Having healthy and strong neck muscles is especially important for athletes who compete in contact sports such as football to help them avoid injury. For non-athletes, the neck muscles do more than just hold your head and help you move your head. Neck muscles help with cervical, or spinal, vertebral flexion, which allows your upper spine to bend.
The neck harness is a simple and effective neck-strengthening tool. The harness fits like a hat on the head. Straps or chains are attached to the part of the harness that fits on your head, then the strap or chain holds a free weight. After attaching the weight, perform three sets of eight to 12 reps. From a squatting position with your hands on your knees, face forward and bend your head down until your face is parallel with the floor. Then return to the facing forward position. Starting with a light weight until you perfect your form because you can injure your neck muscles by bouncing. Exercises should be performed in one, smooth motion.
Neck Extension Machine
Neck extension exercises are usually done from a seated position. Neck extension machines usually have a seat, a head pad and four handles. The seat can be adjusted for your height so your head lines up with the head pad. You can perform a variety of exercises on this machine: side, forward and backward neck extensions. According to fitness researcher Wayne Westcott, neck extension exercises, if done properly, help to strengthen neck muscles, which can in turn help you avoid neck injuries and improve your posture. To avoid injury, the website MedicineNet recommends getting proper training on the machine.
Free Weights and Dumbbells
Free weights can be used to effectively work neck muscles all on their own. You can hold a 5-pound weight, for example, against the back, front or side of your head and do four-way neck extensions. Sometimes, you can also use a bench. For example, you can lie on your stomach, hold a weight behind your head and perform neck extensions that way. Dumbbells can be used to complete shoulder shrugs, which work the upper trapezius muscles.
A barbell can be used to perform certain exercises that work the neck muscles. The upright row, for example, will work the upper trapezius muscles, which run from the shoulder up the back of the neck to the base of the skull. You can add as little or as much weight as you want, but you should start with light weights until you perfect your form on this exercise because it can cause rotator cuff injuries. Another neck exercise you can perform with the barbell is reverse shrugs. Hold the barbell behind your body and perform shrugs as your normally would.