The neck isn't the first body part that comes to mind when thinking of exercising our muscles, but necks shouldn't be neglected. Exercises that work and stretch the neck muscles can help relieve pain and prevent injury. If chronic neck pain or injury is an issue, an exercise machine designed specifically for the neck is a worthwhile investment.
Before You Begin Any Neck Exercises
Before you do any neck exercise, it's important to seek medical professional advice, especially if you have chronic neck pain or a history of a neck injury. Additionally, movements should be slow, gentle, and smooth to reduce the risk of injuries.
Posture Pulley Neck Exerciser
The Posture Pulley Neck Exerciser is a therapeutic neck strap that wraps around the back of the head. Designed to realign the neck and correct a forward-leaning posture, the neck strap can help prevent injury and strain. Used correctly, without pulling or straining the neck muscles, the strap will stretch and lengthen the muscles in the back of the neck. You're much more likely to find this in a physical therapy environment or in a home gym than you would in a gym.
Users comments on Amazon.com report that the exerciser is both effective and easy to use. Chiropractors recommend the device for patients suffering from neck or posture problems. In time and with practice, you may also try incorporating other gentle neck exercises into this therapeutic strap routine.
How to Use
The most basic way to use the Posture Pulley Neck Exerciser is:
- Wrap the wide neoprene section around the back of the head and grip the handles on either side.
- Pull the handles forward by straightening the arms, and hold for five to ten seconds.
- Twist the neck slowly to either side while using the strap, or reposition the strap to provide resistance from other sides of the neck.
Champion Neck Machine
Though this machine is more likely to be found in a gym setting than in a home gym, some exercisers who focus on neck muscles might want one for their home gym. Like any traditional weighted exercise machine, the Champion Neck Machine relies on pivots, adjustable pins to add or remove resistance, and a height-adjustable seat. This machine is considerably more expensive than the strap, but it also provides a more effective strengthening workout.
An Amazon review of this machine is quite positive, with the user praising the machine's durability and effectiveness. Likewise, a review from a Walmart customer says it's a good machine and is easy to assemble.
How to Use
Before starting to exercise on this machine, ensure the seat is adjusted correctly so your head can reach the face pads without straining.
- Grip the handles and sit up straight on the adjusted seat.
- Position your face up against the pads and drop your chin to push the pads forward.
- Make sure your neck is doing the work throughout the movement; don't allow your body to heave you forward.
- Slowly release your neck and allow the pads back to the original position.
Hydra-Gym Power Neck Machine
One of the more expensive neck machines on the market, the Hydra-Gym is an elite-model exercise machine for the neck, more likely found in a gym than in a home gym. Like the Champion Neck Machine, the Hydra-Gym Power Neck Machine offers weighted resistance and a steel frame, but the Hydra-Gym is a standing machine rather than a seated one, offering a neck workout that recruits more of the body's stabilizing muscles. According to the manufacturer's description, the Hydra-Gym Power Neck Machine is superior because it provides twice the usual resistance during the workout and can automatically adjust the resistance according to the user's strength and speed.
Though individual user review of this machine are difficult to find - largely because it's more commonly found in a gym setting - Hydra-Gym boasts endorsements for this machine from not only schools and professional sports teams, but Olympic athletes as well.
How to Use
Much like the Champion neck machine instructions for use above, this machine has users push their face against pads. The difference with the Hydra-Gym is that the user is standing, which recruits more muscles during the movement than if seated.
A popular piece of neck-strengthening equipment, particularly with those training in MMA, the Iron Neck is a headpiece featuring a track with an attachment, which is then attached to a provided resistance band. An odd-looking piece of equipment, this is suitable for at-home or in-gym use, as long as there is a stable point on which to anchor the band.
Buyers on the Iron Neck website say that the price of the unit (around $300) initially dissuaded them from purchasing, but upon using the equipment they targeted muscles they never knew they had and felt increased neck strength quickly with consistent use. A reviewer from Rogue Fitness says the biggest drawback is the UFO-like appearance of the headgear.
How to Use
This equipment is for advanced exercisers well-versed in proper form for resistance work. Anyone new to this type of movement should use the Iron Neck under the supervision of a physical therapist or a certified personal trainer.
- Place the Iron Neck on your head and make necessary adjustments. Ensure your band is correctly anchored before use.
- Keeping your core muscles engaged, use your neck muscles to go through one of the many exercises prescribed by Iron Neck - popular movements include the "figure eight," pulling the head up and down, or turning the head from side to side against the resistance.
- If at any time you feel discomfort or pain, stop using this equipment. You may need to adjust your stance before continuing.
A simple design and common in both home gyms and gyms, head harnesses are placed on your head and feature attachments for weight plates. Commonly used during triceps dips, pull-ups, or any other body weight exercise in which the user wants to recruit more neck muscles, these harnesses truly increase the intensity and force the neck muscles into action. The RIMSports Head Harness is a popular option and quite affordable at around $20, while the more expensive models like the TT-OUTDO Weight Lifting Strap costs a little over $50.
Weights Not Included
Note that most harnesses don't include weights, but if your goal is to use a personal harness at the gym, or if you have weight plates in your home gym already, you'll be ready to go once you have this harness in hand.
Cautions and Injury Risk
Users should take care not to overload themselves on the resistance and to use good form at all times when using any of the equipment above. Injuries to the neck can be severe, and using weights to work the neck will heighten that risk.
Exercising the Neck Muscles
A full workout for the neck should incorporate the neck's rotator, flexor, and extensor muscles. Whether using a weighted machine or a strap, neck exercises involve moving the neck through its full range of motion in all directions, as long as each movement is comfortable. Always start with a lighter weight and increase weight gradually.