Neck Exercises for Beginning Fighters

Having a strong neck is extremely important for fighters. Not only will adequate neck strength help you prevent against serious injuries, but it will also give you the ability to use your head and neck during certain techniques, namely when grappling. This guide will teach you a few exercises you can do without weights to build a baseline level of strength in your neck, benefitting you at every level of mixed martial arts — especially as a beginner.

From Your Back

The following group of exercises can be done while lying on your back without a partner. These are the most basic, yet most beneficial types of neck exercises you can do. Make sure you do the following three exercises in a series without touching your head to the mat to achieve the greatest benefit.


Lift your head about an inch off of the mat. From here, raise your neck up until your chin touches your chest, then lower it to the original position. Remember: Keep your head about an inch off above the mat when you lower it, and don’t let it touch! This counts as one repetition. Complete this exercise in repetitions of 20-25.


With your head about an inch above the mat, touch one of your ears to your shoulder (or as close as you can get to it). Do this without turning your head to either direction. Next, touch your other ear to your other shoulder. Touching both ears to a shoulder counts as one repetition. Continue this motion until you have done 20-25 repetitions.


Lift your head about an inch above the mat. Next, turn your head completely to one direction, and then turn your head in the opposite direction. This “no” motion is one repetition. Continue this motion in repetitions of 20-25.

With a Partner

This next group of exercises should be done with a partner. This will allow you to increase your neck strength by having your partner increase the resistance over time.

Hot Tip: Communicate

To get the most out of the following exercises, it is essential to communicate to your partner how much resistance you need. As your neck gets stronger, you should let him know to increase the amount of pressure he puts on your neck.

Reverse Neck-ups

This exercise is very similar to the “neck-ups” exercise, but with a partner. To start:

  1. Position yourself on your hands and knees, with your head relaxed and down.
  2. Your partner should be kneeling in front of you in this position. Have him place his hands on the back of your head.
  3. Next, lift your head up as high as you can as your partner applies downward resistance.
  4. Return your head to its original position while your partner releases the resistance.
  5. Continue this motion in repetitions of 20-25.


This next exercise is also very similar to the “shoulder-to-shoulder” exercise detailed above, but with the resistance of a partner. To do this exercise:

  1. Start lying on one side, with your head off of the mat. Keep your arms at your sides and your legs together.
  2. With your partner kneeling in front of you, have him place his hands on the top side of your head.
  3. Push your head upwards as far as you can while your partner applies downward pressure.
  4. Have your partner push your head back down until your head almost touches the mat, then push it back up again.
  5. Complete this motion in repetitions of 20-25. Then, switch to your other side and continue this workout with the other side of your neck.

Prepare Your Body

The exercises mentioned in this guide are absolutely essential to preparing your body for the battle of a mixed martial arts bout. Doing them routinely will keep you safe, and will also give you strength in one of the most important parts of your body. Now get out there and start training!

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