The Top 5 Exercises to Strengthen Your Neck

Tom Kelso

Contributor - Strength and Conditioning

St. Louis, Illinois, United States

Strength and Conditioning

It’s time to revisit the virtues of possessing strong neck musculature. In short, the neck and cervical spine serve as the conduit from the brain to the rest of the body. Not much muscle volume protects that all-important corridor. 


It is therefore prudent to fortify that area to facilitate better function from the brain to the rest of the central nervous system. You don't need to be a football player, wrestler, MMA athlete, or soccer player to focus on the neck. Possessing a strong neck has an upside for anyone.



RELATED: The Critical Importance of Neck and Head Training in Sports


The Top 5 Exercises to Strengthen Your Neck - Fitness, strength and conditioning, neck pain, weaknesses, neck strength, neck training, neck exercises


The Advantages of a Stronger Neck

Admit it. You have given zero thought toward strengthening the neck because of these points:



RELATED: Neck and Head Training to Maximize Athletic Performance



If you've referenced the previous hyperlinks regarding the virtues of a stronger neck, you now know the neck is often overlooked and disregarded. Here’s an excerpt for those of you who didn’t click through:


  • Nerve impulses running from the brain through the spinal cord can be affected by damaged, weak, or fatigued neck muscles. This can diminish both static and dynamic balance as well as basic locomotive actions. A stronger neck can thus improve balance and locomotion.
  • Regarding head training, having strong jaw muscles can lower the risk of injury. The ability to maximally bite down or clench on a mouthpiece prior to a collision is desired.
  • Similarly, knowing a head or neck impact force is forthcoming can better prepare the athlete for what lies ahead. A study found that when athletes knew it was coming, they were then better able to contract neck and head musculature prior to impact and reduce the severity of concussions.
  • Believe it or not, the strength of the neck can also impact the respiratory system and the quality of breathing. The anterior, medial, and posterior scalene muscles, along with the platysma and sternocleidomastoid muscles, contract and assist in respiration, especially during demanding exercise.


If you finally see the upside of a stronger neck, it's time to revisit it and look at addressing it.




neck pain, neck strength, neck training, weaknesses


Neck muscles


Five Short and Simple Neck Strengthening Exercises

Here are five simple and time-efficient neck-strengthening exercises you can add to your existing training program to fortify that cylinder that connects your brain to the rest of the body. If you don't have access to this equipment (the training equipment, not your brain), a partner can apply manual resistance to the forthcoming movements.



  1. Machine flexion - chin to the chest
  2. Extension - chin away from the chest
  3. Lateral flexion - side to side, ear to the shoulder
  4. Rotation - look to the right and left
  5. Protraction and retraction


RELATED: 4 Drills to Strengthen and Injury-Proof Your Neck


4 Way Neck Machine: Neck flexion, extension, and lateral flexion


Exercise band: Neck rotation


Partner drill: Neck protraction and retraction



Most people neglect neck strength. Possessing a stronger neck has an upside, so pay attention to it. It doesn't take that much extra time. Add these exercises to your program and reap the benefits of doing so. 


Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.

Photo 2 by Mikael Häggström. Mikael Häggström at en.wikipedia [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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