Neck Training for Grappling + [VIDEOS]


Neck Training for Grappling –

Part 1: General Exercises


Neck training is extremely important for grappling. The most critical reason is that a strong neck may prevent injuries from all the abuse that it takes during grappling.


In fact, I’m going to share with you the exercises I started doing after I suffered a really bad neck injury doing no-gi takedowns. I went for a takedown on a big, strong, highly skilled dude and got it but my neck got bent back during the struggle. After I got back up, I had pins and needles running down my left arm. It took months for it to get better and these exercises were a huge help.

On a more strategic note, if your opponent can control your neck during takedowns or on the ground he gains an advantage for setting up attacks.

Enough talk! Let’s go over how to start with neck exercises as well as where to put it in your conditioning program.

Beginner Exercises – Isometric Holds

This is where you want to start if you are new to doing neck exercises or if your neck is a bit jacked up from minor grappling injuries. In other words, begin with these exercises if you’re in pain but you don’t have a serious injury.

If you have a serious injury, don’t mess around. Go see a medical professional and get some physical therapy (or physiotherapy for my Canadian buddies).

Check out the technique video here:


Intermediate Exercises – Concentric Only

Start if your neck is in pretty good shape with no pain. Concentric only is an excellent way to work on your technique without the risk of the eccentric portion of the exercise. Eccentrics – while awesome in their own right – puts more stress on the neck muscles and possibly the joints of the neck if you push too far. Working concentrics-only first is a good way to get isolated strengthening of the neck muscles in preparation for eccentrics and grappling-specific exercises.

Check out the technique video here:


Advanced Exercises – Controlled Concentric/Eccentric

Start here only if you have mastered the intermediate exercises but be careful. You can jack up your neck if you are not paying attention to good technique. Make sure you review the video and develop proper technique and control before you start cranking on your neck in an effort to get stronger.

Check out the technique video here:


Sample Neck Program

Isometric Exercises

Week 1: 3 sets each exercise 30 sec hold 30 sec rest

Week 2: 3 sets each exercise 45 sec hold 30 sec rest

Week 3: 3 sets each exercise 60 sec hold 30 sec rest

Concentric Only Exercises

Week 4: 3 sets each exercise 10 reps 30 sec rest

Week 5: 3 sets each exercise 15 reps 30 sec rest

Week 6: 3 sets each exercise 20 reps 30 sec rest

Controlled Concentric/Eccentric Exercises

Week 7: 3 sets each exercise 10 reps 30 sec rest

Week 8: 3 sets each exercise 15 reps 30 sec rest

Week 9: 3 sets each exercise 20 reps 30 sec rest


When To Work Your Neck

I recommend doing your Neck Conditioning program either before your gym workouts or as a separate from your gym workouts.

What I mean is if you have the time to put it before you hit the weights, intervals, etc do it before as part of a warm up. I personally try to do this when I have the time because I’m less likely to experience any neck discomfort during my workout as a result. You can also just do it whenever you have the time.

I also recommend doing some of these exercises before grappling/MMA training as it gets your neck really warmed up. Just back off on the sets and reps so you don’t over-fatigue your neck.

That’s it! Part 2 will be on grappling-specific exercises and drills to increase neck strength and endurance so look out for that. In the meantime, try this program out and leave me some comments below to let me know how the exercises are working for you.


Written by:  Ted Ryce





 Ted Ryce is a brown belt with two stripes in Brazilian Jiujitsu under Daniel Valverde in Miami, Florida. He is a professional personal trainer with over 13 years of experience specializing in the areas of Sports Performance and Medical Exercise Programs. For more information visit:




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