If there’s one mistake that boxing coaches make, it’s overlooking neck exercises. A professional boxer shouldn’t focus exclusively on punching strength but on dodging and agility too. So, why do boxers do neck exercises?

Boxers do neck exercises to achieve quicker head movements, reduce the chance of getting knocked out, and reduce injuries. If the neck is strong, it prevents the head from jerking back, which reduces the possibility of a concussion.

But what are the best neck exercises that boxers should focus on? In this article, I’ll explain which exercises you should do and which to avoid, and how they can help you.

The Benefits of Neck Exercises for Boxers

You can’t get a 20 in (50.80 cm) neck just from genetics. Watch this Youtube video of Mike Tyson doing neck exercises:

However, just because he did them doesn’t mean you should too. In truth, Tyson said that doing neck bridges for many years led to a world of hurt.

Here’s another Youtube video of Tyson talking about neck exercises:

But you can’t argue against the benefits of having a muscular neck. Let’s take a closer look at a few advantages.

Neck Exercises Improve Agility

Dodging a blow to your head is way more important than taking one. If you have a strong and agile neck combined with quick reflexes, you’re in luck.

Athleticism should be your primary focus as a boxer. A chain is as strong as its weakest link, and the neck is arguably the weakest link for many.

If you dodge a blow to the head just in time, it can be the difference between losing and winning.

So, a strong neck will help you dodge effectively and deliver quick counterblows.

A Strong Neck Reduces the Chance of K.O.

A blow can cause a ton of rotational force, which is the easiest way to knock an opponent out. Of course, a strong neck can reduce the impact by quite a bit.

You’ll inevitably get punched in the head during a boxing match. But if you have a strong neck, your head won’t torque as much, and you’ll stay conscious.

If you get knocked out, your opponent wins automatically. Having a strong neck won’t protect you entirely from knockouts, but it lowers the chances by a lot.

Neck Exercises Reduce Injuries

For starters, your head won’t swing around like a bobblehead when you get punched. A glass jaw and a toothpick neck are horrible things to have in the boxing ring.

Neck exercises strengthen the muscles that keep your head upright. They also protect your cervical spine from injury.

Cervical spinal cord injuries lead to temporary or permanent paralysis and loss of sensory function.

If you have a strong neck, you could survive Muhammad Ali’s punch. Your neck muscles will prevent the cervical spine from bending too far back from a mighty blow.

So, a strong neck is more than just good looks. It can save your life.

Here’s a YouTube video by Precision Striking showcasing how a strong neck helps absorb shock from a punch:

Neck Exercise Has Health Benefits

We’re all familiar with the numerous health benefits of exercise. Your neck is just another muscle in your body that you can work on and see results.

Here are some of the most notable health benefits of neck exercise:

  • Bone density. Exercise strengthens the bones and increases their density. Your cervical spine gets stronger when you do neck exercises.
  • Muscle strength. You can’t lift with your neck nearly as much as with other muscles, but you can strengthen the neck muscles a lot. A strong neck keeps your head straight and stable.
  • Boosts metabolism. Muscle is metabolically active. Having more muscles in your neck means you burn more calories when resting.
  • Life expectancy. Countless studies have proven that exercise increases life expectancy. I’d like to add that a strong neck can prevent fatal injuries in a car crash or fall.

Of course, you shouldn’t focus solely on your neck and ignore all other muscles. If you’re an athlete, you want to have an all-around strong body.

A strong neck can only help you achieve that goal. It’ll also help you develop explosive strength.

Best Neck Exercises for Boxers

Like virtually any other muscle, there are good, and there are bad exercises for the neck. Let’s take a look at the best and easiest ones first.

Neck Curls

Neck curls are one of the best neck exercises both for beginners and long-time gym-goers. Start neck curls with the smallest weight plate in the gym and work your way up to the heavy ones.

Here are the steps on how to do a neck curl correctly:

  1. Lay down on a flat bench with your head hanging from the edge.
  2. Put a towel on your forehead, then add a weight plate on top.
  3. Tuck your chin in and keep your core stable.
  4. Slowly bring your head down and push the weight back up while holding the weight plate.

I often see people in the gym doing crunches instead of neck curls. You must keep your back and shoulders on the bench at all times.

After all, you’re doing a neck exercise, not an ab, shoulder, or lat exercise. 

If you’re struggling with form, use a smaller weight plate or don’t use one at all. The weight of your head is enough for a beginner.

Lateral Neck Flexion

This exercise is identical to neck curls, but the difference is that you’re focusing on the lateral muscles.

Do the same steps for the neck curl, but lay on your side and flex your neck left to right. Repeat for the other side.

This exercise is arguably the most beneficial for boxers because you use the lateral muscles to dodge. They also prevent injury.

Neck Extensions

The neck extension is similar to the neck curl, but it’s for the other side of the neck. Sounds familiar?

That’s because it’s just like biceps curls and triceps extensions.

Here are the steps on how to do a neck extension:

  1. Lay down on a flat bench with your head hanging from the edge.
  2. Put a towel on the back of your head and add a weight plate on top.
  3. Tuck your chin in and press your body against the bench.
  4. Slowly lower and raise your head with your hands on the weight plate.

The only drawback of neck extensions is that you can’t use large weight plates. If you already have a strong neck, do the following exercise.

Standing Neck Extension (With Neck Harness)

You can do this exercise with small weight plates, but regular neck extensions will be just fine for beginners. However, if you already have a massive neck, this is the next step.

If you don’t have one, the DMoose Neck Harness (available on Amazon.com) is an outstanding choice. This neck harness features a strong chain for large weight plates, thick padding, and durable nylon straps.

Here’s a great YouTube video by PG Coaching explaining how to do a standing neck extension using a harness:

Worst Neck Exercises for Boxers

The reason why I put some of these exercises here has nothing to do with gains. You can build a massive neck with some of them, but they have a high risk of injury.

The neck is a sensitive area, so it’s best not to risk it. If you don’t want to snap your neck, avoid the following exercises.

Neck Bridge

You do the neck bridge by lying your head on the mat and thrusting your hips out. You then hold the position for about a minute, rest, and repeat.

Yes, the exercise builds muscle. Still, I discourage you from doing it. The longer you hold, the harder it gets.

And if your neck can’t hold it anymore, you might overextend it and injure yourself.

The position in which you do this exercise is ripe for injury. It’s not worth the risk, and you won’t see nearly as many gains as with curls and extensions.

Head Rocking (With or Without Hands)

Continuing the list of the worst ways to injure yourself, we have head rocking. And this applies to all types of rocking, from the front wrestler bridge to the weighted rocking bridge.

The position is the same as for the neck bridge, but the difference is that you rock your body. But maybe you shouldn’t listen to Justin Timberlake just this once.

Head rocking without hands takes it a step further because you have even less stabilization. It’s super easy to overextend your neck and have a temporary or permanent injury from this exercise.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a boxer, strengthening your neck is beneficial. You’ll be more nimble in the ring, and taking a blow to the head won’t knock you out.

There are many neck exercises out there, but avoid all exercises that put you at a high risk of injury.

Stick to traditional neck curls, extensions, and lateral flexions, and you’ll see huge gains by progressively overloading with heavier weight.