Wrestlers and their buddies in combat sports such as mixed martial arts work on neck bridges, a demanding exercise requiring that they know what they are doing to avoid injury. The frequency of their workouts can vary from once a week to daily, in fact. If you get started with neck bridges, you will gain essential protection from injury during your time on the mat, as well as in fitness activities and everyday life.
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Importance of Neck Strength
Bridges give you a thick-appearing neck and strength to escape an opponent’s hold. Wrestlers have the strongest and most powerfully developed necks of any athlete, notes Robert Drucker, editor of Muscles of Iron, a website devoted to hard-core, drug-free strength training. In decades past, barbell sets included a neck strap, and the neck bridge or wrestler’s bridge was a key exercise. Drucker notes that in recent years he has never seen a general exerciser or non-wrestler performing direct neck work in a bodybuilding or fitness gym.
Opting for Twice a Week
Drucker advises two to five sets of neck bridges performed once or twice a week. The exercise slightly resembles advanced versions of the yoga bridge pose, where you elevate your torso from a mat, supporting your body with the soles of your feet, your head, your shoulders and your arms. A neck bridge involves a more challenging position, where you use your hands to assist your upper body to a position resting on the top of your head, hands atop the chest, feet planted firmly on the floor, shins perpendicular to the floor.
Professional strongman Logan Christopher advises a single set holding the neck bridge for one, two or three minutes, performed once, twice or three times a week. He describes the neck bridge as an exercise that many exercisers avoid for fear of injuring their neck. But with smart training, you can drastically minimize your risk. Start slowly and gradually increase your time in the position. Christopher also adds kettlebells or barbells held at the top of the pose, with the barbells held only in the safety of a power rack. He holds the weights for about 30 seconds.
Trainer John Gaglione puts his combat and contact athletes through neck training twice a week, but focuses on using bands and weight plates to provide resistance for the neck, rather than full body weight as in the neck bridge. Another tool to use is the stability ball as a support for your head during the neck bridge, repeated 20 times. Although definitely not for beginners, neck bridges performed every single day help mixed martial artist Aljamain “The Funk Master” Sterling avoid defeat. A college wrestling All-American, Sterling does the regular neck bridge and a forward version as well, involving getting into a tripod position with just his forehead and toes on the floor.