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How to Get a Thicker Neck (7 Proven Exercises To Add Width)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Last updated: April 10, 2023

A thicker neck can make you look larger, stronger, and more aesthetic.

It is crucial to build strength and hypertrophy in all muscles in and around the neck to get the most aesthetic and holistically developed upper back.

Based on our research, I curated a list of the 7 best neck exercises. It took me more than 17 hours of testing, and in the end, I singled out only the best exercises for strength and hypertrophy.

Keep reading below to learn the best exercises for the thicker neck, neck muscle anatomy, and more.

Quick Summary

  • Best exercises for a thicker neck include weighted shrugs, shoulder squeezes, push-ups, lateral neck flexion, neck rotation, tongue twister, and upright rows.
  • The most important neck muscles that must be developed to improve aesthetics include the sternocleidomastoideus, trapezius, and upright rows.
  • To get the most out of the neck training, you should incorporate progressive overload, which increases sets, reps, and intensity every next workout.

Exercises to Strengthen the Neck

Person showing thicker neck

My team and I tested all neck exercises from the list to ensure they were safe to perform and won’t develop muscle imbalances.

All exercises for a thicker neck were selected on the criteria of hypertrophy and strength.

Also, beginners and advanced lifters can perform the following neck exercises without worrying about injury or pain.

Below you may find the 7 best exercises to build a thick neck according to the previously-mentioned criteria.

"Isolating the neck will provide a great finishing touch to a powerful physique and help support good head position and better posture."

- Shane McLean, Certified Personal Trainer

1. Weighted Shrugs

Weighted shrugs are essential for developing a muscular neck base and strength in the upper back.

They are usually performed with barbells or dumbbells and will develop strength in the upper trapezius muscle.

Shrugs should be placed later in the workout and after compound thick neck exercises.

How to Perform Weighted Shrugs:

  1. Place a barbell on the rack and load it with the appropriate weight for 12 repetitions.
  2. Take a slightly wider pronated grip than shoulder width apart and place your thighs/front of the quads against the barbell.
  3. Lift the barbell off the rack and step back to have enough space for the exercise.
  4. Start the exercise by elevating your shoulder blade towards the ceiling and moving the barbell up.
  5. When you reach maximum elevation, hold that position for a second.
  6. Reverse the entire motion by depressing your shoulder blades to return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for 12 reps and up to 4 sets.

2. Shoulder Squeeze

Man doing shoulder squeezes

The shoulder squeeze exercise isn’t performed by squeezing your shoulders but by protracting and retracting your shoulder blades or scapula.

Shoulder squeezes are frequently used as a prevention and correction to functional kyphosis and are essential for maintaining a physiological posture of the spine.

Shoulder squeeze will activate the middle portion of the trapezius muscles, making it bring two shoulder wings together.

How to Perform Shoulder Squeezes:

  1. Assume a lying position on your stomach and abduct your hands for 90 degrees.
  2. Your elbows should be flexed at 90 degrees angle too.
  3. Begin the exercise by lifting your arms from the floor and bringing your shoulder wings closer to each other.
  4. When you reach maximal protraction, hold that position and squeeze the shoulder blades for one second.
  5. Reverse the motion by retracting your scapula to return to the starting position.

3. Push-Ups

Push-ups are horizontal push upper body compound neck exercises that strengthen the shoulder and chest musculature and improve shoulder blades' function.

Push-ups are excellent for developing a muscular neck since they activate the trapezius muscles necessary to grow the area around the neck.

Also, there are many push-up variations, but the most important thing is to always purposefully and consciously squeeze your shoulder blades.

How to Perform a Push-up:

  1. Assume a push-up position with your feet a little narrower than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Internally rotate your shoulder for 30 degrees, flex the arm for 45 degrees, and abduct the shoulder for 60 degrees.
  3. This is called the functional shoulder position and should be the beginning position of the push-up exercise.
  4. Start the exercise by lowering yourself. This entails flexing your elbows and abducting your shoulder.
  5. When your chest touches the floor, hold that position for a second.
  6. Reverse the motion by extending the elbow and adducting the shoulder to return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for up to 12 reps and 4 sets with your body weight.

