Your neck movements are dominated by two muscles—the sternocleidomastoid and the splenius, which are located at the front-sides and the back of your neck, respectively. The sternocleidomastoid allows you to turn your head to the left and right, as well as tuck your chin. The splenius lets you bring your head back. You can safely and effectively strengthen both muscles with just a weight plate and a weight bench.
The necessary exercises are simple and straigthforward. And since your neck muscles are quite small compared to other muscles in your body, you only need to perform two exercises per workout to effectively stimulate them. But I’ll go two better and give you four to start with.
It’s best to do a neck workout once or twice a week. Perform one flexion and one extension exercise per workout to maintain balance between the two movements. Do three sets of five repetitions of each exercise using light to moderate weight. Do not go heavy when exercising your neck muscles, because that is just begging for injury.
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Lying Weighted Neck Flexion
Target: sternocleidomastoid muscles.
- Grasp the weight plate with an overhand grip and lie back on the bench.
- Put the weight plate over your forehead. Flex your neck to move the weight plate up and forward, similar to tucking your chin.
- Extend your neck to move the weight plate down and back until you feel a stretch in your sternocleidomastoid muscles.
Lying Weighted Lateral Neck Flexion
Target: sternocleidomastoid muscle and, to a lesser degree, splenius muscle.
- Hold the weight plate with your right hand in an overhand grip and lie down on the left side of your body.
- Position the weight plate over the right side of your head.
- Laterally flex, or turn, your neck to the right as much as possible.
- Laterally extend your neck to bring the weight plate down and to the left.
Lying Weighted Neck Extension
Target: splenius muscle.
- Grasp the weight plate with both hands in an overhand grip and lie down with your stomach facing the bench.
- Place the weight plate over the back of your head.
- Beginning with your chin in a tucked position, extend your neck to raise your head until it is parallel to the ground.
- Flex your neck to move the weight plate down and forward and return to the initial tucked-chin position.
Seated Weighted Neck Extension
Target: splenius muscle.
- Hold the weight plate with both hands in an overhand grip and sit on the bench.
- Lean your torso a bit forward and position the weight plate over the back of your head.
- Extend your neck to bring the weight plate up and back.
- Flex your neck to move the weight plate down and forward.
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