A Complete Guide on How To Build a Thick Oak Tree Neck

Guys who skip leg days have gotten all the attention over the past few years, but there is another body part that deserves almost equal attention yet (almost) nobody is talking about it..

Neckglection: (noun) Failure to stimulate or build the muscles of the neck at all because of a fixation on the entire rest of the body; often resulting in a condition known as “pencil neck”, similar to “pencil legs”. *See underdeveloped body parts

FACT: Tall people usually have long necks. Actually, taller people have long everything for that matter.. femurs, arms, torsos.

Of course this is generally speaking, people do come in all shapes and sizes and different proportions. Some shorter people also have longer necks and some tall people don’t have any necks at all.

Correct an Inherent Ectomorphic Disadvantage

Generally speaking however, many ectomorphic individuals with a narrow build often have or appear to have longer necks. If they don’t then they’re probably rocking a wider skeletal structure and most likely fall into the large mesomorph or endomorph category.

ectomomorph neckRegardless of your “morphic” type, the neck, which is one of the thickest muscles in the body, can have huge impact on the overall aesthetic appearance of any individual and make or break a physique.

If you’re into lifting weights not just for the release of feel-good chemicals but also for the aesthetic benefits then it pays to pay attention to your neck.

The Functional Importance of Having a Strong Neck:

“Bro, do you even workout your neck?”

Why should I work out my neck you may ask. I don’t lift anything with it. While it is true you don’t use mechanical leverage to move weight around like you do with your arms and legs, your neck does however fulfill the pretty crucial task of holding your head to your body.

scooby neckThis might not seem like a big deal but when taking into consideration the overall importance of the brain and the mind contained within and how easily it can be damaged from impact and trauma, then one begins to understand the importance of having a strong a** neck to keep that puppy safe and sturdy.

A strong neck is the literal physical link between a solid mind-muscle connection; protecting and holding the brain in which all physical manifestations of biological muscle growth are first created in the form of thought and will.

Biologically speaking, having a strong neck to support the head, brain and spinal cord is critical in building an overall powerful physique.

Scooby, god bless him and his amazing home-grown physique, would look all the better if he beasted that neck out a bit.

For any motor-heads out there, or anyone even slightly mechanically inclined, think of the neck as the transmission in a vehicle, connecting the engine to the rest of the drive train, ultimately facilitating the movement of power from the engine to the wheels.

The head, neck and body run in a similar way, and without a good transmission, even the mightiest of sports cars will have potentially fatal weaknesses.

A Weak Neck Causes Poor Posture

Nothing makes you look more beta than a hunched over, rounded shoulders look with your neck sticking out and forward instead of straight up. A strong, well-developed neck will tie seamlessly into the traps and upper back, making a “spearhead” shape when viewed from behind.

urlacher neckIf you neglect your neck, even if you train back, it will still be a weak bean sprout sticking out an otherwise impressive ass of muscle.

A bean sprout growing out of a strong rock is still a weak thing, vulnerable to destruction at the slightest of breezes.

Factor in the negative effects constantly staring down at smartphones has, since it makes you stick your heck out down and low, which results in an even more pronounced “hunch”, and you start to realize just how important neck maintenance really is.

Consider all the big falls we’ve taken, whether on ice or on a skateboard ramp, you know, the nasty slips where your feet shoot out from under you and you crash down on your shoulders.

With a pencil neck your odds of cracking your head or sustaining permanent injuries are increased.

Learn more about the long-term health consequences of a weak neck and how training your neck can drastically improve your posture.

This doesn’t even include voluntary dangers like playing football or participating in mixed martial arts. Being hit in the head is different for a person with a strong, well trained neck and someone with a thin, weak neck.

Training and building neck muscles helps to protect from accidental injury and better prepare the body for a healthy, active lifestyle that may include contact sports and/or physical violence (self-defense).

Don’t just take it from us. Take it from Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell:

The utilitarian benefits of strengthening the neck are endless and worth incorporating a couple neck exercises into your weekly schedule is a no-brainer (pun intended).

Aesthetic Benefits of Building-out your Neck:

Pencil necks just don’t look good. For people, average height but especially ectomorphs with long skinny necks only emphasize your overall lankiness, like a giraffe.

Building that  bad boy out will turn your green tree snake into a Amazonian boa constrictor, which, since humans have venom glans, means a more overall impressive physique.

A well developed neck also helps create a better overall silhouette. It draws the head into proportion with the shoulders and rest of the torso. It gives an overall much “sturdier” appearance which is something most hard-gainers are always striving to build.

So How Can I Actually Grow This Thing?

Well, the sad matter of the fact is the neck, being always under load all day supporting your head responds to training in a similar way to your calves.

Meaning, because these muscles are so utilitarian you really have to beat the sh*t out of them to stimulate much growth.

Obviously, calves are sadists and can take punishment all day every day without much complaint.

You can’t however load up a smith machine with 250LBS and start doing neck presses the way you can beat on your calves. So, what can be done?

First, there is a silver lining in how tied in the neck is to the upper back and shoulders.

Naturally, throughout the course of a truly well-balanced and complete workout regimen the neck will naturally fortify itself and grow to meet the demands placed upon it.

muscles of the neck

^Study up bro

This means even doing small exercises like the back extension machine or even front squats will incorporate the use of the neck to stabilize and pull in with the back.

So, the first thing is to keep your workout balanced. If you skimp out on back days then your neck will suffer.

Secondly, there are exercises that you are already doing that if you modify their form slightly can help workout both the neck and all the veiny stringy sh*t connecting it the shoulders and back.

