Got a pencil neck? There’s a solution for that. And the solution is the same as for any other small muscle; train it! What’s the best way to train your neck? Here are some of the best options.
The best way to train your neck is with a neck harness. This is a set of usually nylon straps that wrap around your head and you can attach weights to. A neck harness is best used with low weight and high repetitions for safety. With the right equipment it’s easy to add muscle to the neck.
Find the best neck harnesses and more information on how to train your neck properly below.
Best neck training equipment
Let’s just get into the thing you came here for. The best equipment to train your neck and make it bigger and/or stronger. If you want to know more about how and why to train your neck, you can find that information below.
First, you should know there are roughly three types of neck training equipment.
Types of neck training equipment;
- Neck harness (plate loaded)
- Neck harness (cable machine)
- Weight plates
You might be surprised that there are weight plates on this list. There are actually two ways you can train your neck with weight plates.
The first way is to load them onto the neck harness. More on that later. However, you can also be used directly. You lay down on a bench, put the weight plate on your head and do the movement. Better use a towel in between the plate and your head for a little more comfort. While this can be good for certain movements and higher weights, it’s pretty uncomfortable and the next options are going to be much better.
That brings us to neck harnesses. A neck harness doesn’t actually go around your neck. It usually goes around your head. That way you can load it up and do movements with more comfort and safety.
There are two types of neck harness;
- Plate loaded
- Attaches to cable machine/resistance band
The first type of neck harness is by far the most common. Of the second type only a few models are available.
The plate loaded type is often made from nylon straps although leather is also available. The cheap models will just be nylon without anything else added. Those aren’t very comfortable. Better versions will have some soft material and padding where the straps touch your head.
A metal chain is attached to the nylon straps. The metal chain can be looped through the hole of a weight plate and that’s how they are loaded.
The second type that attaches to a cable machine is a bit different. Usually there is a metal ring with soft padding inside the ring where it touches the head. There is a spring clip so you can attach the cable to the neck harness.
Most people don’t have a cable machine at home so the first type is much more practical. If you do have a cable machine, the second type can be a good option. The second type is usually higher quality although they are quite a bit more expensive. However, you could also use a resistance band which are cheap and easy to get.
The cable type allows weight to load from the side while the plate loaded type always has the plates hanging down. That means there is a difference in the loading of the muscles. However, if you lay down on a bench with a plate loaded harness, you have the same sideways load.
Here are the best equipment options for training your neck.
Cheap and simple:
DMoose. This neck harness is the best cheap option. It’s plate loaded and made from nylon. Despite the low price it features some decent padding, heavy duty stitching and heavy duty metal hardware. The straps are wide for good weight distribution and more comfort. The straps fasten with Velcro so it’s always the right size.
Best plate loaded:
Iron Neck Alpha. This neck harness is also plate loaded but has a few more features than the DMoose. The used materials, fit and finish are on a higher level. One of the big benefits of this harness is that there are more points you can attach the chain and therefore the weight to. This means you have more exercise options and therefore better results if used properly. The padding is neoprene which stays comfortable even when you get sweaty.
Best cable neck harness:
Iron Neck. The gold standard of cable neck harnesses. Very well built, different pads for different head sizes and just blows everything else out of the water. It’s all you could ever want from a neck harness but, it’s expensive and you look pretty weird while using it.
Why did I choose these items specifically? Let’s take a look at what to look for when buying neck training equipment.
Need some weight plates to load your harness with? Click here to find which ones I recommend.
What to look for when buying neck training equipment
Here are a few things to keep an eye out for when shopping for a neck harness.
- Safety: Safety first. You neck is not a body part where you should be careless with. With neck training most of the safety is taken care off by choosing the right exercises and following a reasonable training program.
- Comfort: Most neck training equipment goes on your head. Your head is pretty sensitive and usually something you don’t want to chafe or otherwise hurt. Padding and soft materials are absolutely necessary.
- Strap under chin: For plate loaded neck harnesses, you want one that has a strap that goes under your chin. This fixes it in place much more securely and allows for better exercise form and lower chance of injury.
- Quality: Of course you want something that’s sturdy and doesn’t fall apart while using it, dropping the weights on your toes in the process.
- Loading: How do you load the equipment? Do you load it with plates or does it attach to a cable station? Most people work out their neck at home where there is no cable station. A few weight plates are much smaller and cheaper than a cable machine so a plate loaded harness is more suitable for most.
