Are you curious about how MMA neck exercises can help improve your training? You've come to the right place. The neck isn't usually the first area people think of when they think of MMA training. Instead, you might picture professional fighters running up flights of stairs or doing burpees or kettlebell swings in a crowded gym. Or, maybe you're envisioning sparring or heavy bag work. However, neck strengthening is essential to build explosive power and avoid injuries while in the ring. After all, as an MMA fighter, you need a strong trunk of a neck to improve your ability to take a punch without developing whiplash or head trauma. So how do MMA fighters train their necks? In this article, we'll tell you everything you need to know to develop strength in those muscles. It will serve you well both in and out of the ring!
Do MMA Fighters Train Their Necks?
MMA fighters work hard to train and strengthen their necks. Strong neck muscles can help prevent injuries while also enhancing performance in fights. In particular, a strong neck and good "chin" will allow you to withstand a hard punch from your opponent. Obviously, as an MMA fighter, you probably spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to avoid getting hit. But as a fighter, even the best fighter, it's bound to happen eventually. The neck is the most common point of attack for submissions like guillotines, chokes, and cranks. Strengthening your neck will help you endure stress, avoid injury, and overcome your opponent. Something as simple as a muscle tear or slipped disc can take a fighter out of training for many weeks - or even forever. Some fighters are born with the ability to take a punch well, but you can dramatically improve your ability to do so by strengthening the muscles in your neck and traps. This prevents your head from swiveling around or jarring when you're hit with a shot. A little bit of training goes a long way! Let's take a look at what you can do to start strengthening those delicate muscles you may not have put much thought into before.
How Do You Train Your Neck For MMA?
If you want to be competitive in MMA, improving the mobility and strength of your neck is essential. Not only will this help you tackle more challenging opponents but it will also reduce the risk of injury. A strong neck is a healthy neck! You should do specific exercises that strengthen and mobilize your entire neck as a whole. However, you might also add workouts that isolate specific areas of the front and back of your neck. You might also want to consider adding workouts that will strengthen nearby muscle groups in your shoulders and core. While it might not sound like your core has anything to do with your neck, the reality is that a stronger body overall will ultimately support a stronger neck - a neck that’s ready for the strain of MMA fighting. But how do you train your neck? This is a pretty obscure muscle group to the general population, which is why you don't see instances of this type of training nearly enough.
What Are The Best Neck Exercises For MMA?
Here are some neck exercises that are perfect for MMA fighters. We recommend starting with the first four mobility exercises before moving on to the following four, which are meant to improve the strength of your neck muscles and the surrounding area. Of course, this list is not exhaustive. You'll find dozens of other neck exercises you can do to build your strength and mobility (in fact, our website has an excellent library of all kinds of movements you can incorporate into your regular training regimen). Here are a few moves to get you started.
Building a stronger neck starts with building a more stable and more mobile neck. The 360 spin is a wonderful exercise to get you started on the right foot. You can do this exercise without any equipment, but it will be far more effective if you have a machine like the Iron Neck. - which we'll touch on later. This machine will help you add some resistance to the move, helping you improve mobility and strength simultaneously. The movement itself is very simple. Just attach the Iron Neck training device (or a head harness coupled with a resistance band), step back to get some resistance, then do a 360-degree spin slowly. Keep your neck packed and steady as you move. Work slowly, taking a good 10 to 15 seconds to complete a full rotation.
Look Left, Look Right
This is another exercise that is best completed with an Iron Neck machine or even just a basic neck harness. It will improve the mobility in your neck, shoulders, and upper back, helping you eliminate any tension or stiffness in those regions. Step back from the anchor point and get some tension on your Iron Neck or neck harness and resistance bands. Look slowly over your left shoulder, then return to the center. Then, repeat on your right side. You can do a few sets of 8-10 and feel the burn.
