is very beneficial to every sport, not only the combative ones. If there is any chance of concussion in your sport, it wouldn’t hurt to throw in some neck training. If done correctly, you can train the neck in its entirety in less than five minutes.

Reasons to hit it

  • Research supports the fact that training the head and neck drastically decreases the severity of concussions.
  • Spine injuries are probably the most serious injuries in sport. Though not as prevalent as a ligament or bone issue, they are devastating.
  • Think of all the nerve innervations that run to and from the head and neck region.
  • It’s a great warm up, especially for heavy pressing/pulling days. If you're like me (too many years of heavy lifting and ball), you're probably in some version of impingement syndrome or there is hardly any space in your AC junction.
  • The effects of a necrotic neck/arthritis can be drastically reduced to just uncomfortable instead of not being able to look out your side mirrors.

How to implement it

My preference is to work the neck on the front end of the workout along with some type of shrug. Shrugs are great for nerve innervations, but the neck work helps the separation I can get from the shrug pulling down from around the “brachial plexus” cylinder region or whatever your tag word is for it. I can’t think of how many times I've tweaked my neck or traps during the bench, squat, or deadlift and any other accessory exercise.

Tempo: This isn't an explosive exercise! Nobody gives a shit about your neck vertical. It should be done in a controlled manner with a weight that allows only your neck to do the work.

Machine/harness: The seat height is critical to this exercise. Make sure you aren't over top of the pad too much to where it turns into some type of neck flexion/abdominal crunch deal.

Manual resistance: Possibly the best way to do neck work is manual resistance, but not everyone should be allowed to be the guy/girl giving the resistance until he/she knows how to properly do it. Make sure the resistance is accommodating (i.e. when they're in their greatest degree/flexion, don’t bury them). Have them on a bench lying prone, side, and supine and keep it smooth. Bulldog neck is also a great variation (on all fours). It just involves a little more trap. Just remember—the resistance should be the hardest when the knot on the back of their head and/or chin is closest to the body.

Volume: Time under tension is everything. It's king. I stick with one set of 10–15 reps with a good pause (at least six-second rep with a pause). If there is one exercise that you need to worry about form, tempo, and control, it's this one above all others!

Additional resources

Below you'll find the nerve innervations chart. Also, check out coach Mike Gittleson’s video (Gandolf). He's one of the best strength coaches ever and a great man.