Protect ya neck as Wu-Tang would say. They were right all those years ago. Who knew that message would filter its way into the martial arts world? And for good reason. Using your neck to finish takedowns, hold a position, absorb strikes, and getting choked can start to take its toll.
Protecting your neck by training with neck workout equipment is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of neck injury and concussions. Within combat sports, we are always at risk of injury whether we are grappling with wear and tear over time or striking where neck strength can help reduce the risk of concussion.
Before you embark on purchasing your next piece of neck workout equipment, you must know what to look for.
What To Look For In Neck Workout Equipment
The number one rule when buying neck workout equipment is don’t buy flimsy pieces of no-name brand equipment that you’ll often find on Amazon or your local Walmart. When it comes to training your neck, cheap equipment may cause more harm than good.
Not all heads are the same shape and size. Not to mention the fit of your neck training equipment can change depending on your hair style or length. Which means the piece of equipment must be adjustable so you can resize it as you need.
While most neck workout equipment has some degree of being uncomfortable, it shouldn’t be so bad that it causes a lot of pain and stops you feeling your neck doing any work.
Generally, the places you’ll feel uncomfortable when neck training is the forehead or the ears depending on the device being used.
Some pieces of neck training equipment allow you to train the neck with many different movements. Some are limited to just one. That doesn’t make it any worse than a device that allows you many movements.
It just means that a piece of equipment that let’s you do one thing is specialised for that one movement.
Consider whether you want to own more than one piece of training equipment or something that is more versatile.
With that out of the way, here is my list of the best pieces of neck workout equipment. These are pieces of equipment I own and use myself.
Best Neck Training Device
The Iron Neck is easily my favorite piece of neck workout equipment. It is the most versatile neck training device you will find on the market. It allows you to train the neck in all 360° ranges of motion which is vitally important for combat athletes.
Further, it is the only neck training device that instantly reduces any neck pain I may have from training or even just from sleeping funny. The way it is built makes it very sturdy and durable. It is quite heavy so you know it is made from quality material.
Having visited the Iron Neck warehouse when they were building their first models, I can attest that this isn’t a machine mass production product. Their original headquarters looked like an old back yard shed inside!
With the newer models, they’ve now made the Iron Neck adjustable with foam padding of different sizes.
My wife uses the bigger foam pad while my older Iron Neck doesn’t need any foam padding for my big head. Further, there is an air pump built in to tighten the Iron Neck once it’s on your head.
The Iron Neck may feel uncomfortable in the beginning as it’s a new feeling having a heavy halo on your head. You get used to it over time. I don’t find any discomfort with it anymore.
You can also adjust the load by either changing the level of resistance band, moving closer or further away from the anchor point, or tightening or loosening the friction dial when performing various rotational movements.
This is what creates the extreme versatility the Iron Neck provides.
Iron Neck Training Device
Best Neck Harness
My Spud Inc Straps Neck Harness is yellow as I purchased it many years ago. It seems they have changed the color to black but the product is the same.
There’s a reason the neck harness has been around for years. It works. It is the best piece of neck training equipment for training neck extension.
The large muscles at the back of the neck that are needed to resist forward head movement are vitally important for everyday posture and to keep your posture when grappling.
The Spud Inc Straps brand is no joke. They are considered some of the best material for straps in the strength training world due to their durability and strength.
They’ve taken that same material and created a neck harness. Most straps feel rough and stiff. These are surprisingly soft so they don’t scratch your ears and face like a cheap strap would.
The Spud Inc Straps Neck Harness is also adjustable with a Velcro strap to fit even the biggest Gorilla head. If you have a freakishly strong neck, you can load this with plenty of weight. The chain is strong and the straps are virtually indestructible making it a piece of equipment you can use for life.
Due to the soft feel of the harness, it is very comfortable. It can rub a little on the ears if you don’t get it sitting on your head correctly but with a small adjustment, you’re good to go. Even when the straps rub past your ears, it feels soft not rough so no worries if you’re thinking about cauliflower ear.
In terms of versatility, the neck harness is the least versatile neck training equipment. But it is the best piece of equipment for training neck extension.
Spud Inc Neck Harness
Best Low Cost Neck Workout Equipment
This article wouldn’t be complete without covering the low-cost options available to you. While I would consider a $50 neck harness a low-cost piece of equipment relative to other fitness equipment, these are items you likely have already at home that you use regularly as part of your own training.
These you can buy anywhere. They are all sourced from China. I even got mine shipped from a manufacturer in China as a sample and still in great shape after 7+ years. It’s important to buy the right size however when training your neck.
Rogue Fitness has bands at a good price and buying three gets your free shipping. Blue and green will be perfect strengths for your isometric neck exercises. If you want a third color for free shipping, go with a red unless you have a really strong neck.
Elastic strength bands allow you to train the neck isometrically in multiple directions. You can also perform protractions and retractions giving you some more neck training variation.
It’s essentially a poor man’s Iron Neck in that regard. Bands are very durable and will last you many years if you look after them and don’t hook them on sharp objects.
Elastic Strength Bands
The most basic piece of equipment you will have if you have a home gym setup. If you don’t and are looking at training from home, buy weight plates that will fit an Olympic bar not a standard bar so you won’t have to buy again.
These simple plates from Amazon will do the trick for neck training. To start, you may only need a 5, 10, and 25 lb plate. Lying with your head off the edge of a bench, place a plate on your head and move your head up and down.
To increase the comfort when performing the exercises, place a towel between you and the plate. Unfortunately, you are pigeon holed to performing flexion and extension-based neck exercises only. However, using plates is a great way of strengthening the neck flexion and lateral flexion movements.