The boxing neck bridge is a well-known exercise used to strengthen, train, and protect the neck. Variations of this type of exercise are used across different combat sports, but it’s instrumental in boxing.
The boxing neck bridge is helpful because it allows you to protect and enhance a vulnerable part of your body. A strong neck can defend you in boxing when your head gets knocked back from a punch.
So it’s a helpful exercise! Let’s dive into more in detail about what it is, how to perform it, and whether or not it’s a safe exercise.
Fundamentals about the neck bridge exercise
The most significant advantage of neck bridge training is that it helps grow and strengthen the neck, which can protect you in boxing. Even if you’re not a boxer, there are health benefits to reap if you do the exercise right.
You can gain a thicker, stronger neck by doing the neck bridge properly over and over again over time. It’s key to make sure you’re performing the exercise right.
The reason is, of course, that this exercise is a little more dangerous than a pushup or a jumping jack. You’re rolling a massive weight on your neck and using it to keep yourself up, almost like a neck pushup.
Sometimes this exercise can be called neck rolls or even wrestler neck bridges. Combat sports athletes from various disciplines have used this technique to maximize their strength.
Boxing, competitive wrestling, WWE, and even Kung Fu martial artists. It’s a kind of elite strengthening for high-level athletes.
With all that being said, this probably isn’t a suitable exercise for beginner boxing.
It’s something to consider using for intermediate-to-advanced boxers who are perhaps training for a fight and have a lot of guidance from their team.
How to perform the neck bridge
You must perform a neck bridge with the proper form if you wish to get your gains safely.
Remember: You’re exercising your neck, a fragile part of the human body. So you should probably do this with a trained coach’s guidance.
The proper neck bridge form is as follows:
- Start by laying a towel or pillow down on the floor: this is both for your comfort and to try and help prevent injury.
- Your hands should be flat on the ground, as should your feet. Your knees should be sticking up.
- Carefully neck roll and push backward, putting the weight and pressure on the back of your neck as you extend yourself upwards. You’re making your neck bear the weight but in a specific way.
- You then slowly go back towards the ground and release the movement. Repeat to do your reps.
It isn’t that difficult or complex to do the neck bridge. But the neck bridge DOES pose an injury risk because of the motion and weight bearing on your neck.
Be careful with your form when doing the neck bridge, and consult a trained professional to help you.
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Advantages of the neck bridge
The neck bridge is an excellent exercise for boxers (and others who want to train their neck) because it’s pretty effective.
It’s well-known that at 18, due to doing neck bridges relentlessly, Mike Tyson had a 20-inch neck. It was ludicrously thick.
For boxers, the ability to reduce or avoid whiplash from having your head knocked back from a punch is a worthwhile reward.
You’ll gain both strength and endurance by training your neck. You’ll make it harder to injure yourself and better protect a vulnerable part of your body.
Whether you’re a fighter or not, training your neck has many upsides.
Does it have downsides and risks, however? Unfortunately, it does.
Risks of doing the neck bridge
Performing any exercise in an unsafe or incorrect way can result in potential injury. But the neck bridge is unique compared to most exercises.
In other forms of training, if you make a mistake, you might pull a muscle (I’ve pulled my Serratus Anterior multiple times) or injure yourself for a short period. It will be painful, of course.
Not only will you survive it, but you’ll also probably learn and grow from it (and correct your form, so it doesn’t happen again).
The neck bridge is a bit different. Because of the delicate area, you could seriously injure yourself if doing it incorrectly.
Injuring your neck is different than pulling a muscle in your back or twisting your ankle. It’s a lot riskier. You could be at serious risk for the kind of injury you can’t just bounce back from.
Is doing the neck bridge safe?
After reading the above information, you’re likely not feeling too hot about the neck bridge. I get it; that makes sense! But it’s not the worst exercise in the world if you are smart about training with it.
Plenty of people perform the neck bridge just fine without any issues. The central part is that you make sure your form is correct. Having poor form is the worst thing you can do.
The neck bridge is as safe as any other exercise when performed correctly, but that kind of logic doesn’t flow to anyone who can think beyond the first step.
Just because it can be performed correctly doesn’t mean it will be, so I would argue that there is some inherent risk in training with the neck bridge.
Is that risk worth it? It depends on how you feel. It’s one of the better neck exercises and very effective: just also hard to perform and easy to get wrong.
Final say on the neck bridge workout
Finally, the last question: should you use this exercise?
Only if you’re sure this is what you need to improve your body, and you will be supported by a coach.
The neck bridge could help you to become an even better boxer with greater neck stability to withstand heavy punches.
There are alternatives for almost every exercise, training, regimen, and diet. There are replacements and different options for everything.
The neck bridge isn’t much different; there are other options.
Other popular neck exercises are practical; moves like chin tucks or back burns may work. I only give you these alternatives if the neck bridge seems too risky.
Truthfully, the neck bridge isn’t some overly dangerous exercise. The real problem is overestimating your ability and going too fast too quickly.
The DOMs will be massive from this exercise because your body has probably never felt it before. So you really need to pace yourself and stay far away from overtraining.
With that in mind, you can train with the neck bridge. Just ensure you’re experienced or that someone else is watching you while you do it.
Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.