|Exercise Name||(Weighted) Lying Neck Flexion|
|Also Called||Lying Neck Curls, Lying Neck Nods, Lying Chin Tucks|
|Secondary Muscles||Deep Neck Flexors|
|Required Equipment||Flat Bench, Weight plate|
|Optional Equipment||Towel (cushion between plate and head)|
|Variations||Manual Resistance Lying Neck Flexion, Band Resistance Lying Neck Flexion|
|Alternatives||Machine Neck Flexion, Cable Neck Flexion, Front Neck Bridge|
Lying Neck Flexion Instructions
1. Starting Position
- Grab an appropriately sized weight plate. Most lifters should be able to start with a light weight plate. I’d say 5 lbs. is a good starting point for most. If you already do neck training, you can go heavier, but remember it’s always smarter to go lighter on new exercises, especially for neck training movements.
- NOTE: If you’re brand new to neck training and want to play it extra conservative, you can start with no weight at all.
- Straddle a flat bench and sit down on it around the middle. Specifically, position yourself such that your head and neck will be off the bench when you (eventually) recline back into the lying position.
- Position a towel over the center weight plate.
- Hold the weight plate with both hands against your lower abdomen region.
- Carefully recline back until you are lying supine on the bench, with your head, neck and upper traps just off the end of the bench.
- You can put your feet on the bench with your knees bent, or you can plant your feet firmly on the floor. However, if you plant your feet on the floor, it’s important that you consciously activate your lower abs and glutes to maintain a neutral lower spine position; the nature of the exercise makes it easy to over-arch your lower back when your feet are planted.
- Putting your feet on the bench automatically puts your lower spine in a neutral problem. As such, it is generally recommended for this movement at least when starting out. However, once you get to heavier weights, planting your feet can be very helpful as it provides much more stability. I’m currently doing 50-60 lbs. and planting my feet makes me feel much safer and helps performance at least indirectly.
- Bring the weight up from your lower abdomen toward your forehead, making sure to hold the towel in place. Position the weight plate such that it is gently resting on the forehead, of course with the towel in between. Both hands should be on the sides of the plate to support it until it is in position.
- When the weight is in position, shift your hands toward the bottom of the plate as if you were pulling it downwards. Keep elbows tucked to your torso.
- Slowly lower your head below the bench. You should feel a good stretch in your sternocleidomastoid muscles (i.e. the two large muscles on the front of the neck), but not a strain. You are now in the starting position, and are ready to initiate the movement:
2. Concentric Repetition
- Initiate the movement by curling your neck up, lifting your head and bringing your chin toward your chest.
- Keeping a firm grasp on the weight plate, move your arms in unison with your head to stabilize the plate on your forehead as you curl your neck up. Don’t use your arms to pull on the plate and make it lighter for your neck.
- As you near the top of the range of motion, make a conscious effort to retract your neck, or draw your chin into itself.
- As you near the top of the range of motion, you should also contract your upper abs somewhat. This allows slight flexion of the uppermost part of the thoracic spine (i.e. the mid-spine, just below the lowest neck vertebrae). Just don’t use your abs so much that your shoulders come off the bench.
- Exhale forcefully at the top to increase abdominal contraction.
- When you complete the concentric contraction at the top of the rep, hold the isometric contraction for a full second. You can hold it for up to two seconds if you like. Or, you can do less than a second once you’ve mastered the technique.
4. Eccentric Repetition
- Slowly extend the neck back to lower the head back down below the edge of the bench.
- The elbows should lift as the head and neck tilt back.
- The scapula and glutes should remain in contact with the bench.
- Inhale as you lower the weight back.
- At the end of the eccentric range of motion, the sternocleidomastoid muscles, in particular, should feel a good stretch. Not an excessive stretch, and certainly not a strain on the cervical spinal joints. But a good, mild to moderate stretch in the sternocleidomastoid muscles. Similarly, you should feel a slight stretch in the abdominals at the bottom of the rep as well.
- Repeat for the designated number of repetitions until the set is complete.
- Generally, higher reps of 25 reps are more are best for this exercise. It’s an effective rep range for neck hypertrophy and strength, and most importantly it’s a safer rep range since the load is relatively lighter.
- Never go to complete failure.
- When the set is complete, raise the plate off of your head then bring it forward over your torso, toward your lower abdomen/upper thighs as you sit back up.
