I found an inexpensive neck harness to be a very useful tool to help strengthen the neck. Also not a fan of the New Rules of Lifting. Looking through the book I didn't see anything you couldn't find on your own with a bit of searching but some folks like that. Nothing really new in there. I've been enjoying 5/3/1 for a while now but go with what you like.
"Find out what it is in life you donít do well, and then donít do that thing.Ē - Most Interesting Man in the World
Heavy shrugs will activate all the neck muscles, at least statically. I simply incorporate shrugs into my dumbbell deadlifts. You can also construct a harness out of old car seatbelts. Sew some D rings in strategic places and use them to attach weights. You can figure out the rest. But if you are training fairly heavy, doing deadlifts, shrugs, etc, you will get some growth there.
As for an overall plan, yeah, Body For Life is okay but you don't have to buy all the crap he wants you to buy. A GOOD trainer (most are idiots so look for the guy with really buff clients) can show you how to do the basic compound exercises, and if you stick with them, train to failure, do not overtrain, give yourself sufficient recovery, eat right, and get plenty of sleep, you will grow. The fine details aren't important. In fact, the fewer fine details for a beginner, the better. Stick with the basics and take no prisoners. Avoid the gimmicks. Avoid the machines, in general. Absolutely avoid isolation movements that hit just one muscle group for the first year or so. The core movements will give you the best bang for the buck. Departing from that style to train your neck with a harness isn't going to help all that much. OTOH, it won't hurt anything if you don't go bananas with it. YMMV of course.
Last edited by Slash McCoy; 08-30-2012 at 03:13 PM.
Banned for Life from "Over There"... TWICE!
Both excellent responses. I love the neck harness but it brings too much attention to the user. One of the best and most underutilized pieces in the gym to hit both traps and neck errectors is the trap bar. Heavy shrugs(controlled) are a beast to strengthen that area.
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I suggested the Body for Life program mainly since they do provide a good workout plan both cardio and weight training. Totally ignore all the EAS marketing aspect of it... The OP said too that he didn't want to wander aimlessly around the gym and the Body for Life website offers a printable workout sheet that really helps eliminate the "wander".
I would recommend consulting a trainer as well mainly to ensure that your form is correct on the lifts you want to do since bad form can cause injury.
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Hopefully no one thinks I'm being sanctimonious if I toss a your way.
One neck-helping exercise that I have found to be "fun" (in the masochistic "feeling the burn is fun" sense of the word) is abdominal bicycles ...
The key, of course, is to use your neck muscles to keep your head up, rather than locking your fingers behind your head and pulling with your arms. I keep my fingertips barely touching the backs of my ears (or thereabouts) and just go for it. Turning the head left and right as part of the exercise helps give you a more multi-directional effect on the neck.
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For the neck - specifically - do neck bridges. You can do them at home and avoid stares at the gym. No need to find a 4-way machine at the gym or buy a harness. The 4-way machine (or the neck harness) is what most of the American Football players (and high school wrestlers) grew up on, to protect the neck from injury.
Yes there are several exercises that work the neck muscles in addition to their primary target muscles, but for the neck - specifically - do a neck exercise.
For all-around strength, there are lots of different programs that "work" but they all have the same basics in common. Multiple sets (2-5) of relatively low repetitions (around 5 give or take) of a few (3-5 exercises) done 2-4 times a week.
IMO a complete program works the body through six ranges of motion:
- upper body pushing forward (bench press, pushups)
- upper body pulling backward (pendlay rows, hammersmith machine rows)
- upper body pushing up (overhead press)
- upper body pulling down (chins)
- bending/straightening legs (squats, front squats, combination of leg extensions and leg curls or glute-ham raise, to some extent deadlifts)
- hip extension (deadlifts, cleans or snatches, to some extent squats)
So different programs like Starting Strength (or the ripoff of SS that is called "Stronglifts"), the high school football program BiggerFasterStronger (or the ripoff of BFS that is called "5/3/1"), or any number of other basic beginner programs will do the trick. Even bodyweight programs will work effectively if well-designed.
It could be as simple as 3 sets of 5 reps with workouts alternating Squat/Bench/Row and Deadlift/OHP/Chins on a M/W/F schedule, or as complicated as SS' "Texas Method" or BodyRecomposition's "Generic Bulking Program", because any and all of these work the body through the required ranges of motion with heavy weights at a good repetition range.
Keep it simple. Work hard. Add weight to the bar over time. Do that, and you'll make progress.
Last edited by JustAnotherDude; 08-30-2012 at 07:57 PM. Reason: clarity
So I said to him, I says, "Get your OWN monkey!"
I agree with those who suggest a neck harness. I alternate seated and standing neck raises from workout to workout, usually doing 5-10 reps for 2-3 sets. I have no problem carrying it with me to the gym but you could just buy some weight plates to go with it and use it in the privacy of your home. Heavy shrugs with a barbell or a trap bar are also good for building the back of the neck, though they focus more on the traps.
Mind you both the neck harness and shrugging build primarily the back and base of the neck. If you really want to focus on maintaining your current collar size while losing weight, you will get the most bang for your buck building building the front muscles of the neck. Lie facing up on a flat bench with head off of one end. Hold a weight plate or plates on your forehead and let your head tip back and flex it back up, using your neck rather than your arms to move the weight. (You can also try this lying face down or on your sides to work the back and sides of your neck but I have always found this awkward to do.)
If you have access to a 4-way neck machine like Nautilus use that too. I wish I had current access to one. I have found that the front and side movements are great, but no so much the back of the neck, and I relied on the harness and shrugs for the back of the neck even when I went to a gym that had one. The side flexion movements are especially good because I don't know of any good way to work the sides of the neck otherwise. Like I said above, trying to hold a weight plate on the side of my head lying on my side on a bench feels really awkward. I have also tried attaching my neck harness to various weight stacks so that I could do lateral or front flexion with my neck and never found a way to do it that felt like I was working the muscle very well.