The Best Exercises to Build Shoulder and Neck Strength

May 4, 2012

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Strong shoulder and neck muscles are essential in almost all sports, particularly those involving contact, pushing or throwing. During off-season and in-season weight training sessions, athletes should focus on strengthening their trapezius and neck muscles as well as their front, lateral and rear deltoids.

Why are shoulder and neck muscles so essential for sports? Consider how they are used:

  • Strong neck muscles reduce the amount of energy transferred to the head during contact, helping prevent concussions
  • Strong neck muscles improve heading in soccer and prevent injury while performing this skill
  • Strong shoulders allow you to push opponents away, put yourself in an offensive position or prevent them from making an attacking play
  • Strong shoulders absorb contact, limiting the effect of blows to your body
  • Strong shoulders reduce the risk of injury from overuse or contact

To build strong shoulder and neck muscles, perform exercises that target them once or twice a week. Since the trapezius muscle acts both on your neck and shoulder, some of the exercises below have a crossover effect.

Shoulder and Neck Exercises

Dumbbell Shrugs

  • Hold dumbbells at sides with palms facing in
  • Keeping arms straight, shrug shoulders toward ears; hold for 10 seconds
  • Lower shoulders to start position and repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3x6

Push Press

  • In standing position, grab barbell with overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width, and rest bar at clavicle level
  • Slightly bend hips and knees
  • Extend hips, knees and ankles; drive bar overhead
  • Slowly lower to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3-4x6

Dumbbell Upright Rows

  • Assume athletic staggered stance holding dumbbells in front
  • Keeping hands close to body, drive elbows high to raise dumbbells to chin level; hold for 10 seconds
  • Lower dumbbells with control and repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3x6

Dumbbell Rows

  • Place right hand and right knee on bench and left foot on floor
  • Hold dumbbell in left hand with palm facing inward
  • Bring dumbbell to chest while keeping elbow tight to body; hold for one count
  • Lower dumbbell to start position; repeat
  • Perform on opposite side

Sets/Reps: 3x6

Dumbbell Side, Front and Rear Shoulder Raise Circuit

Perform Side, Front and Rear Shoulder Raises in circuit fashion. Rest for one minute between sets.

Side Raise

  • Assume athletic stance holding dumbbells at sides
  • Raise dumbbells to shoulder level at sides with palms facing ground; hold for five seconds
  • Lower dumbbells with control; repeat for specified reps

Front Raise

  • Assume athletic stance holding dumbbells in front
  • Raise dumbbells to shoulder level in front with palms facing ground; hold for five seconds
  • Lower dumbbells with control; repeat for specified reps

Rear Raise

  • Assume staggered stance and bend at hips so back is parallel to ground
  • Hold dumbbells with arms straight and directly in front of chest
  • Pinch shoulder blades together and raise dumbbells to sides at shoulder level; hold for five seconds
  • Lower dumbbells with control; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3x6 each exercise

Isometric Neck Circuit

Perform Resisted Neck Extension, Flexion and Lateral Flexion exercises in circuit fashion.

Resisted Neck Extension

  • Sit on ground and place hands behind head with neck in neutral position
  • Extend neck with hands providing resistance
  • Flex neck to return to starting position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Resisted Neck Flexion

  • Sit on ground and place hands on forehead with neck in neutral position
  • Flex neck with hands providing resistance
  • Extend neck to return to starting position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Resisted Neck Lateral Flexion

  • Sit on ground and place right hand on side of head with neck in neutral position
  • Flex neck toward right shoulder with hand providing resistance
  • Extend neck to return to starting position
  • Repeat for specified reps; perform set in opposite direction

Sets/Reps: 3x10 each exercise

Photo:  fitoverfat.com

Jim Carpentier is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a New Jersey-licensed massage therapist and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as associate health and wellness director at the Greater Morristown YMCA in Cedar Knolls, N.J.

Jim Carpentier
- Jim Carpentier, CSCS, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, New Jersey-licensed massage therapist, and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as Associate Health and...
Jim Carpentier
- Jim Carpentier, CSCS, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, New Jersey-licensed massage therapist, and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as Associate Health and...
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