If you are an avid fitness buff or into bodybuilding, you are probably looking at your calves now and then, wondering why they are smaller than the rest of your body. But the truth is that your calves are not the most neglected muscles. Instead, the accolade goes to your neck. You have to train your neck as well, but how often should you train your neck.
Training your neck 2 to 3 times a week will be good enough if you are merely training for size. However, if you are training for endurance, especially if you are a professional boxer or a wrestler who wants to protect your neck, you should probably train your neck 3 to 5 times a week.
The neck should never be disregarded or neglected because it plays a vital role in the different movements we do regularly. So, if you want to talk more about the neck, let’s discuss its importance and how you can train your neck for size and strength.
Practical purposes of neck muscles
If you are a fan of sports, you probably have seen huge football players like Rob Gronkowski or JJ Watt with large necks. Or, if you fancy yourself an avid combat sports enthusiast, you may have noticed how these guys have large necks. Names such as Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem may come into mind.
You may think that these guys were born with thick and muscular necks, and they happen to find themselves in the professions that fit their body types. To some extent, it might be true that they were naturally predisposed to have large necks. But, to another extent, it’s also because of how well they trained their necks so that they could do well as athletes.
Yes, that is right. Having a large neck is a great way for you to perform better as an athlete because of how neck training is involved in many different positive effects on your body, especially if you are into sports.
The larger and stronger your neck is, the less likely you will see yourself suffering from neck-related injuries. The neck muscles are connected to your other important muscles as well. This includes your trapezius and your deltoids, which are muscles that are quite close to your neck.
In a sense, having a stronger and larger neck reduces the chances of you straining your traps and delts. Your neck can assist those muscles whenever you are doing certain lifts or doing physical activities that require your traps and delts to work hard.
So, in that sense, training your neck is essentially great for those who are usually active or for those who are into sports with a ton of physical combat such as boxing, wrestling, MMA, football, and basketball.
With all of the different movements involving your neck, traps, and deltoids in such sports, you need to have strong neck muscles so that you will be able to perform much more efficiently in those fields. Having strong neck muscles also relates to decreased chances of suffering from neck and shoulder-related injuries.
If you closely watch combat sports athletes and professional football players, you would notice that these guys take a ton of hits in the areas close to the neck. For example, combat sports athletes often get hit right in the face and can also get slammed down on the mat with the areas around the head and neck hitting the floor.
On the part of football players, these guys dish out and take many hits in the areas close to the head and neck. As such, by training their necks, these athletes will be able to decrease the chances of suffering from neck and shoulder-related injuries because of how their large neck muscles will absorb more impact to soften the blow and reduce the pressure felt by all of their other muscles.
Think of the neck muscles as the first line of defense that these athletes have whenever they take hits in the areas close to the head and neck. By absorbing a punch or a tackle, the neck muscles will reduce the force felt by all of the other key areas to soften the blow.
Even if you are not a combat sports athlete or a football or basketball player, you can still benefit a lot from training your neck as far as strength and aesthetics go.
Having a thicker and larger neck has always been associated with strength and power in bodybuilders, powerlifters, and strongman athletes. The larger your neck is, the more powerful you look and feel, especially if you do many lifts involving your traps and delts. The goal of a bodybuilder is to look bigger than he is. Most of these guys shave their heads for it to look smaller than the rest of the body.
Building a large neck can also make the head look smaller so that the body would look extremely large compared to the head. That’s why training your neck is also important. And even if you are not an athlete or a huge muscle buff, you can still benefit from neck training, especially if you sit all day in front of a computer in your job.
Improving your neck’s overall strength, mobility, and endurance can reduce the strain felt by your neck and your shoulder muscles in such a sedentary setup. In short, train your neck if you don’t want to end up with stiff neck and shoulder muscles after spending an entire day at work.
Neck thickness: Muscle vs. Fat
Before we move on, we have to make sure that you understood things right. When we are talking about a thick and large neck, we are talking about it due to training and proper diet. In short, it should be due to muscle mass and not because of fat.
We have to distinguish why a thick neck made out of fat is never ideal for anyone out there. First off, having a lot of fat in the neck area has been linked with difficulty breathing. This is because of how all that fat may be responsible for blocking the airways in the throat. That’s why those who have a lot of fat around the neck area are usually prone to snoring or sleep apnea.
Neck fat is usually caused by having higher fat composition due to obesity. In that sense, if you are not obese or if you are not way past the usual weight limit, there is a good chance that you won’t have a ton of fat around your neck.
In any case, it is pretty easy to distinguish neck fat as opposed to neck muscle because fatty necks are squishier and softer than muscular necks that are firm and hard. As such, just because you have a thick neck, it doesn’t usually mean that you have a strong one.
Again, neck thickness should be a product of training and diet instead of inactivity and binge-eating. Elsewise, you might end up with certain health risks associated with having too much fat around your neck.
How often should you train your neck?
At the start of this article, we have talked about how the neck is often the most neglected muscle area in the body and even more neglected than the calves. This is true even for the most seasoned bodybuilders and athletes who may often forget how important it is for them to have large and strong necks.