The big one here are shrugs, but not just any type of shrugs, shrugs specifically designed to nail the upper part of the trap that ties into the back of the neck/lower skull area.

Exercise 1: High Time Under Tension Dumb Bell Shrugs

First, throw the ego out the door, or keep your ego and go workout early in the morning or super late at night so nobody watches you do these because it’s critical to focus on controlling the time under tension here, not the total weight.

A good weight might be in the 30-45LBS range. Hold the dumb bells at your side standing with your chest out. Looking straight forward or slightly down pull your shoulders up, hold them contracted for 3 seconds, then slowly let them down for 2 seconds while exhaling. Do this ten times then immediately do 10 more reps up/down without the counting.

We’ve found that we can get a better contraction looking slightly downwards as opposed to forwards or up. This is good for targeting traps. With our head straight/level the traps don’t get as nice of a squeeze at the top BUT we feel a more lateral stretch on the sides of our neck-to-shoulders, which may make a level head ideal for increasing visual width of the neck and upper trap connecting area.

Try adjusting your chin elevation to see which feels more comfortable for you.

So that’s 20 reps per set, the first 10 being slow and very controlled, holding at the top and slowly letting down, then starting on the 11th rep don’t pause, just pull, contract and release 10 times consecutively. Do this for 3-4 sets.

Lighten the weight if you aren’t able to get full, complete contractions for reps 15-20. Again, it’s all about the squeeze and hold here, then the rapid fire onslaught immediately after.

TIP: SY recommends rotating your shrug exercises. For example, if you do shoulders/arms one day a week and back another and thus shrug twice per week, then always mix it up.

Go heavy with the barbell one time, lighter with a cable-behind-the-back shrug the next, and lighter still with upper-trap/neck focused, high T.U.T dumb bell shrugs yet another time. This will confuse the muscle and cause it to develop in a more robust 3D manner.

In addition to focused shrugging to actually build out the side neck muscles you’ll have to incorporate yet another exercise that targets the sternocleidomastoids.

That Dr. Suess sounding muscle are the big a** connector things on the sides of the neck. Strengthen these and you not only increase lateral stability but also aesthetic width.

Also, it will take months, if not years to really build the neck up. Like the calves, it is a resilient, stubborn muscle. Don’t fall into a routine of just doing one exercise type over months.

Instead, mix it up by varying grip, switching between dumbbells and barbells, and alternating between sitting and standing, light and heavy, so that the muscle is always confused and always stressed in a new way. This will promote maximum development.

Exercise 2: Wrestler/Fighter Neck Bridgest

While using your hands as resistance, or even towels or bands can work, SY has found that doing wrestling-derived neck bridges had the largest, most noticeable impact on visible neck strengthening.

Below is an old-school image that shows exactly how to do neck bridges.

***Warning, if you aren’t a wrestler or previously done these then you’re neck is probably pretty under-developed. Jumping too fast, head-first (pun intended) into these can be dangerous as you risk injury.****

Be patient, start with the support of your arms and slowly over months you can progress into full-blown wrestler neck bridging without the aid of your hands.

Neck workouts can easily be tied into ab warmups, ab finishers or shoulder/upper back routines. Also, make sure you’re stretching good beforehand as a strained neck is probably one of the most uncomfortable things in the world.

Exercise 3: Simple Neck Flexion/Crunches with Resistance

Exercise 3 is probably the simplest and can be done with or without gear. With a traditional neck harness, you strap a harness to your head then fasten it to a stationary point like a squat rack with a resistance band and crunch your neck from all angles as Loui from Westside Barbell does in the video featured above.

Neck harnesses are cool because they look medieval as hell and will scare anyone joining you for a workout session. They’re also pretty practical for serious trainers looking to build a bigger neck over time.

This is a great example of a sturdy neck harness for sale on Amazon:

Body-Solid Nylon Head Harness - Neck Workout Equipment for Strength Training, Neck Exercise and Weight Lifting, Black
  • INDUSTRY LEADER: For 30+ years, Body Solid has held the widest array of products designed to meet the demands of the ever-changing fitness industry (home gym, free weight machines, treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, weight plates, kettlebells, dumbbells,...

Conversely you can apply resistance by yourself with a towel or fat resistance band. Because of the low resistance this exercise is all about slow and controlled high reps. For light resistance like a towel or band shoot for 20-30 per side and front, rotating between all three for 3 sets.

Learn more about the long-term health consequences of a weak neck and how training your neck can drastically improve your posture.

Supplemental Thickening Exercises:

Regularly perform dumbbell shrugs or front barbell shrugs, deadlifts, power cleans and farmers carries. Mix up heavy weight/low reps with lighter weight/high reps to keep things new and muscles confused.

Brendan Meyers (you’ll see at the end of the video, dudes got an oak tree neck) has an excellent video where he performs all of the different type of neck flexion exercises in one go (excluding the above mentioned staple compound lifts).

Ultimately, all the neck needs is a little love and it’ll return the favor. Even the smallest growth is usually still usually perceptible because people look at the face first (and the neck’s attached to it).

Furthermore, if working out your neck doesn’t result in considerable size growth it should at least become more vascular, which creates an equally impressive visual aesthetic.

Overall, a well-developed neck contributes to a much more balanced over-all aesthetic and should be seriously incorporated into routines of all ectomorphs and bodybuilders with sloped shoulders.

*** If you’ve never trained your neck then start with a lighter weight than you think you can do and work your way into it. The neck is a critical and sensitive muscle group and mistakes are painful and costly. Ease into things and always control your weight throughout the entire range of motion.***

Shop neck harness to begin getting your trunk neck on just like Louie does above!

Last update on 2024-02-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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