In sports such as boxing, wrestling and football, a strong neck is very important. A thick, muscular neck may reduce your chances of injury -- especially if you're punched, kicked or tackled heavily. Gaining lean, muscular weight is a process called hypertrophy and requires that you overload your muscles using weights or other forms of external resistance. If you're new to neck exercises, start light, as doing too much too soon can result in very sore muscles and could even result in severe headaches. For muscle hypertrophy, perform two to four sets of six to 12 repetitions of your chosen exercises.
Weighted Neck Harness Extension
A neck harness is made of webbing and provides an easy way to add weight to your neck exercises. Place the harness on your head and sit on an exercise bench. Lean forward and load the harness with the desired weight. Place your hands on your legs for support. Slowly look up toward the ceiling against the resistance of the weight and then lower your head and look down toward the floor. This exercise can also be performed leaning forward in the standing position.
Front Neck Bridge
Neck bridges are a traditional part of wrestling and boxing training and the front neck bridge works the anterior neck muscles, specifically the sternocleidomastoid. Kneel on the floor and lean forward. Place your forehead on the floor. With your hands behind your back, straighten your legs so your weight is supported on your feet and forehead only. Carefully roll your weight onto the top of your head and then back to your forehead. This exercise should always be performed on a soft gym mat or padded floor. Rest on your knees for a less intense workout.
Shrugs work your upper trapezius muscles, which cover your upper back and spread up to the base of your skull across your cervical spine or neck. The main function of these muscles is raising your shoulders, but they are also important for neck stability. When well developed, these muscles, usually called the traps, are visible from the front and bridge the gap between your shoulders and neck. To build your traps, hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your arms by your sides. Keep your arms straight and shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and then pause for a second. Lower your shoulders and repeat.
Isometric Neck Lateral Flexion
An isometric exercise involves lot of muscle tension but no actual joint movement. You can work your muscles against an opposing limb, immovable object or the strength of a training partner. To strengthen your lateral or side neck muscles, place a ball on your shoulder and lean against a wall. Push the ball against the wall using your side neck muscles. Hold for a count of 10 and then change sides. If you don't have a suitable ball, press the side of your head against the flat of your hand.
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.