How to Develop Neck Muscles? The Oldschool Way!

The following article was written by David Willoughby. He was one of a greatest writers and a serious historians. He was born Mar 17, 1900 and 1983 he died at the age of 83. Hats off to Mr. Willoughby effort and work! You don’t need weights, equipment or a gym. You can perform the following neck workout at home, have fun! – Mr. Berg

Oldschool Neck Workout by David Willoughby
A sturdy, good-sized neck is valuable physical attribute and a sign of masculine vigor. A physically undeveloped individual may, through the aid of cleverly-tailored clothes, partially disguise the skinniness of his arms and legs, or the narrowness of his shoulders – but not the appearance of his neck.

A scrawny, undeveloped condition of this part not only makes a poor impression upon others, but also may call attention to a general feebleness of physique.

In most cases the condition is quite inexcusable, since the neck is one of the easiest parts of the body to exercise, develop and improve.

Observant trainers and medical examiners are well aware of the connection between the appearance of a man’s neck and his general bodily vigor. Poor condition, or lowered vitality, is shown not only in the thin (or fat) neck of the man who never exercises, but also in a drawn or haggard appearance of the fact and neck of the athlete who is over-trained. Hence the condition of the neck may be taken is one of the several outward indexes of health.

To digress, it is of interest to note that among most mammals, the adult male usually has a decidedly larger neck than the female or immature male.

This is not necessarily a consequence of the male animal being larger generally, since even in relation to its other girth measurements the neck of the bull, stallion, buck or ram is noticeably larger than the neck of the cow, mare, doe or ewe.

Thus there is evidently a positive correlation between the sex of an animal (mammal), the development of its thyroid gland and cartilage (in man, “Adam’s apple”), and the size and strength of the surrounding musculature.

In any event, the aspirant to masculine physical perfection should strive for a full, rounded development of the neck. In accordance with this he should regard with disdain any suggestion of scrawniness or flabbiness in this part. Contrariwise, if his neck is well-rounded and muscular, of ample size, and erectly poised on his shoulders, he should feel fortunate in possessing one of the most dependable indicators of all-round health and fitness.

The muscular anatomy of the neck is correlated chiefly with movements of the head and shoulders. The structure and placement of the neck muscles permits the head to be moved in various direction. Without going too deeply into the technicalities of the subject, we may with advantage briefly consider the location and actions of the larger and more important muscles of the neck – those which, through development, contribute the most to an improvement in the size, shape, and strength of this part.

One of the largest and most important muscles of the neck and shoulder region is the trapezius. This muscle, because of its extensive area and various attachments, has a number of functions, some quite unrelated to others.

Willoughby pointed out that of the actions of the trapezius was, through its effect in rotating the shoulder-blades, to assist in raising the arms (as in pressing a weight) from the level of the shoulders to overhead. 

how to develop neck muscles

Another function of the trapezius is to squeeze the shoulder-blades together, as when the shoulders are drawn backward.

But in this action the trapezius is best considered a muscle of the upper back, or rear chest, rather than of the neck. Our object here will be to note in particular such portions of the trapezius as are concerned with movement of the head and so with the development of the neck proper. These portions are the uppermost ones, that is, regions 1 and 2 in the accompanying drawing (Figure 1).

As will be seen from the drawing, the right and left halves of the trapezius unite in the middle of the back and form an extensive muscle of diamond or kite-like shape.

Indeed, the trapezius is so named from its appearance, the term being derived from trapezium, meaning a four-sided plane figure with two parallel sides. Trapezium, in turn, comes from the Greek trapezion, a diminutive of trapezius may be called the table-shape muscle.

Referring again to Figure 1, it may be pointed out that the trapezius has its origin in the base of the skull, ligament of the neck, and the row of vertebrae from the seventh (or lowest) cervical to the twelfth (or lowest) dorsal. Its insertion is along a curve on the top of each shoulder, the muscle being attached to the outer third of the rear side of each collar-bone, the top of each acromion and the upper edge of the spine of each shoulder-blade.

