Direct neck training has once again become new. Recreational lifters and strength athletes are doing it more often now, probably because they saw a video of their favorite athlete doing it. But the difference between strategic neck programs used too reduce concussion rates and cranking out ugly neck extensions with a leather harness is vast.
Unless you plan in taking part in activities that involve mandatory head trauma, there are better ways to build up your yoke. The truth is that most lifters are after a hypertrophy and strength response in the traps, and working the smaller segmental stabilizers or dynamic movers isn’t going to get them there.
Do This Instead: Trap Bar Deadlift with Shrug
To target the neck directly without placing the cervical spine at risk for acute injury, recognize that the main action of the trapezius muscle (all three diverse regions of muscular fiber orientation) is to stabilize the shoulder blade and upper back.
The traps respond extremely well under shorter range-of-motion exercises under more intense loading, so the use of isometrics and slight range of motion movements are ideal for building a strong and stable yoke.
You can program this exercise two different ways: add shrugs to the tail-end of a set of trap bar deadlifts, or do 3-5 shrugs between reps of trap bar deadlifts.
Both of these methods can be effective, but to ensure proper loading and targeting of the traps, you may want to use straps so that your grip doesn’t give out before your upper back and traps.