The importance of a strong neck is not to be taken lightly. You are effectively building up the muscles which support your head, thus leaving you less susceptible to powerful shots which can stun you, or end the fight then and there. Heavyweight fighters probably pay more attention to building up their neck muscles than lower-weight fighters, as the impact of shots is typically a lot more severe. In Muay Thai, however, the importance of building ample neck strength is more important than just protecting you from being knocked out.
Neck Strength in The Clinch
You may have seen Muay Thai fighters undergo a series of neck-strengthening exercises. There is a chance that you have wondered why they pay so much attention to developing these muscles. The answer is that the impact on their necks comes from more than just strikes. As the clinch is a major part of Muay Thai, fighters will need all the support they can get from their neck.
A fighter that controls the clinch effectively controls the bout, for as long as they have their opponent where they want them. With two hands on the head or neck, an opponent with clinch control can crank the neck down and land knees from the inside. The pressure applied to an opponent who is not in the dominant position can be significant enough to damage them to the point where they are fighting at less than their maximum ability.
In order to survive an aggressive clinch, a fighter must keep their neck and body in an upright position in order to resist the pressure. In order to do this, neck strength is of vital importance. Anything less than good strength in this department can see fighters get dominated by their opponents, and thrown around, which wears them down in the process.
How to Develop Neck Strength
The first step to developing neck strength is to adequately stretch before training. Even ten minutes of stretching every day can loosen up and strengthen the muscles in the neck. The easiest way to do this is to start with the “Yes/No/Maybe” patterns.
- Yes: Moving the head up and down slowly, but gradually increasing the range of the movement
- No: Shift the weight in your neck from left to right with a progressive span as you go along
- Maybe: Replicating a slow head movement reminiscent of answering “maybe” to a question, gradually move the neck towards the center at an incline
By Using Resistance Bands
This is a popular way to increase strength in your neck muscles. The best part of using a resistance band is that they are very easy to carry around. Neck resistance bands can be carried around in your gym bag, and taken pretty much anywhere (even through airports). In order to use the band, simply strap it around your head and pull the handle while simultaneously moving your head in a backward motion. Resistance bands are popular across a wide range of sports and are very effective.
By Using Weights
Neck workouts using weights are also a very popular way of increasing strength in this area. You may have seen videos of fighters such as Mike Tyson or Floyd Mayweather Jr. using weights in a neck harness, or the old-school Muay Thai method of holding weights with the teeth via a rope. The practitioner will look towards the floor before moving the neck up and down slowly to gain maximum effect. Ensure that you are careful when you are strengthening your neck in this fashion.
Another method favored by Mike Tyson, bridging is also popular among wrestlers. In order to use this technique to help you build the neck, you must first lay flat on the ground. Feet remain in a flat position, with knees pointed towards the ceiling. Hands will sit on each side of the head, with elbows also pointed up. With the top of the head on the ground, and the hips up as high as they can go, the body will be pressed up.
By Using Weight Machines
You can find specialist weight machines at the gym to help you build neck strength. One particular set of equipment – known as the 4-way neck machine – is specifically designed to allow you to train the muscles which are important for building up strength. These machines are a decent way to help you attain maximum strength, but are unlikely to be any more or less effective than the others above.
Neck Strength is Crucial in Muay Thai
As previously addressed, the neck is an important and critical weapon in withstanding shots inside the ropes. The stronger a neck is the better chance of being able to take the power punches and quick shots which can be devastating to a fighter’s chances of winning a fight.
In Muay Thai, the clinch is the one aspect of the game which can give fighters the upper hand and help them to gain an advantage over an opponent. If fighters can identify that you have a weak neck, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will seek to engage in the clinch as much as possible. Frequent cranking and pressure on the neck can also affect a fighter’s ability to recover in time for his next fight, which is also another reason to apply focus on ensuring yours is up to the challenge every time.