This origin and insertion indicates that the chief function of the trapezius are to draw the head backward (or backward and to one side), shrug the shoulders, draw the shoulders backward, and (through its action in rotating the shoulder blades) assist in raising the arms overhead.

Next in importance are the pair of neck muscles called sternomastoid (see figures 1 and 2). Actually the full name is sterno-cleido-mastoid, this being derived from the attachments of each muscle to the sternum, the clavicle, and the mastoid process of the skull, respectively.

The pair of sternomastoid muscles form the familiar V-shaped notch down the front and sides of the neck. When the lower end of the sternomastoid are the fixed points, which is usually the case, the two muscles flex the neck, that is, draw the chin downward toward the chest.

When one muscle alone contracts, it rotates the face to the opposite side. The sternomastoid are also important muscles of respiration, acting in all instances where deep breathing is demanded, but not in ordinary breathing.

The trapezius and the two sternomastoid muscles together constitute the greater portion of the back and sides of the neck. Assisting the trapezius in the movement of drawing the head backward is the splenius, a muscle running on each side of the back of the neck and attaching at the top to the base of the skull (see Figures 1 and 2.)

The splenius is especially important for maintaining an erect posture of the head and neck. When this muscle lack strength or tone, the neck droops and the head pokes forward. Hence the importance of the splenius, and the trapezius, in the chain of muscles involved in good posture.

In the front of the neck, a thin, broad, muscular sheet, lying just under the skin, covers the upper part of the chest and shoulders and the entire throat, passing obliquely upward to attach to the chin and jaw.

This muscle is known as the platysma myoids, meaning “flat muscle”. It’s function is to wrinkle the skin on the front of the neck, and – as some of its fibers connect with those just above the lower jaw – to draw down the corners of the mouth. More important, in neck development, is the fact that the platysma cooperates with the sternomastoid and other smaller neck muscles in drawing the head forward and downward.

Hence, a full development of this muscle group goes a long way toward eliminating the thin, “filled-with-hollows” neck so often seen in undeveloped individuals.

“Resistance” exercises, in which the strength of one part of the body (usually the arms) is pitted against that of another part, are well suited for developing the muscles of the neck. Here are several such arm-resistance exercises for increasing the size and strength of the back, front, and sides of the neck, exercises should be practiced (if you are just beginning training) for at least several week before advancing to any of the heavier neck exercises to be described later.

neck muscle exercises oldschool

Exercise 1
Standing erect, with hands grasping the back of the head, fingers interlaced, as in Figure 3, pull the head forward to the chest, meanwhile resisting with the neck. Return the head backward against pressure of the hands, and repeat.

Do not apply the arm-resistance jerkily or too strongly, but evenly and well within the strength of the neck muscles until they are thoroughly “warmed up”.

Then the pressure can be increased, but it will still be wise to use moderation and so avoid straining any of the neck muscles.

Exercise 2
With the palms of the hands pressed against the forehead, or under the chin, force the head forward and downward against the hands. Then push the head backward against resistance of the throat muscles, and repeat.

By drawing down the corners of the mouth during this exercise, additional development of the thin, sheet-like platysma myoids muscle covering the front of the throat will result.

Exercise 3
With the right hand placed against the right side of the head push the head toward the left shoulder against the resistance of the neck. Return the head to the right shoulder against the pressure of the right hand.

After completing the required number of counts for the right side of the neck, repeat for the left side – pressing with the left hand against the left side of the head.

The three foregoing exercises, if steadily practiced, will quickly increase the size and strength of the neck. Exercise 1 develops the muscles at the back of the neck; Exercise 2, the muscles of the throat; and Exercise 3, the muscles at the sides and front of the neck.

Besides having these effect, the foregoing exercises, particularly Exercise 1, are often effective in relieving an ordinary headache.

