A common difference between a bodybuilder who's been at it for a while, and a bodybuilder who's getting big, but not THAT big, is that the neck is much more developed.
Growing a thick and strong neck can help prevent injuries when lifting heavier weights during the major comprehensive exercises like behind the neck press and bench press.
The most common exercise to develop your neck muscles is the shrug. There are a few variations to the shrug, but it is as it suggests. You shrug your shoulders.
You can do the shrug using dumbells, or a barbell. And surprisingly you can often lift a fair bit of weight doing this exercise too. It's only got a short range of motion so you don't have to really do all that much work.
It's easy to do the shrug, just grab the weight, hold near your waist and shrug your shoulders like you don't give a damn. Lift them, up, then down slowly. The control of this exercise is important.
You can develop loads of strength by working with your ideal weight rep range between about 5-7. But be careful. You should make sure you're well warmed up before you start. Even before you attempt to find out what your best rep range is, you should do a couple of workouts using less weight. This is because the neck is a horrible place to get an injury. Just be careful if you've not done much neck work before. Injury in this area is the last thing you need.
There's another exercise you could try if you've been developing your neck for a while and you want more strength and definition.
It's called the Weighted Neck Flexion and it goes like this:
- Wrap a weight plate in a towel
- Lay on a bench with your head sticking out over the end (this is the professional description! haha)
- place the plate on your forehead and support your hands to support the weight
- lift your body in a situp style movement using your neck muscles till your chin touches your chest
- lower your body slowly till you are fully extended again
- Repeat until you're done.
This can be done in the reverse style too when you're on your stomach.
Other exercises include the neck extension and flexion. Simply place your hands on the appropriate side of the head and apply resistance while pussing in the other direction. You should feel a decent neck workout by simply using your own body to do the work like this. It's a great way to start.
Stay away from other exercises like the Neck Bridge unless you've been working out extensively for a good while and have need for this level of neck strength. This exercise would usually only be useful if you're into wrestling, boxing, martial arts etc. Make sure you get proper guidance if you're attempting the Neck Bridge.
Over all, the neck is only a small, but important part of the overall upper body routine. Workout your shoulders, chest and back regularly and chuck in a couple of sets of shrugs and you should be growing stronger and thicker neck muscles in no time.