Neck Strength Basics – Part 4


In previous posts we have discussed the basics of neck strength training and provided examples of introductory exercises ( This final post will discuss how we can train the neck in multiple directions as well as reacting to external stimuli.

In previous posts we have discussed the basics of neck strength training and provided examples of introductory exercises. We can progress the cable isometric holds from section 2 with the example drill below. In this exercise the athlete begins a fighting stance with the cable pulling the head backwards, creating an anti-extension contraction. From here, we can perform punches, which rotate the torso, thus creating an anti-rotation contraction as well as anti-extension contractions in different angles of rotation. Finally, we can turn side on to the cable and throw punches in this position, whereby we create an anti-lateral flexion contraction.

Progressing further, we can increase the complexity of neck training using some partner assisted drills.

The clip below features Chris Marshall, a physiotherapist at Club 360, who has extensive experience working both with concussion rehabilitation and concussion prevention. Chris demonstrates a cervical plank, where the athlete is lifted by their neck by a partner, requiring a strong anti-flexion contraction. The second exercise requires the athlete to react to random, multidirectional force provided by their partner. Whilst this obviously does not match the speed of a punch, it does teach the individual to engage the appropriate muscles in response to external force.

Obviously the ideal situation in combat sports is to avoid being hit at all! However, this is not a realistic approach, and combat athletes will expect to be hit in the head in both training and competition. Given the increasing amount of information regarding the long-term sequelae of concussion, it is important that combat athletes address neck strengthening as part of their overall physical preparation.

A full framework of neck strength training is featured in the science of striking, available in both hard-copy and kindle formats (

#neckstrength # training #thescienceofstriking #boxing #kickboxing #karate #shinkyokushin #kyokushin #muaythai


About the author

Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert is a registered physiotherapist with the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He holds a bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from Latrobe university (Melbourne, Australia) and a master’s degree in Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) from Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia).

A 3rd Dan black belt in Shinkyokushinkai Karate under the World Karate Organisation (WKO), Sam participated for over 20 years in full contact competition, winning multiple state and national titles, and culminating in a 4th place in the heavyweight division of the Shinkyokushinkai World Cup in 2009.

As the co-founder and clinical director of Club 360, the premier multi-disciplinary health and fitness center in Tokyo, Japan, Sam has combined his practical experience with an in-depth study of sports performance in relation to combat sports, and strives to help other combat athletes reach their full competitive potential, whilst at the same time decreasing injury risk and increasing competition and training potential.


  • Thanks for this series, Sam. Finding this super insightful to assist with neck conditioning for Muay Thai, specifically the clinch – i’m training sporadically at the moment and find my neck to be jacked up for days if i don’t implement some regular specific S&C training – this looks like a safe, intuitive way to go about vs. the Thai method: picking up weights with your teeth!

By Sam Gilbert