Build Your Shield

by Adam benShea on May 16, 2013

A fighter places a lot of focus on adding weapons to his arsenal. Hours are spent building shoulder strength to increase punching power, or years are dedicated to increasing grip strength for tighter chokes. Yet, many forget the importance of constructing a shield. What do I mean? When a warrior goes to battle, he must have a sword and a shield. The neck is the fighter’s shield.

The neck is one of the most crucial areas a fighter can build to create a stronger defense. A strengthened neck can enable one to more easily absorb head strikes. Similarly, a strong neck is essential for defending chokes. In addition, a strong neck allows for establishing better head position in the clinch. It should not be forgotten that a strong neck can also reduce the likelihood of many injuries commonly associated with the movements of kickboxing, grappling, and MMA.

There are many ways to increase neck strength. Most gyms include machines used exclusively for neck development. These can be good and should not be dismissed. Additionally, the deadlift is a great exercise for strengthening the neck. Shrugs also enable the training of neck muscles. However, here are some ideas that should be considered when constructing a neck training program:

Nod if You Want a Stronger Neck
This is a staple training technique of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo fighters. Lie on your back. Lift your head and bring your chin to your chest for a set of 40. Keep your head off the mat and look to your left for a set of 40. Repeat to the right. Keeping your head raised off the ground, touch your left ear to your left shoulder for 40 repetitions. Repeat to your right.

Walk Tall
This movement was made popular after it was performed by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Rickson Gracie in the 1999 documentary “Choke.” Attach one side of the resistance band to an immovable object and loop the other side around your forehead. With good posture, walk forward until the band becomes taut. Then, incrementally, continue to move forward. This unorthodox training technique will increase your neck, and overall, strength.

Build a Bridge to Strength
For centuries, the wrestler’s bridge has been used by grapplers (and some boxers-it was a favorite of Mike Tyson) to develop the neck. To perform the bridge, lie on your back and thrust your pelvic area toward the ceiling. Continue this movement until all your weight is distributed between your toes and the crown of your head (with your torso in a good arch). For first timers, try to hold the bridge for one continuous minute. Increase the time as you progress (this is a more advanced technique and should not be attempted by those who lack muscular development in the neck).

While many discount the significance of neck training as part of a conditioning regiment, it is an integral aspect in a fighter’s preparation process. When packing for battle, remember to bring your sword and your shield.

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