From athletes to office workers, anyone who has experienced neck stiffness or pain is likely on the hunt for effective exercises to strengthen the neck. There is a seemingly endless number of exercises you can build your neck workouts at home around.
As you start to dive into the wide world of neck training, you’ll uncover a wide range of movements to add to your routine: one of the most popular being the neck bridge exercise.
While there’s no denying the history of this exercise and the slew of benefits it has to offer, there is a reason many experts suggest finding a neck bridge alternative. And in this guide, we’re going to explain why that is.
We’ll teach you how to do neck bridge exercises correctly, but we’ll also empower you with safer, more effective exercises that train the same muscle groups. But before we get into all that, let’s set the stage and introduce the neck bridge movement officially.
What is the Neck Bridge Exercise?
First things first, let's establish what exactly we're talking about when we mention this exercise.
Defining the Exercise
This physical exercise is known for its rigorous demand on the neck and upper back muscles. When performed, an individual lies flat on their back and then lifts their body off the ground, supported only by their feet and the back of their head.
It's a simple yet challenging movement, often utilized in sports that require exceptional neck strength. And on that note, let’s look back in time at how this movement came to be so popular.
The Origins and Popularity of the Movement
This exercise hails from the world of wrestling and gymnastics, sports that demand great neck strength and agility.
The neck bridge has, over time, transitioned from these specific sports into general fitness routines due to its potential for building neck strength and flexibility. It’s still used as a wrestler neck exercise today.
But, it’s incorporated in a number of other use cases, too. From other similar sports like neck exercises for boxers to F1 neck training, and beyond - the world's best athletes can be seen performing the neck bridge to perfection.
Chances are, you’re here to treat a condition like one of these or you simply want to perform the best neck exercises for mass for aesthetics, injury prevention, or athletic improvement.
However, is this movement all it's cracked up to be? Let's dig a little deeper into the benefits and potential concerns of this exercise.
Neck Bridge Exercise Benefits
The countless neck bridge exercise benefits all boil down to two key things: strength gains and mobilization. Neck bridges check both these boxes and then some.
Strengthening Your Neck: A Key Benefit of Neck Bridges
This exercise primarily targets the muscles of the neck and upper back. Over time, consistent practice can result in a more robust and muscular neck, potentially reducing the risk of neck-related injuries.
This is especially useful in sports such as wrestling, boxing, football, rugby, hockey, or any sport where a strong neck can significantly improve performance. Not only can it reduce the risk of injury, but it can also improve athletic performance.
That being said, some are drawn toward this movement because they want to eliminate pain associated with weak neck muscles. A strong neck can better support the head and minimize strain on the neck and upper spine.
This increased support can relieve neck tension and pain, especially for individuals who spend long periods in a stationary position, such as desk workers. That’s why you’ll so often see it used to fix bad neck posture or to stop carrying stress in shoulders and neck.
Enhancing Flexibility and Mobility: Other Positive Impacts of the Exercise
By moving the neck through a wide range of motion, the exercise can improve overall mobility, potentially increasing comfort and ease in everyday activities and specific sports movements. You’ll feel it in simple tasks like turning your head to look behind you as you’re driving. But you will really notice it if you play sports - your reaction time gets better and you’re able to screen your surroundings quicker and easier.
All things considered, there are quite a few neck bridge exercise benefits - so what’s the catch?
Problems With the Neck Bridge Movement
Despite its benefits, this exercise has its fair share of critics, primarily due to potential health risks. Let's take a closer look at these concerns.
Understanding the Potential Risks of Neck Bridging
The exercise places a considerable amount of stress on the cervical spine (the portion of the spine that includes the neck). The vertebrae in this region are smaller and more delicate than elsewhere in the spine, and they're responsible for protecting vital nerves - like the vagus nerve.
Overloading this area can result in excessive strain, which may lead to discomfort, injury, or long-term damage such as herniated discs or pinched nerves.
Why Some Experts Suggest Avoiding the Neck Bridge Exercise
Given the potential risks, some health and fitness professionals advise against incorporating the exercise into a routine, especially for those with pre-existing neck or spine conditions.
Additionally, the exercise requires precise form and control to perform safely - something that can be difficult for beginners or those without adequate guidance. That’s why we have a few simple, safe, and effective neck bridge alternative movements lined up for you later on.
But, if your heart is set on incorporating this exercise into your routine, we’ll walk you through how to do neck bridge exercise correctly.
How to Do Neck Bridge Exercise Correctly
Although you may be more interested in neck bridge alternatives at this point, we still want to teach you how to do neck bridge exercise correctly.
While we don’t necessarily love this movement ourselves, proper technique is critical to offset the potential risks described above. We really recommend getting professional guidance in-person to help you feel more confident performing this specific movement.
That being said, we’ll guide you through the key takeaways below, starting with setup.
The Setup: How to Position Yourself Correctly
Start by lying flat on your back on a mat. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, roughly hip-width apart. Your hands should rest by your sides.
The Execution: How to Perform a Neck Bridge Safely
Lift your hips off the ground and gently roll onto the top of your head. Support your body weight primarily with your feet and hands, leaving only a small amount of pressure on your neck.
Hold this position briefly before lowering your hips and rolling back onto your shoulders. It's crucial to keep your movements controlled and fluid, and avoid any sudden jolts.
