Neck training isn’t as popular as it should be.

Having a strong neck protects you against injuries, helps prevent many common aches and pains, and may even make you more attractive.

In this article, you’ll learn the main neck muscles, why training them is beneficial, and the best exercises for building a thick, strong neck. 

Neck Anatomy

exercises for neck

The neck, or cervical spine (if we’re talking about the skeleton only), comprises a complex network of muscles, ligaments, and bones. Here’s how its primary muscles function:

  • Sternocleidomastoid (SCM): This neck muscle aids in bending your neck to the side, head rotation, and bringing the chin to the chest.
  • Scalene: These neck muscles on each side of your neck mainly help you breathe.
  • Levator scapulae: These neck muscles help you lift your shoulder blades and bend your neck to the side.
  • Trapezius: These neck muscles help you bend your head to the side, look up, and turn your head to look over your shoulder.

Neck Exercises: Benefits

1. They may prevent injuries and concussions.

Neck strengthening exercises are vital for preventing injuries and concussions, especially in sports such as football, rugby, or MMA.

In one study, researchers found that every one-pound increase in neck strength reduces concussion risk by 5%.

2. They may relieve neck pain. 

Neck exercises may relieve neck pain resulting from sitting for long periods. They may also mitigate tension-type headaches

3. They may make you more attractive.

A thick neck and shoulders may help you appear more “brawny,” which is a characteristic many women find attractive. There isn’t much data on how this affects women’s attractiveness, though.

The Best 5 Neck Strengthening Exercises for a Wide, Thick Neck

These are the best neck exercises for strengthening your neck and upper back. While performing isolation exercises for your neck, wear a beanie or place a folded towel on your head for added comfort. 

1. Deadlift

neck exercises strengthening

Position your midfoot under a loaded barbell slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart and point your toes slightly out. Take a deep breath, then move toward the bar by pushing your hips back. Grip the bar just outside your shins and keep your head in a neutral position

Push through your heels to drive your body upward and slightly back. As the bar rises above your knees, push your hips into the bar. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

Perform the deadlift at the beginning of your workouts for 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps, resting 3-to-5 minutes between sets.

2. Neck Flexion

neck exercise

Lie supine on a bench with your head hanging off the end and your feet planted on the floor. Place a weight plate on your forehead and hold it in position with both hands. Tilt your head upwards until your chin meets your chest, then extend your neck backward until you feel a stretch in the front of your neck.

Do 3 sets of 20-to-25 reps, resting 2-to-3 minutes between sets.

3. Neck Extension

neck strengthening exercises

Lie prone on a bench with your head hanging off the end and your feet on the floor. Position a weight plate on the back of your head and hold it in position with both hands.

Lift your head as high as you comfortably can, then return to the start. Continue extending until you feel your neck stretching down the back.

4. Neck Side Raise

Neck Side Raise

Lie on a bench so that your right lat is on the pad and your body is perpendicular to the bench. Hug the bench with your right arm and place a weight plate on the left side of your head, holding it in position with your left hand. 

Lift your left ear toward your left shoulder (make sure you’re only moving your head toward your shoulder—no neck rotation or chin tucking), then return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times on the left side, before repeating on the right. 

Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each side, resting 60-to-90 seconds between sets. 

5. Neck Bridge

Neck Bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your palms on the floor on either side of your head so your fingers point toward your feet. Tilt your head backward until the top of your head is resting on the floor, then press through your feet and hands to lift your body off the floor, forming a bridge. Hold the bridge for a 10-to-60 seconds, then return to the starting position.

If you find getting into the correct position challenging, practice getting in and out of the bridge several times a day until you develop the required strength, flexibility, and coordination.

Once you’re comfortable with the form, do 3 sets of 10-to-60 seconds each, resting 60-to-90 seconds between sets. 

+ Scientific References