“Do you even train neck bro?” That should be the first question that should be asked of any boxer. By not training the neck, you’re destined to become one of those figurine bobbleheads.
It can feel like there isn’t much variety when training the neck for boxing. Traditional exercises using the neck harness is as far as some boxers go. However, training only neck extension isn’t going to develop a thick neck to prevent a dreaded KO. So, I’ve picked these 8 exercises as my top 8 neck training exercises for boxing.
1. Iron Neck 360° Rotations
2. Partner Neck Reactive Isometric
3. Iron Neck Left & Rights
4. Iron Neck Protraction and Retractions
5. Iron Neck Figure 8s
6. Band Isometric Holds
7. Plate Lateral Flexion
8. Plate Flexion and Extension
Why settle with the same neck exercise over and over again when you need the variety to develop a strong neck?
The Importance Of Training The Neck For Boxing?
Isometric neck strength plays an important role in reducing the risk of neck injury and reducing the risk of concussion . That is your ability for your neck to resist the movement of your head.
Importantly, it seems how quickly you are able to resist head movement is a key factor to reduce the total head movement during impact . See "Neck Training For Martial Arts: Ultimate Guide & Program" for an in-depth overview.
Women typically display less neck strength than their male counterparts meaning they should prioritize neck training to a greater degree.
This information has great implications for training the neck. When performing the typical neck harness exercise, the neck moves from flexion to extension and doesn’t develop isometric strength.
When performing the isometric exercise (neck holds against a partner), you can produce more force than when you perform concentric muscle contractions (e.g. neck harness).
Furthermore, with pieces of equipment such as the neck harness or using plates, you are limited to the direction in which you train the neck. Forward and back, back and forward, and lateral (shoulder to ear).
This is why the top 6 exercises I have listed involve exercises that allow resistance of movement in any direction.
Unsure of which Iron Neck is best for you? Check out my in-depth model comparison.
Iron Neck 360° Rotations
The Iron Neck is a must-have piece of equipment for the boxing athlete. It solves the problem of being able to train your neck from all angles. Since isometric neck strength can help reduce the risk of concussion, the Iron Neck 360° Rotation will develop isometric strength in every direction.
This is one of the simplest exercises you can perform with the Iron Neck. You can adjust the resistance by changing the bungee cord or by increasing or decreasing the distance away from where you tied the bungee.
Partner Neck Reactive Isometric
While pure isometric neck strength is important for reducing the incidence of concussion, how quickly you can produce that resisting force is likely even more important. The quicker you can 'put the brakes on,' the less your head will move from impact decreasing the likelihood of concussion.
That is the goal of this exercise. Developing your ability to quickly resist the force your partner puts against your head. The reactive element comes from you not knowing which direction your partner will push. They will be standing behind you like in the setup in the video below.
However, it won’t be a prolonged hold. Your partner will push for varying durations of 1-3 seconds at all different angles around your head.
Iron Neck Left & Rights
These are great for strengthening the neck muscles that are difficult to develop without this device. Simply stand facing the bungee, and turn your head left to right while keeping your upper body as still as possible.
Iron Neck Protraction and Retraction
This neck exercise is great for overall neck health. Forward head posture can become a painful problem if not addressed. It is extremely common in those that work a desk job. It can also be problematic in boxers with a constantly rounded over posture when training.
Use the same setup as you would the left & rights but instead, move your head forward and back. You can perform this facing the bungee and facing away from the bungee.
Iron Neck Figure 8s
This is the ultimate neck exercise with the Iron Neck. You will strengthen your neck in all sorts of awkward angles that you can’t get to with conventional neck exercises.
The video explains this better than I will but you are essentially performing a figure 8 shape with your head.
Band Isometric Holds
This is the low budget setup if you don’t have an Iron Neck. You can’t get the same variety but you can still load your neck with heavy isometrics. You can increase and decrease the load by using different bands or moving closer or further away from the attachment point.
A simple variation is the 4-way isometric hold. 4-way refers to front, side, back, side. That way, you cover most of the major movements with your neck. I generally use 10-sec holds on each hold so it can be loaded heavy enough.
Plate Lateral Flexion
This is one of the conventional neck exercises to develop general neck strength. Lateral flexion is often neglected among boxers as equipment such as the neck harness only allows movement in one plane.
Lying on a bench with your head hanging off, place a plate on top of your head above your ear. I would advise starting off with no weight if you haven’t done this before. When starting with weight, start with 2.5 kgs in a maximum. You can injure your neck by going too heavy too quickly.
Plate Flexion and Extension
My final neck exercise is the plate flexion and extension. One of the easiest neck exercises you can do from anywhere. You will be able to use a lot more weight with the extension than the flexion. I would advise starting with 5 kg for the extension and 2.5 kg for the flexion and progress from there.
When Should You Train Your Neck For Boxing?
There are a few strategies you can use when training your neck.
1. As part of your warm-up before boxing training.
2. As part of your warm-up before strength training.
3. At the end of your boxing or strength training.
When performing neck exercises as part of the warm-up, I would advise using isometric variations and Iron Neck variations. These will provide a mobility boost before training as an extra benefit.
When performing neck exercises at the end of training, you can load these heavier so using Iron Neck variations and heavier plate exercises work well here.
2. Gilchrist, I., Storr, M., Chapman, E., & Pelland, L. (2015). Neck Muscle Strength Training in the Risk Management of Concussion in Contact Sports: Critical Appraisal of Application to Practice. J Athl Enhancement 4: 2. of, 19, 2.