The Equipment Guys

Neck Training for Athletes


What part of the body enables a player to think, process, and react to perform a successful play? The brain. All higher cognitive processing abilities we naturally possess occur in the brain and down the spinal column. One of the most important and helpful things coaches can do for a player in any sort of contact sport is off the field: neck, jaw, mandible, trap, and shoulder girdle training.

Think of the head, neck, trap, and shoulder girdle as a tree. Trees have strong roots holding the trunk and branches in place so it can with stand the physical punishments of nature. If a tree does not have strong roots and a strong trunk, the tree will break or collapse. Athletes must have strong and stable roots (traps, upper back, shoulder girdle) to ensure we have a stable foundation.

There are multiple ways to train the roots of the neck. Any form of shoulder/scapular elevation (shrugging) will help strengthen the trapezius muscles. This can be accomplished by any variation of the following:

  • BB Shrug
  • BB Overhead Shrug
  • Trap Bar Shrug
  • BB Mountain Shrug
  • DB Shrug
  • Band Shrug
  • 5-Way Neck Machine shrug
  • B Inverted Supported Shrug

According to the ImPACT Inc., there is an estimated 4 to 5 Million reported cases of concussions each year, which most cases of concussions are going unreported due to lack of proper diagnosis and follow up testing. Due to recent lawsuits presented by the NFL Players Association regarding concussions and brain damage, neck training will most likely become a required part of each strength and conditioning program and routine. Whether an athlete is being introduced to neck exercises or they have been training neck for years, proper technique and time under tension during the movements will produce some of the best results and performance.

By Cal Dietz