Common Lying Neck Flexion Errors to Avoid
|Nodding the head without full range of motion||The neck must flex and extend through a full range of motion. If you can’t do full range of motion, then the weight is too heavy.|
|Pulling/lifting the weight with your arms||Your arms should use just enough force to keep the weight balanced on your forehead throughout the motion. Don’t use your arm strength to pull/lift up on the plate to make it feel lighter on your neck. That’s cheating and a sign you need to reduce the weight.|
|Going too heavy and doing low rep sets||It’s never a good idea to use too much weight on any exercise. But it’s especially important exercises involving your neck. It’s a vulnerable region that you don’t want to injure. Always use lighter weights for higher reps. I recommend 25+ reps per set. Personally, most of my sets are between 35-50 reps. That may seem very high, but it’s a rep great range for neck muscle development that also keeps you safe.|
|Lifting your shoulder blades off the bench||Keep your shoulder blades on the bench. This exercise should not resemble abdominal crunches in any way. Yes, your upper abs will contract somewhat at the top of the rep, but that’s only because you need some flexion of the uppermost part of the thoracic spine (in addition to the entire cervical spine) for full range of motion. However, if your shoulder blades lift off the bench, you’re going too far.|
|Lifting your glutes of the bench||This error applies to those who put your feet on the floor (instead of on the bench, as that should prevent your butt from lifting up). So if you choose to plant your feet on the floor, understand there should be no pelvic motion. Activate your lower abs and glutes, and push your hips into the bench. This keeps your butt on the bench and keeps your lower back neutral as an added bonus.|
Lying Neck Flexion Tips
- Keep your tongue pressed against the roof of your mouth. Not just the tip of the tongue, but the whole thing. Technically, you should be using this proper “tongue posture” on all lifts. But in my experience, it makes the biggest difference on direct neck exercises. If you’re not already doing this naturally, trust me, you’ll notice a major positive difference once you get this cue right. It helps you activate your deep neck flexors and surrounding neck musculature, stabilizing your neck as you raise and lower your head.
- Focus on breathing correctly. Inhale on the way down, exhale as you contract.
- When first learning this exercise, it’s especially helpful to focus on holding the isometric contraction at the top of the rep for at least one second. I might even recommend a full two seconds at the very beginning. This ensures proper activation of the target neck muscles. Plus, it prevents you from using too much weight and/or cheating by lifting with your arms.
- Move your head (up/down) and arms (forward/backward) in unison throughout the entire range of motion. This helps ensure you don’t move the weight with your arms instead of your neck.
- I’ve seen some people do this exercise without using a towel between the plate and their head. However, I highly recommend using a towel — It’s especially important if:
- you workout at a commercial gym, to avoid getting everyone’s germs on your head/face, and/or…
- you’re using heavier weight since it will hurt and leave marks when the plates get heavier.
- You’ll know you’ve hit the bottom of the range of motion when you feel mild to moderate stretches in the sternocleidomastoids and upper abdominals.
- High reps are best. I’ve mentioned this already but it bears repeating. First off, high reps (e.g. 25+) are ideal for building a bigger neck. This is because the neck musculature is made of primarily slow-twitch muscle fibers, which respond best to high rep work. On top of that, higher reps mean necessarily using relatively lighter weight, which greatly reduces the risk of injury. And while injury to any part of the body is unwanted, a neck injury is one of the last you want.
- Ideally, you should do a neck extension exercise (e.g. lying neck extension) in addition to this exercise. This will help achieve more symmetry in strength and size between the front and rear neck muscles. That said, if you can only do one neck exercise and your goal is a thicker neck, then it should be the lying neck flexion (or another neck flexion variation).
Is the Lying Neck Flexion Right for You?
The lying neck flexion is a critical exercise for anyone who requires a strong neck for performance. This would include fighters, football players, and any tactical practitioner such as police officers, military or firefighters.
This movement is also excellent for anyone looking to build a thicker neck for improved aesthetics. You can do just this one exercise and add a full inch to your neck circumference in only a few months (assuming proper progression, frequency, nutrition, etc.). The only other similarly effective neck building exercises are other neck flexion variations (e.g. neck flexion with a head harness, cable neck flexion).
In addition, neck flexion is a fundamental movement for any person, if you do not require a high degree of strength, this exercise can still be appropriate with extra light weight or even body weight only for general population practitioners.
If you have neck injuries in the past such as whiplash or neck and collarbone issues, consult with your medical professional, chiropractor or physical therapist prior to beginning weighted neck flexion to clear up any potential issues that could arise.