- Effectiveness: Of course you want something that’s effective. Although that also has a lot to do with how you actually use the equipment. As long as you can comfortably attach weight to your head, the exercises and programming are going to make a bigger impact than a slightly different design.
Neck muscles and training style
Because neck training isn’t too common, it’s worth touching on which exercises to perform and a little bit about programming. Doing things right will greatly improve your results while also increasing safety.
Some things to keep in mind when training your neck;
- Start very light: Don’t start with heavy weights, even if you have a neck harness that should hold it, don’t try to load your neck muscle significantly, especially in the beginning. Start light and pay really close attention to exercise form. If you load it up with high weight and don’t do the exercises right, it’s more dangerous.
- Go for higher repetitions rather than higher weight: Because the weight is lower, you should increase the amount of repetitions. No singles or fives for your neck. Conventional muscle building says a rep range of 8-12 is optimal for muscle and strength growth. However, especially for starting neck trainers, that’s still a bit low in my opinion. That’s because for that rep range to work, you need to train to (almost) failure. Training your neck to almost failure is a bit dangerous. So higher rep ranges (up to 25) are going to work better. That way you can use lower weights and still get a good burn in the muscle. When you get a little more advanced, you can increase the weights and lower the reps a little.
- Don’t do neck bridges: Neck bridges don’t require any equipment so after reading this post you shouldn’t have to do them again. They are a bit controversial but the general consensus is that they aren’t good for your neck. A neck harness is much better.
- Pay really close attention to any discomfort: The reason why your neck is such an important body part is that there are a lot of nerves going from the brain to the rest of the body in your neck. Damaging anything in your neck can have absolutely life devastating effects. That’s why you should immediately stop the exercise if there is anything besides muscle pain going on. Of course you do want to feel the muscle but nothing else.
Why train your neck?
If you read this far you probably already want to train your neck but if you’re not convinced, here’s why you should work out your neck just like any other body part.
There are four main reasons to train your neck;
- For a specific sport (or job)
- General strength
If you’re doing a sport where neck strength is important, you probably won’t have to be convinced. There are a few sports you need a strong neck for like, MMA, boxing, Motorsports, etc. With those activities, your neck has to be able to absorb big impacts or g-forces. Another example are fighter jet pilots and astronauts. The g-forces they have to deal with require a pretty strong neck. If you fall into any of those categories (or want to in the future) a strong neck is going to be absolutely necessary. Almost no one will have a neck strong enough to not have to train it if they want to get into any of these fields.
General strength can be another reason. You’ve trained all other muscles up to a certain level but maybe your neck is lagging. Almost everyone forgets to train their neck. Most gyms don’t have any specialized equipment you can use for this purpose and because nobody else does it, people feel stupid training their neck in a gym. Luckily it’s easy to do at home (or at the gym if you can handle the weird looks)
Another part of looks is posture. Training your neck can give you a better posture which also has dramatic effects on how good you look. A strong neck can help prevent ‘nerd neck’ or ‘forward head posture’. It’s not a good look and is not only bad for your neck but also your back. If you have back problems and your head sits a bit too far forward, this can contribute to the problem.
The final, and for many guys very important part is the aesthetic part. The best way to look bigger and more muscular is to train the body parts that stick out while wearing normal clothes. While some people are tempted to take off their shirt whenever they can (and sometimes when they shouldn’t) most people will just see you with clothes on.
The muscles that people see when wearing clothes are; arms and neck. The traps and chest are often visible with fitted clothes. Many people train their arms, back and chest already. Not many train their neck, even though it’s one of the most effective ways to look bigger, especially when wearing clothes. People seem to think other people with thicker necks are better looking as well.
Since the neck is often a very under trained body part, it’s actually pretty easy to put some extra mass on. And you don’t need a whole lot of extra mass in your neck to make a big visual difference. It’s not too difficult to put on enough muscle to add one or even two extra inches of circumference to your neck. That’s going to make a big difference.
Favorite home gym tools
Many people often forget a few important pieces of their home gym that isn’t directly gym equipment. Here are my favorite home gym tools.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and all types of other workouts, the GymNext Flex is easily the best and easiest to use.
- Mirrors: Fab & Glass (Amazon link) makes the best large mirror sheets so you can see your exercise form.
- Flooring: American Floor Mats gym flooring (Amazon) or equipment mats make your gym quieter, easier to clean and keeps your floor and equipment safe.
- Fan: The Rowenta VU5670 (Amazon) is a great way to stay cool while working out.