In that sense, bodybuilders and athletes alike should never forget to train their necks for the reasons we have previously stated. But how often should you train your neck to build size and strength?
It really depends on what your goals are. Those who train their necks for muscle size can probably spend about 2 to 3 times of neck training in a single week if they want to see the size of their necks increasing. Meanwhile, combat sports and physical athletes who want to train their necks for size and endurance should probably do so at least thrice a week.
Maybe even up to 5 times a week because of how important it is for them to develop more muscular necks to cushion the impact of punches, slams, and tackles. Still, the key thing to remember here is that the neck muscles are similar to all of the other muscles – they need rest.
Rest will always be the most important part of training your muscles because of how your muscles end up growing and developing while resting them after a hard day of training those muscles. That means that, regardless of how many times and how often you train your neck in a single week, you may want to put at least a day of rest between those training days.
It is also noteworthy to mention that the neck doesn’t work in the same way as your larger muscle groups. One of the basics of muscle-building and strength-training is to focus on compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and overhead presses because of how these workouts employ a lot of different muscle groups that work in conjunction with one another.
However, that doesn’t apply to the neck because your neck muscles aren’t working a lot together with all other muscle groups whenever you are doing compound lifts. It is quite similar to the calves, which are hardly used even when doing squats and deadlifts.
In short, you have to train them exclusively and give your neck muscles dedicated training days. So, don’t just think that your neck muscles will strengthen and increase in size if you are working all of those compound lifts. Instead, do workouts designed to work your neck muscles to isolate them and stimulate their growth together with all of the muscle groups you also trained.
Best exercises for the neck
For those looking for the best neck exercises that could improve those neck gains and make those muscles around the neck thicker and stronger, here are some of the best workouts you can do:
1. Neck flexion
The neck flexion is probably the most common workout that is exclusively for your neck. Some gyms have machines that allow you to work your neck flexion against resistance, but these machines have become rare because even some trainers have now neglected the neck muscles. But you can also do the neck flexion without a machine.
Here is how to perform this exercise:
● Start by standing straight with your spine neutral.
● Bend your neck forward without bending any other part of your body to isolate those neck muscles truly.
● Keep your mouth closed the entire time as you try to bring your chin towards the top of your chest.
● Steadily return to your starting position and repeat the workout. You can improve the resistance in this workout by using a resistance band against your forehead if you want those neck muscles to become bigger and stronger.
2. Neck lateral flexion
The neck lateral flexion is similar to the standard neck flexion, but the difference is that you will be moving your neck laterally instead of forward. You can also do this workout without the use of a machine.
Here is how to perform this exercise:
● Start by standing straight with your spine correctly aligned.
● Tilt your head over to the side without moving your shoulders.
● Keep on tilting your head until your ear hits your shoulder. Keep your shoulder flat the entire time, and do not force it to meet your ear.
● Return to your starting position slowly and repeat the workout as many times as needed. Do the same with the other side of your neck. You can do this workout using a resistance band wrapped around above your ears to work those neck muscles to the max.
3. Neck rotation
Neck rotation is probably one of the simplest ways to train your neck because it doesn’t need a machine or any other tool. You can do it anywhere at any time, even when you are sitting down while taking a break from work. What you need to do when you are doing neck rotations is to rotate your neck over and over again to work those muscles out and loosen those stiff neck muscles.
Do the workout in perhaps 30 seconds and then repeat the same movement by rotating over to the other side. There are no machines that mimic this workout, so it is simply something that you do without any equipment. However, you can increase the resistance in this workout by using your hands. Place your hands on your head and try to push back against the rotation of your neck.
The shrug is often the most widely used neck workout even though it doesn’t target your neck but is more of an exercise for your traps, which are muscles that are found at the sides of your neck. But because there is also some neck movement when you are doing shrugs and train the traps, which are so close to your neck, you can do shrugs to develop stronger and bigger neck muscles.
You can do shrugs using a barbell or a pair of dumbbells, but you can also use a bar that is dedicated to the shrugs. The tricky part about the shrugs is that you have to use heavy weights to stimulate the growth of your traps.
Here is how to perform this exercise:
● Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells or load a barbell with heavy plates.
● Lift the dumbbells and the barbells and keep them at the sides of your body. Meanwhile, if you are shrugging with a barbell, keep the bar as close to your body as possible while maintaining a shoulder-distance grip with your hands.
● Stand up straight and keep your spine neutral the entire time. Push your chest out to activate those traps.
● From there, shrug your shoulders up without moving any other part of your body. This will isolate your traps while also working on some of the other muscles found around your neck.
Training your neck is very important because it also plays a vital role. It is equally important as training your chest or working out your back. Your neck muscles are connected to other groups of muscles that allow you to move or lift heavy objects. A large and less fatty neck will not only make you look and feel powerful but will also help you avoid some strains and injuries.
The question is: How often should you exercise your neck? Two to three times a week is ideal. However, if you are an athlete, you can do more. What is important for you to remember is that your neck muscles are just like your other muscles. They need time to rest for them to properly grow.