by Max Shank T-Nation
Here's what you need to know...
• The neck is often the weakest link in the strength chain.
• A strong neck makes your other lifts easier.
• Neck bridges help you coordinate your entire posterior chain.
Some guys do things at the gym that seriously lower their manliness, among them:
Using a Swiss ball.
Not training the neck.
Training your neck is extremely important for strength, health, and aesthetics.
Having a stronger neck will make your big lifts better and easier. As with most things, the weakest link in the chain is going to cause the whole system to crumble. The weakest link is frequently the neck.
Puny Neck, Puny Body
Many orthopedic issues stem from the neck, including headaches and shoulder pain, as well as lower back pain and hip issues.
In fact, there are over 10 different systems of chiropractic that focus entirely on the upper cervical vertebrae to treat pain and movement dysfunction, focusing mainly on the atlas, axis, and occiput.
To put it simply, if your neck is out of whack, you can't send brain signals to the rest of the body as efficiently. This will bring you pain and weakness. You'll also look puny.
As men, we're meant to be warriors. The natural order of man is to protect and hunt. That means looking the part. Having a strong neck is going to separate you from the herd and make you a lot tougher to kill.
As a bonus, head-forward posture caused by excessive computer usage and sitting can be corrected with smart neck training.
One of the favorite movements to strengthen the neck over the years has been the wrestler's bridge. This movement is great for the sport of wrestling in that it helps master a posture used frequently in the sport, as well as building up the tolerance of the neck.
However, I've found with the fighters I coach that it doesn't do as much for the musculature of the neck as I'd hoped, and the range of motion is shorter than I'd like.
The solution is to have more freedom of movement with the bridge.
Enter the Swiss Ball
Oh-oh. I'm sorry. Looks like I have to eat the words I used earlier. The Swiss ball makes this movement ten times better and offers a much better progression and regression.
Take a look at the video. You'll note that the range of motion goes from extreme deep neck flexion all the way into full extension. The key is that the neck is loaded in every position, as opposed to just the end position of a normal bridge.
The video also shows a slick regression if you don't have the neck strength for the more difficult variation, as well as a neck stability drill that can be great for fixing head-forward posture.
Another great part about neck bridging is that it helps you coordinate the entire posterior chain to function correctly, as shown in the video where the glutes and spinal erectors hold up the bridge.
I can guarantee that your overall movement quality will improve significantly if you start to incorporate the neck work shown above.
If you've already been doing neck bridges on the floor, the Swiss ball neck bridge will unlock a new level of neck strength and, accordingly, a new level of overall body strength.