Most boxers work hard to strengthen their legs for a good, strong base and their arms for a good, hard punch, but fewer remember to strengthen their neck muscles to better withstand head punches, resist knockouts and avoid injury. A strong neck is crucial to boxing success, and a regular routine of neck exercises every other day will help your head stay balanced and your mind remain alert in the ring.
The best neck exercises for boxers, according to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's intramural boxing manual, are lateral and vertical neck flexions, using a partner to create resistance. Have a partner place his hand on your forehead with your head upright, then try to bring your chin to your chest, pressing against the resistance of your partner's hand. Reverse the motion by having your partner place a hand on the back of your head while your chin is pressed to your chest, then attempt to raise your head against the resistance. Repeat with resistance to moving your head to each side. Have your partner start with one hand, gently resisting your motion, then have your partner use two hands and more forceful opposition as your strength increases.
Ross Enamait, the trainer and owner of Ross Boxing and the author of of boxing and wrestling training manuals, recommends an every-other-day neck-training routine that includes forward and reverse neck bridges. The traditional neck bridge starts with you lying on your back, feet flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart, and knees bent. Press up with your thighs until you are resting on your feet and the back of your head. Slowly rock your head back all the way until your forehead reaches the mat, then rock back to the starting point. Do this exercise 10 to 15 times; you can hold a weight on your chest for added resistance when desirable. The reverse neck bridge starts with you lying on your stomach, then walking your feet forward, keeping legs and torso straight, until your body is in an "L" configuration, with the balls of your feet and your forehead on the ground. Roll your head forward from the forehead toward the back of the head, then back to the forehead again.
Bench Neck Curls
A weight bench can be used for a set of four-direction neck exercises recommended by Steve Baccari, a strength and conditioning coach. Lie on your back on a weight bench, then slide your head and neck off the end of the bench, keeping it parallel to the floor--don't let it drop downward. Slowly curl your head up until your chin hits your chest, then slowly return to the horizontal position. On your stomach, start with your head down, and slowly lift it until it is parallel to the ground. Lying on your side, keep your head parallel to the ground, and lift it first to one shoulder, then lower it to the other shoulder. Flip to the other side of your body and repeat. Do no more than five repetitions in each direction.
Neck exercises should be started conservatively. Work your way up to the recommended repetitions and frequency of performing the exercise. These exercises should be avoided if the fighter is experiencing any neck or shoulder pain, even if it's just from training. Proper form is essential to avoiding injury and movements should be slow and controlled.