4. Lateral Neck Flexion

Stretching side neck muscles

Lateral neck flexion is an essential warm-up exercise performed before every workout.

However, placing your body in an unfavorable position and performing lateral neck flexion becomes a neck-strengthening exercise.

The primary muscle working to flex your neck laterally is the sternocleidomastoideus.

How to Perform Lateral Neck Flexion:

  1. Assume a lying position on the side of your body on the flat bench.
  2. You should be off the bench, and it should be the only part of your body not supported by the bench.
  3. Start the exercise by laterally flexing your neck towards the ground without moving any other body part.
  4. Hold the position for one second when you reach the maximal lateral flexion or when the head is closest to the ground.
  5. Reverse the motion by bringing your head to the anatomical position.
  6. Repeat for 8 reps and 3-4 sets for both sides.

5. Neck Rotation

Neck rotation is another excellent movement that will activate the sternocleidomastoid muscles and build neck strength [1].

You can also place your head in an unfavorable position against gravity to achieve a greater intensity of the exercise.

How to Perform Neck Rotation:

  1. Assume a lying position on your side on the flat bench.
  2. Your head should be placed off the bench, meaning it should be the only body part not supported by the bench.
  3. Start the exercise by rotating your neck towards the ground.
  4. When you reach the maximal rotation, hold that position for one second.
  5. Reverse the motion of the exercise to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 10 reps and 3 sets.
  7. Change the lying side when you finish 10 reps to work the other sternocleidomastoid muscle.

6. Tongue Twister

Woman pointing inside her mouth

A tongue twister is a stretching and gentle exercise for strengthening weak platysma.

It is perfect for strengthening the underside and front of the neck without damaging or tearing the body.

How to Perform Tongue Twisters:

  1. Assume a sitting or standing position.
  2. Start the exercise by pushing your tongue against your mouth's roof behind your teeth.
  3. Use your tongue to push up on the roof of your mouth while humming a neutral tone. This will activate the front muscle of your neck's side.
  4. Continue to exercise for up to 20 seconds and repeat for 5 sets.

7. Upright Rows

Upright rows are a traditional back and shoulder strengthening exercise.

This is excellent strengthening exercise for your trapezius muscles, making your neck look bigger and more aesthetic.

How to Perform Upright Rows:

  1. Assume a standing position and load the barbell in front of you with the appropriate weight, meaning you can complete 8 rows.
  2. Hold the loaded barbell in your hands with your elbows fully extended.
  3. Start the exercise by rowing the barbell towards your neck. This entails flexing your elbows and abducting the shoulder.
  4. When you reach the top position, hold for one second.
  5. Reverse the motion by extending the elbow and adducting the shoulder to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 8 reps and 3-4 sets.

Which Exercise Is Best for a Thicker Neck?

Woman showing her neck muscles while working out

The best exercise for the neck is barbell shrugs.

Barbell shrugs will make your upper traps look bigger and increase the size of your neck’s appearance.

All shrug and upright row variations will make your neck look bigger.

This is because, visually, traps are the most important muscles for making your neck look bigger.

Neck Muscles

You must grasp the intricacies of neck muscles before beginning to train that area of your body.

The neck is very important to understand since it is a strong muscle but easily tearable in some parts.

This is crucial because improper loading, intensity, and rest intervals can injure your neck.

The philosophy behind neck training is to know which muscles you can work out and which intensity you should apply.

1. Sternocleidomastoid

Showing neck muscle illustration

Sternocleidomastoid muscles are long muscles located on the side of your neck.

Their main functions are flexion, extension, neck lateral flexion, and neck rotation.

The left sternocleidomastoid muscle will rotate the head on the opposite side of it and vice versa.

Strengthening these two neck muscles is significant for growing your neck bigger.

2. Trapezius Muscles

Your trapezius muscles play the most significant part in the neck's appearance, because traps add to the wideness of your neck.

The trapezius muscle is built from three streams of fiber—lower, upper, and middle fibers.

