Why would anyone want to train the neck? Some people might think that it is all about appearance but the fact is, a strong neck is a big asset for those who play contact sports. Many people overlook this training for two reasons. Either they do not know about it or they simply do not have the correct equipment to do it. All you need though is a little imagination and you will be able to exercise your neck muscles. You will also need some plates, a bench, a towel and some surgical tubing.
The Rotators. A 4-way neck machine will not work the rotators properly so you are going to want to go back to some simply manual resistance in order to work those muscles. Of course, you will not be working the rotators with weights, but you will be applying resistance to your neck with your hand while you are slowly turning your head to the left or the right.
I would strongly suggest that you ease into this and don’t use a great deal of resistance. Once you reach the limit of your range of motion, slowly increase the resistance and hold an isometric contraction for 5-10 seconds.
Repeat the process, turning your head in the other direction, again holding the contraction when you can no longer turn the head further. Three to five sets of this should be more than sufficient to give ample work for this often overlooked muscle group.
You may want to try the exercises while you are seated so that your upper back muscles are relaxed. Since you are only working the extensor group for the moment, you will want to make sure that you are relaxing the muscles.
Flexors. For the flexors, you can use the neck machine if it’s available. If not, here are some simple things you can do to perform the exact same function. Again, the purpose of this group is to tilt the chin toward the chest.
First, the simplest thing you can do is lie on a flat bench, face up, with your head over the end. Now, simply put a folded towel on your forehead and put a weight plate on the towel, holding it in place with your hands. Now, relax the head and allow it to drop downward.
Then, you will want to raise the head slowly as though you are trying to tuck your chin into your chest. You will want to make sure that both of your hands are holding the weight in place, while making sure that you are not helping the muscles perform the movement.
Just as with all of the other kinds of neck work, you want to make sure that you are starting light and that you are slowly moving through the motions in order to avoid injury. Do not use too heavy of a weight for all of your low repetitions since the neck is very fragile. Once you are used to this kind of training, you will be able to slowly increase the weights. For this group, you will want about ten to fifteen reps.
Another option is to take a simple piece of surgical tubing that’s available at any medical supply house or home improvement store and tie the loose ends into a knot. Now, you simply have a loop or circle of tubing.
To work the extensors, all you need to do is sit on a chair or bench and place the tubing on your forehead. Take the other end of the loop and hook it on a doorknob, power rack or anything similar. Now, you simple let the head tilt back, then forward, where you’ll begin to feel the resistance. Once you’ve reached the limit of your range of motion, tilt again backward and so on. Again, several sets of 10-15 reps will suffice.
Once you find that you are ready to increase the level of resistance, you will want to move further away from the anchor point by adding another loop of the tubing or by adding a heavier gauge of tubing. You can wrap a washcloth or towel around the tubing that will rest against your forehead. This will make it much more comfortable for you and it will also keep it from slipping while you go through the range of motion.