FOUR-WAY NECK TRAINING
From a training standpoint, the neck has four major functions: flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation. Let’s look at what each function means and, more importantly, how we can strengthen each.
Neck flexion is another way of saying “tilting your head forward.” The chief muscles involved are the longus colli, longus capitis, and infrahyoids. These neck flexor muscles can easily be worked on a four-way neck machine by facing the machine and putting your forehead against the pad, then tilting your head forward against the resistance and performing repetitions.
Unfortunately, four-way neck machines have gone the way of the dodo bird in most gyms to make room for chrome machines, BOSU balls and other “functional advancements.” Instead of crying alligator tears over this blasphemous charade, get creative. You can perform this movement against a resistance band, provide your resistance against your forehead or even have a competent partner resist.
Training Rx: Try 2-3 sets of 10-20 repetitions.
Neck extension refers to the action of moving your chin away from your chest. The mainstay muscles in this action are the splenius capitis, seminispinalis capitis, suboccipitals, and the trapezius.
On the four-way neck machine, face away from the machine, put the back of your head against the pad and tilt the head back against the resistance. My favorite way to work neck extension is with the neck harness. Amazing strongmen like Mike “the Machine” Bruce have handled over 300 pounds in the harness extension. This “go” is accompanied by the “show” of a neck that screams masculine virility.
Neck harnesses cost as little as $20 and it would be tough to find a piece of equipment that offers a better return on investment for functional power and physique enhancement. Obviously, neck extensions can also be done against bands, self- or partnered resistance but none of these ways duplicate true iron-laden challenge of the neck harness.
Training Rx: Start with 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps.
Neck Lateral Flexion
Neck lateral flexion in lay terms means tilting your head to the side. The primary muscles involved in this function are the scalenes. On a neck machine you would sit to the side, put the side of your head on the pad and tilt your head sideways against resistance toward your shoulder.
No access to a neck machine? Use a resistance band, resist yourself or find a partner.
Training Rx: Do 2 sets of 10-20 reps.
Neck rotation simply refers to turning your head to the side. No gym machines mimic this function; you are your own gym in this case. Turn your head to the side, trying to look over your shoulder. Do this both ways providing resistance with your hand.
Training Rx: Do 8-10 reps each way for two sets.
These movements should be done a minimum of twice a week. Wrestlers have the most developed necks in the world and they work them daily.