Are Neck Bridges Dangerous?

neck bridge
December 5, 2022 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “are neck bridges dangerous?”. Neck training is important in the pursuit of a well balanced physique. There is nothing worse than being muscular all over and having a pencil neck.

This detracts a lot from your overall physique and makes you look weak and small. Having a thick and powerful neck is very masculine and can make you look a lot more powerful.

The neck bridge is one tool in your arsenal in the quest for a bigger and stronger neck. It is commonly used by wrestlers and combat athletes. The neck bridge is a controversial exercise. I will explore the safety concerns of the exercise in this article.

Are Neck Bridges Dangerous?

Overall, neck bridges are a very good exercise for strengthening your neck and building it up. However, you have to take some precautions and be aware of this risks.

The exercise does introduce a lot of compressive forces in the neck joint. It is possible to get a vertebrae compressing a nerve. Therefore, this exercise is more advanced and it is a sport specific exercise for wrestlers and combat athletes.

I wouldn’t advise beginners to neck training to start with this exercise. You should start light with neck curls and neck extensions and progress on these exercises over time. Once your neck is pretty strong you can consider introducing neck bridges.

Neck bridges are primarily suited to people whose necks are already well conditioned to resistance training. If you have a pencil neck you certainly should not be jumping into neck bridges as an introductory exercise.

There is a safer alternative to neck bridges that you can try which is a lot safer. This involves positioning a flat bench behind you and bridging onto this with a more neutral neck position.

neck bridge

Develop A Base Level Of Neck Strength

As neck bridges are a more advanced movement for training the neck and not as safe as other neck exercises, you should not attempt neck bridges before building up a good base level of strength in your neck.

This is imperative, and will drastically reduce the risks of suffering injuries on the neck bridge exercise. A good way to build up your neck size and strength is through performing neck curls and neck extensions.

You can do these exercises with plates or bands and you could also incorporate a side movement for the neck. Moving your neck side to side against resistance. Plate neck curls and extensions are typically done on a flat bench – holding weights to your forehead for neck curls and a weight behind your head for neck extensions.

A towel is used to make the exercise more comfortable and not result in bruising. For band neck curls I prefer to do these standing. Simply drape a resistance band over something sturdy, position it at forehead height and walk forward. Then you can do your neck curls from a standing position. 

Personally I prefer using bands for this type of neck training. I find plates to be very cumbersome when the weight gets very heavy. I like the fluid range of motion that using bands affords me. 

More Advantageous For Wrestlers

Overall, the neck bridge is a lot more advantageous for wrestlers to be using. The fact is that wrestling is incredibly demanding and unforgiving on the neck muscles.

Kurt Angle for example has an incredibly thick neck and he worked his neck extra hard after suffering a broken neck in the past. The reason he continues to train his neck so intensely is to bulletproof it and ensure that it doesn’t get injured again from wrestling.

For the vast majority of people, they will never experience the demands on their neck that wrestlers do. When analysing the risk to reward ratio of this exercise, it is clear that the risk is high and therefore I would only recommend this exercise to combat athletes. 

There is a safer version of the neck bridge that I will discuss later in this article.

Athlean-X Views On Neck Bridges

Athlean-X has similar views to me on the utility of neck bridges. He also outlines that it can cause nerve compression. This can result in bad neck pain and even a loss of feeling and weakness in some parts of the body.

At the same time, he acknowledges that neck bridges can successfully build up your neck and make it stronger. The risk to reward ratio is just not skewed in your favour for the vast majority of people.

As a result, he advises people to go down the route of doing plate neck curls and extensions, as well as training the side neck muscles. This is exactly the same advice that I give, just that I would advise people to try bands as well in their neck training.

Safer Alternative To Neck Bridges

A safer alternative to neck bridges that allows a more neutral neck position, is to do neck bridges on a flat bench behind you. 

An image of what this would look like can be seen below. Doing neck bridges in this manner, you would use isometric tension and hold the position. This way you make the neck bridge exercise a lot safer. 

There is a lot less compression on the neck with this variation, but it is still super effective for the majority of people. 
neck bridge

Final Thoughts

Are neck bridges dangerous? The neck bridge is certainly not the safest exercise. There are risks to be aware of in terms of compressive forces and potential hyperextension of the cervical spine. 

It is an advanced exercise and should not be attempted by people with no previous background in neck training. My advice would be to only perform this exercise if you have already progressed to respectable numbers on the neck curl and neck extension.

Neck bridges are primarily suited to wrestlers and MMA fighters. The majority of people can train their necks without exposing themselves to as much potential risk. You can do the neck bridge variation on a flat bench or just perform neck curls and extensions regularly with plates or bands.

If you have any comments please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

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