Everything About Neck Bridges For Contact Sports

Everything About Neck Bridges For Contact Sports

Neck bridges are an exercise often associated with wrestling. They have been a staple of wrestling conditioning for ages, and other martial artists from grappling arts and MMA have turned to these exercises in the quest to build stronger and more stable neck muscles. However, even though the exercise helps achieve this, there are plenty of dangers that are associated with incorrectly doing neck bridges. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about neck bridges.   

What Are Neck Bridges? 

Neck bridges are exercises that involve more of the neck muscles. To put the neck muscles to work with added weight, the position requires an athlete to lie supine on their back. From there, the goal is to lift the hips with the help of the legs, only the feet and the top of the head touching the floor. Think of it as a gymnastics bridge, just done with the head on the ground instead of the arms. 

Another version of neck bridges is to start on all fours, facing the ground. You then place the top of the head on the ground and straighten your legs, going into a tripod position with both your feet and your head acting as the three posts. 

From any of the aforementioned positions, you can rock forward and backward, placing more pressure on certain areas of the neck muscles to strengthen them. There’s also movement from side to side as well as isometric holds of the positions. 

In a more advanced version, people can keep their heads posted on the ground and flip their legs forward and backward in between the two positions discussed above, as well as do circular motions by moving the legs while keeping the head on the ground as the axis of the rotation. 

Why Neck Bridges Are Important For Combat Athletes?

Neck bridges allow you to work on the muscles of your neck and improve the posture of your shoulders. Strengthening the neck muscles is a must for all combat sports athletes, as well as athletes in any kind of contact or speed-based sport. 

While strengthening the muscles of the neck is a very important quality to have for grappling, where people are trying to choke you from different angles and you’re involved in fast-paced scrambles that often have you posting with your head, neck strength is also very important for strikers. having a strong neck means that you’re not suffering whiplash from strikes, which in turn significantly lower brain damage as a result of the counter-coup. 

For the general majority of people, the benefits of doing neck bridges have to do with posture and spinal alignment. In the modern-day age, sitting in front of a computer for extended periods results in a disrupted posture and a whole host of health issues stemming from spinal misalignment. 

Neck bridges are a great way to optimize the health and performance capabilities of your body. They are not the easiest exercises to do and will be very painful and uncomfortable when you first start doing them. However, as long as you do them correctly, they will be extremely worth it!

How to Safely Train Neck Bridges

The key to performing a neck bridge exercise is first and foremost not to panic. Most people panic when they attempt it for the first time because it is very uncomfortable and feels unnatural. The first thing to consider is that you won’t be able to replicate the wild ways in which wrestlers jump around all neck bridge positions the first time you attempt a neck bridge exercise. Instead, you will have to use progression to slowly build up to such a level of fitness.  

To make sure you can try to perform a wrestling-style neck bridge workout, you first need to make sure your neck is not too weak for such stress. The first order of business is being able to do repetitions of neck flexion and extension in all three key areas of motion of the neck. Those include forward and back, side to side, and rotations to each side. If you can’t do 30 repetitions of each while lying supine and keeping your head off the ground at all times, then first build up to this number before even thinking about new bridges. 

If you can do the prescribed reps, you can try to hold a neck bridge in place for an allotted period, not more than 10-15 seconds in the beginning. If you want to keep strengthening your neck before going for neck bridges, though, make sure you do resistance band exercises to further get your neck used to the stress. 

The key thing to remember about doing actual neck bridges is that they target not just the muscles that move your neck, but also other muscles that stabilize it. These are not built to withstand the entire weight of your body, which happens regularly when you do neck bridges. Overtraining these muscles can lead to injuries that are not too serious. 

More serious injuries come when you overdo the range of motion and injure the spine, or more precisely cause a disk to herniate. This is a serious condition that can keep you away from sports, or even sideline you for good. Doing neck bridges when you’re feeling pain, or forcing movements in a direction that’s not comfortable are surefire ways to get injured from an exercise designed to prevent injuries. 

A Few Powerful Neck Bridge Exercise Variations For Grapplers And Combat Athletes

You can find a ton of instructional online that only say go to your neck and start bridging in every direction. that’s a recipe for disaster. What you want to do is start slow, and completely forget about doing anything apart from slowly bridging up to figure out your balance from both the forward and backward bridge position. 

Alternatively, you can try to do neck bridges on a stability ball. It offers a soft surface and will have you doing less of a bridge since your head is a lot higher off the ground. Moreover, bailing before getting injured is easy when you’re doing this variation of neck bridges. 

Instead of a stability ball, you can also use a bench to place your head higher off the ground until you get comfortable with neck bridges. Once again, you can do them bot facing the bench and facing away. 

In terms of organizing a neck bridge workout, you should do it as a workout of its own and not part of another training session. In terms of frequency go for neck bridge exercises once a week in the beginning, and then add another one when you become stronger. doing more than two neck bridge workouts per week is going to do more harm than good. 

A rough guide is to do two to five sets of neck bridges per workout, whichever exercise variation you choose to perform. Remember to also stretch the neck after training to speed up recovery. 

FREE Gordon Ryan Instructional
Wiltse Free Instructional
Previous articleREVIEW: The Omoplata BJJ Instructional by Ryan Hall
Next articleMikey Musumeci Challenges Kade Ruotolo in Historic Title Fight