You must perform neck exercises that include scapular or shoulder wing elevation to work out your upper trapezius muscles.

The middle or transverse region of the traps works with the biceps brachii to keep the scapula attached to the body.

It will also be responsible for scapular retraction or bringing your shoulder blades further from the spine.

This is the primary reason the shoulder shifts back when pulling weight toward your body.

The upper region of the traps mainly supports your arms.

This trap part can resist forces pulling your arms or any lateral movements.

Finally, the lower part of your traps depresses and medially rotates your scapula.

This movement is important since it is in conjunction with other body parts.

3. The Platysma

Man showing platysma muscle on his neck

The platysma is the muscle that aches and is in pain when you strain your neck.

This is a thin sheet and broad muscle located under your chin and on the upper area of your pectoral muscles.

Platysma's muscle fibers cross over the collarbone and work up towards both sides of the neck.

The thickest portion of platysma is responsible for depressing your lower jaw.

You can't keep your mouth shut without it.

In addition, these muscles pull your lower lip down, allowing you to angle the mouth when you get surprised, sad, or angry.

4. Spinal Erectors

Spinal erectors are two long back muscles responsible for moving the vertebral column.

They are essential for the proper functioning of your back and keeping the posture physiological.

The upper portion of the spinal erectors will play a significant part in your neck size.

That's why exercises that include an upper or neck extension are essential for holistically developing your neck.

"The neck may be one of the most neglected areas when it comes to strength training in martial arts with the focus on improving overall strength, power, and endurance instead."

- James de Lacey, Professional Strength & Conditioning Coach

Should We Build Muscle in Our Necks?

Neck muscle silhouette

Yes, we should build muscle in our necks. However, you must implement proper load, rest intervals, sets, and reps to avoid neck tightness or injury.

For instance, doing neck curls with 25 pounds is considered safe since you can catch the weight with your hands, and the weight itself can't tear your muscles.

It is important to keep the loads light and progress slowly [2].

If you progress the load too fast, you may injure neck muscles and make your daily life much harder since the neck is involved in all functional movements.

Sets, Reps & Training Frequency

Holding side neck muscles

When considering sets, reps, and frequency for thick neck, we must evaluate our goals first.

This is because specific results require specific methods of neck training [3].

This is important to avoid chronic neck pain and get the most out of neck training [4].

The best rep range to aim for endurance is more than 12 repetitions.

It would be best to do as many sets as possible and with as little rest in between as possible.

The best rep range for hypertrophy (bigger neck muscles) is from 6 to 12.

To get a thicker neck and decrease neck fat, the number of sets will range from 3 to 5, and the rest between the sets should be no more than 90 seconds.

You should follow the rep range below 5 repetitions for strength neck training.

Sets-wise, completing 3-5 is proven to be the most efficient.

Power is the same as strength, but the load will be lighter since you must execute the movement explosively.

Since you are probably aiming for a thicker neck, which is muscle hypertrophy, doing up to 12 reps for multiple sets will be the best choice, and the rest shouldn’t exceed more than 90 seconds.


Can You Thicken Your Neck Muscles?

Yes, you can thicken your neck muscles. To thicken your neck muscles, you should perform exercises that will strengthen your trapezius, sternocleidomastoideus, and platysma.

What Muscle Makes Your Neck Thicker?

The muscles that make your neck thicker include the trapezius, sternocleidomastoideus, and platysma.

Why Is My Neck So Skinny?

Your neck is so skinny because you have weak muscles around your neck. To build a thick neck, do exercises that will increase the size of your upper trapezius.

Barbell Shrugs are the Most Effective Exercise for Building Neck Muscles

The most important exercise for building neck muscles is barbell shrugs.

Barbell shrugs will build your upper traps, which are visually the most important for making your neck appear bigger.

Based on our experience, you need a high-quality and long-lasting barbell to perform barbell shrugs and build a strong neck.

Check our guide on the 10 best barbells for your home gym to learn everything you need before purchasing it.

Let me know which thicker neck exercise is your favorite and why.


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