Rep Ranges, Sets, and Frequency: Incorporating it Into Your Regimen
Now that you know how to do neck bridge exercise correctly, how do you go about adding it to your training regimen?
Beginners should start with lower rep ranges (like 5-8 reps per set) and gradually work their way up. Aim for 2-3 sets per session, a couple of times a week. Remember, it's about quality over quantity - your neck is a sensitive region and needs careful handling.
Progressing the Exercise Over Time
Just like any other exercise, progression is vital in this exercise. As you gain strength and the movement becomes easier, you will want to challenge yourself to continue to see benefits. Here are a few strategies you can employ:
- Increase Duration: Once you can comfortably hold a neck bridge for a certain duration, say 30 seconds, increase the time you hold the position. Gradually add a few seconds each week until you can hold the bridge for a minute or longer.
- Increase Repetitions: If you're doing moving neck bridges (i.e., bridging up and down), add more repetitions to your sets as you gain strength. If you started with ten reps, try working up to 15, then 20, and so on.
- Incorporate Variations: Once you've mastered the basic neck bridge, you can start incorporating variations to increase the difficulty. For example, you might try a neck bridge with your feet off the floor or a one-handed neck bridge. Always ensure you're maintaining correct form when incorporating these variations to prevent injury.
- Add Resistance: Another way to increase the difficulty of the neck bridge is by adding resistance. This can be done by using a resistance band or a yoga block. Be cautious when adding resistance and ensure you're still able to maintain proper form.
Remember, it's essential to listen to your body and progress at a pace that's right for you. It's better to progress slowly and maintain proper form than to rush and risk injury. Only progress one thing at a time - don’t add resistance and reps in the same workout, for example.
If you ever feel discomfort or pain while performing neck bridges, stop the exercise and consult with a healthcare professional. That being said, let’s share some of the top neck bridge alternative exercises before we bring this conversation to a close.
Neck Bridge Alternative Exercises to Consider That Train the Same Muscles Safer & Better
You came here to learn how to get a thicker neck. And while you thought the neck bridge was your secret weapon along this journey, what if we told you that you could target the muscles in question much easier and safer?
It’s true. Do you want to know why the neck bridge has become so popular? It can be done anytime, any place, with no equipment necessary! It’s convenient - you don’t need a neck workout harness like most other movements.
But what is convenient doesn’t always equate to what’s best for your health and wellness
That being said, if you’re serious about your goals and this transformation you hope to achieve, you should invest in the best neck exercise equipment. With a simple device, you unlock a suite of exercises that are easier to perform, safer, and more effective. What more could you ask for?
Below, we’ll guide you through three other movements you can try and then talk about how you can enhance your training and supercharge your results with our equipment at Iron Neck.
Neck Protraction and Retraction
To perform neck protraction and retraction with the Iron Neck, first secure the device on your head. Stand tall and make sure the resistance band is taut. For neck protraction, gently move your chin towards your anchor point with the resistance, then pull your head back to the starting point against the resistance.
For neck retraction, turn around and face away from the anchor point. Perform the same movement - but this time, push your chin away from the anchor point further, against the resistance.
The Iron Neck ensures a controlled and safe way to perform these exercises, as the resistance can be easily adjusted to match your ability. We recommend training both these exercises in the same workout to maintain a good balance in your neck musculature.
Look Left, Look Right
Look left, look right is another safe and effective alternative to neck bridges. This movement targets the muscles on side of neck specifically.
Position the device securely on your head, ensure the resistance band is taut, then slowly rotate your head from side to side against the resistance.
The unique advantage of having the Iron Neck is the ability to take advantage of 360-degree neck training. That means you can perform one of the best stabilizing and strengthening exercises for the neck - 360-degree spins.
Place the device on your head and step back, getting ample resistance on the device. Then maintaining good posture and keeping your neck aligned with the rest of your spine, slowly spin in a circle.
Your goal is to keep your head in the exact same position while turning your body - not your neck - to see all four corners of the room before returning back to staring dead ahead at the anchor point.
One of the unique exercises you can perform with the Iron Neck is the figure eight. This dynamic movement challenges your neck muscles in a whole new way.
With the Iron Neck on your head and the resistance band taut, visualize drawing a figure eight with your chin. This encourages movement in all planes, providing a comprehensive neck workout.
Get the Iron Neck Today and Incorporate it Into Your Routine!
The Iron Neck truly revolutionizes neck training by providing a full range of motion and adjustable resistance. It's an investment in your neck health and overall wellness.
So, what are you waiting for? Upgrade your training routine with our neck exercise equipment and say goodbye to the potentially harmful neck bridge movement. Because at this point, it’s time to bring our conversation to a close.
Final Thoughts on the Neck Bridge Exercise
There you have it - all you need to know about how to do neck bridge exercise. This traditional exercise, while well-intended, brings risks that could jeopardize your long-term neck health. In contrast, neck bridge alternative exercises using the Iron Neck provide a safe, effective, and even superior alternative to strengthen your neck muscles.
We encourage you to learn more about building neck muscles in our blog. We have articles on key topics like what to expect from neck training before and after, exercises to tighten neck, how to relax muscles in neck, the neck training benefits, and more.
Otherwise, it’s time to join the fitness revolution and harness the power of the Iron Neck today. Because, in fitness as in life, the goal is not just strength - it's longevity and health as well.