Locked Neck Body Turns
This is a great mobility exercise to try once you've mastered the 360-degree spin along with the look left, look right movement we just discussed. It incorporates other muscle groups for a more thorough (yet gentle) stretch. From here, you should also be able to develop the strength you need to move on to more advanced strengthening exercises, too. Pack your chin and keep your spine and neck in a fixed, neutral position. You will twist gently at the hips, rotating from head to toe, but keeping in line with the anchor point of your machine. Rotate fully to the left and right, maintaining control of your neck and shoulders as you do so. The goal here is to turn your body, not your neck (hence the locked neck), so that build stability that extends throughout your entire spinal column and core.
Look Up and Down (Chin Tuck)
This is another simple exercise that will improve mobility in your neck muscles. It's a good one for relieving any residual stiffness or tension that might be remaining after a tough workout. But, when you train it correctly you'll also be building explosive strength that translates to the ring or octagon. To do it, start by placing two hands on your chest to focus your neck. Lift your chest, isolating the ligaments and muscles in your neck. Lift until you feel a stretch in your neck, then look down. Keep looking up and then down but be sure to keep your neck high and your chin tucked as you go through the motions.
This is a simple exercise that will help you build strength in your neck, shoulders, and back. As the name suggests, you'll need some dumbbells.
Just stand up straight, clutching a pair of dumbbells, one on either side of your body. Raise your shoulders as high as you are physically able, then gradually lower your shoulders back down. Your arms should remain locked at your shoulders the entire time to truly isolate your traps - those little muscles on each side of your neck.
Protraction and Retraction
Another exercise you might consider doing is basic protraction and retraction. This can be done either with the Iron Neck Machine or a neck harness with resistance bands to help you add tension and make it more effective. To do this workout, begin by looking directly at the anchor point. Back slowly away from the anchor point until you feel some tension on your neck. Then, pull your nose from the anchor point, which will shorten the back of your neck and engage your posterior chain. Think of "packing your chin into the base of your neck/chest. Then, reach forward with your nose, which will stretch your neck and thoracic and posterior chain. Then, turn 180 degrees to reverse the exercise. This way, you're hitting both the front and back of your neck.
A diagonal exercise is yet another one that will help build a strong neck. With this movement, you'll start by facing away from the anchor point. Tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder, making an imaginary 45-degree angle with your ring. Draw a line with your nose to your left shoulder, then down across your midline. Do this for both directions, then turn and repeat, doing the exercise while facing the anchor point.
Last but not least is the figure eight. This neck exercise sounds simple, but it actually gives your neck an amazing (and challenging!) workout. You'll simply draw a sideways figure eight (or "infinity") symbol with your nose. You'll do the exercise in both directions with the Iron Neck attached, but keep your head retracted so that you aren't focusing on head posture, but rather, your neck. Make sure you keep your shoulders relaxed for this entire exercise for the best results.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your MMA Neck Training
To get the most out of your MMA neck training, it's a good idea to start by perfecting the neck strengthening and mobility exercises described above with just bodyweight-only - after all, your head can weigh as much as 10-15lbs! These should be done as a core component of your regular workout routine to make sure you're as healthy, mobile, and strong as can be. You don't need any special equipment in your training, but purchasing the right gear can take your MMA training from "ok" to "outstanding". At a certain point, you'll need to invest in some equipment to really supercharge your training.
The Iron Neck Strengthening Machine
The Iron Neck Machine is one of the best pieces of training equipment MMA fighters can invest in, whether you want to get more explosive or just protect your neck while you're practicing MMA - but the reality is, you'll achieve both! The design of the machine targets key muscles in the neck and strengthens them while keeping all kinds of injuries at bay. Iron Neck is a fighter's best friend - but if you're on a budget, all is not lost. For fighters with limited funds, Iron Neck resistance bands and neck harnesses can help you strengthen your neck too!
Plus, there are helpful tutorials on our website for anyone who needs to know how to perfect these exercises properly. Now that you know why having a strong neck is so important for MMA fighters, it's time to add these exercises to your regimen. With the right neck exercises and the proper equipment (like the Iron Neck), you can prevent injuries, stay healthy, and (perhaps most importantly!) win matches with ease.