How to Get a Thicker Neck (8 Proven Exercises To Add Width)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: November 28, 2023
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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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 exercises target key neck muscles including the sternocleidomastoid, trapezius, and platysma to enhance neck strength and aesthetics.
  • According to Sports Medicine, starting with light weights and progressively increasing is crucial to safely build neck muscle without injury.
  • In my experience, the combination of these specific neck exercises and progressive overload can significantly improve neck thickness and overall upper body strength.

Exercises to Strengthen the Neck

Person showing thicker neck

My team and I rigorously tested each neck exercise for safety and balance. We handpicked exercises aimed at neck thickening, focusing on hypertrophy and strength.

Rest assured, both newbies and pros can tackle these moves without fear of injury. Check out the top 7 neck-bulking exercises, all meeting our strict standards.

"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

I've found weighted shrugs to be a game-changer for my neck workouts. When I first started incorporating them with barbells and dumbbells, I noticed a significant improvement in my upper trapezius muscle strength.

It's a staple in my routine now, and I love the feeling of power it gives to my upper back.

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, a staple in my fitness regime, surprisingly boosted my neck strength when I started squeezing my shoulder blades with each rep. This tweak made a real difference in my neck and shoulders.

It's incredible how such a basic exercise ramps up neck strength.

They're great for beefing up your neck, firing up those trapezius muscles.

Remember, the key in any push-up variation is to always give those shoulder blades a good squeeze.

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

Adding the lateral neck flexion was a game-changer in my warm-up routine. Just a small tweak in my stance turned this simple exercise into a major neck strengthener.

It's a subtle move, but man, does it pack a punch in stretching and fortifying the neck muscles.

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].

One of my best tips is to 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's my top pick for a milder neck workout that packs a punch, especially for the front and underside of the neck.

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.

8. Partner Neck Resistance Drill

This is a dynamic exercise I learned from Total Shape coach Benedict Ang who's a Muay Thai fighter. It targets the muscles in the neck, providing an alternative to traditional shrugs.

This drill is especially beneficial for strengthening the neck muscles, enhancing muscular control, and improving overall neck strength and resilience.

How to Perform a Partner Neck Resistance Drill:

  1. Pair up with someone as strong as you for safety and effectiveness.
  2. Face each other and grip hands just below the head, atop the neck.
  3. Aim to gently pull your partner's neck down, coaxing their chin to their chest, as they resist.
  4. Both of you should resist in turn, offering equal opposition.
  5. Keep the pressure steady—no jerking—to stay injury-free.
  6. Resist for a few seconds, relax, and then do it again.
  7. Switch roles and repeat for 3 to 4 reps.

Related Articles:

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. Just a few weeks into my routine with barbell shrugs, my upper traps transformed noticeably. My neck didn't just look bigger; it felt stronger too.

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

Before training your neck, it's key to get the hang of its complex muscles. I always tell my clients that the neck's both strong and fragile, so wrong moves can easily hurt it.

It's vital to nail the right load, intensity, and rest to avoid injury. In neck training, it's all about knowing which muscles to hit and how hard to push 'em.

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

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 muscle turns your head right, and the right does the opposite. Working these muscles out is key to a thicker neck.

2. Trapezius Muscles

Your trapezius muscles are key to your neck's look, giving it width. These muscles consist of upper, middle, and lower fibers. To target the upper traps, I suggest any exercises that raise the shoulder wings or scapula.

The middle traps collaborate with the biceps to anchor the scapula to your torso, also retracting the shoulder blades away from the spine. This action pulls your shoulders back when you haul weight.

The upper traps primarily bolster your arms, resisting sideward pulls and downward forces. Lastly, the lower traps depress and rotate the scapula inward, crucial for working with other parts of your body.

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.

Its fibers stretch across the collarbone, reaching up both sides of the neck. The muscle's thickest part lets you lower your jaw. It also tugs your lower lip down, helping you express shock, sorrow, or irritation.

4. Spinal Erectors

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

They're key to a well-functioning back and maintaining a natural posture. The upper part of these muscles greatly influences your neck size.

In my experience if you want to beef up your neck effectively, don't skip exercises that work on upper or neck extension.

"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 example, neck curls with a 25-pound weight are safe as you can catch it with your hands, and it's not heavy enough to rip your muscles.

According to a study from Sports Medicine, it's crucial to start with light weights and gradually increase [2].

I've had clients rush to add more weight and hurt their neck muscles, complicating everyday activities since the neck is key to most 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, according to research from the National Library of Medicine [3].

A study from Health and Quality of Life Outcomes emphasizes this if you want to avoid chronic neck pain and get the most out of neck training [4].

  • To boost endurance, go for over 12 reps. Aim to do numerous sets with minimal rest in between.
  • For bigger neck muscles, stick to 6-12 reps.
  • For a thicker neck and less neck fat, do 3-5 sets with rest under 90 seconds.
  • For strength, keep reps below 5. Doing 3-5 sets is most effective for strength training.

Power training mirrors strength but with lighter weights for explosive movements. When I trained for a thicker neck, opting for up to 12 reps across several sets was ideal, keeping rest under 90 seconds.

FAQs

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.


References:

  1. www.researchgate.net/publication/354827528
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26861960/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9189733/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2877013/
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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