Exercise 2 is especially recommended for all who have and are desirous of removing, a flabby or wrinkled condition of the front of the neck. A fourth exercise of the same type is to rotate the head from one side to other other, while resisting the action by pressing with one hand against the side of the face and jaw – first a number of counts for one side, then for the other, and so on.

Each of these exercises should be repeated about 10 times at the start, in the order described. Gradually work the number of repetitions up to a maximum of 15 to 20 for each exercise.

After doing the exercises, it is of advantage to roll the head round and round by bending the neck in a circular motion, several times in one direction and then in the other.

This will make the muscles and joints of the neck limber and free-moving.

Where two or more persons trains together, as in a home gym or a club, Exercises 1, 2,  and 3, just described, may be “given” by one person to another. This procedure makes the work more interesting and therefore more likely to be applied effectively. It should be added, however, that the aforementioned exercises, when self-administered properly, are alone capable of building the neck to a high state of size and strength.

Where two person give each other neck work, the person (A) who receives the exercise assumes a position on his hands and knees with back horizontal. The person (B) who applies the exercise commences as follows.

Exercise 5 (for the back of the neck). 
The applier of the exercises, B, stands to the right side of A, placing his right hand on the back of A’s back. In this position B simply pushes downward with his right hand, while A against this pressure, raises and lowers his head in a pump-like motion the desired number of times.

Exercise 6 (for the front of the neck). In this exercise, B takes a position astride A’s back. Interlacing his finger across A’s forehead, he pulls upward continuously – sitting on A’s back if necessary – but just strongly enough to permit A to raise and lower his head the predetermined number of times.

Exercise 7 (for the sides of the neck)
This exercise is performed with B standing in the same position as for Exercise 6. Here; however, B braces his left hand against A’s left shoulder, and pushes against the right side of A’s head with his right hand while A moves his head from side to side.

After the required number of repetitions, the exercise is given equally to the left side of the neck, in which action B pushes on the left side of A’s head with his left hand, and so on.

Exercise 8 (for all parts of the neck)
The final exercise in the series is for A to move his head round and round circularly, while B resists him (holding A’s head with both hands) just sufficiently to permit such movement. In doing this, B should press downward on A’s head part of the time, then pull upward for a like period. In forcibly circling his head against this varied resistance, A’s neck muscles will receive exercise from practically all angles.

On the other hand, in applying these several neck exercises, B, the top man, will incidentally receive quite a bit of arm exercise, especially if A happens to have a sturdy neck.

In all this two-man neck work, it is advisable to use a rough towel on the head to prevent slippage of the top man’s hands.

Also, the caution previously given should be observed: that is, to apply all resistance smoothly and without undue pressure, so as to avoid straining any of the neck muscles.

As to repetitions, 10 good pushes (or pulls) in each of the exercises prescribed should provide ample developing work for the neck.

Increased effect should come from gradually increasing the arm resistance rather than adding to the number of repetitions.

Here; as for the self-given resistance exercises, it is beneficial to conclude by rolling the head round and round while in a standing position, say 5 to 10 times in each direction, meanwhile keeping the neck muscles as relaxed as possible.

This will tend to offset any possible stiffening of the neck muscles from the developing exercises.

As a preliminary exercise for the trapezius muscles, one of the most simple and yet effective movements is, while standing erect, to hold a barbell hanging at arms’ length in front of the body, and then to alternately raise (shrug) and lower the shoulders while keeping the arms straight.

Variation may be introduced by moving the shoulders circularly rather than straight up and down – circling first in one direction and then in the other.

Another variation is to hold the barbell behind rather than in front of the body. In raising the shoulders, bring them as close to the ears as possible, and in lowering them observe the same principle – maximum range of the movement.

In this exercise an amount weight should be used that permits of at least 15 “shrugs” being made at the start, gradually increasing to 30 shrugs. Then add about 15 percent to the weight of the barbell and recommence with 15 repetitions.

The “shoulder shrug” can, of course, be performed also with a pair of dumbbells, but a barbell is easier on the grip and so enables the exercise to be directed more exclusively to the trapezius.

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