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Bigger neck and trap muscles enhance your physique.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images
With much focus placed on major muscles like the quads, hamstrings, pecs and lats, the neck is one of those areas that few bodybuilders actually pay direct attention to. The good news is, though, that the neck doesn't require much in the way of direct training to make it bigger. You can bring it up to par with the rest of your physique simply by deadlifting regularly.
The muscles that run between your neck and your shoulders are called your traps, and it's the traps that give you a bigger neck. No other exercise packs mass on the traps and neck like the deadlift, claims strength coach Jason Ferruggia, who recommends deadlifting once a week, using the heaviest weights you can manage with good form.
The Rack Treatment
The heavier you lift, the greater the strain on your traps, as they struggle to keep your shoulders up and back. Therefore, the more weight you can lift with good form, the more you stimulate your neck and traps. To go further with deadlifting for the neck, trainer Adam Knowlden of ABC Bodybuilding suggests performing rack deadlifts. These involve setting your deadlift bar on pins in a power rack or on top of wooden plyometric boxes or aerobic steps and starting the deadlift from mid-shin height. You'll be able to lift more weight and the top portion of the lift, where your traps are active, will be more difficult.
Shrugging It Off
One of the most commonly performed neck and trap builder is the barbell shrug. This straightforward move involves standing with a barbell resting against your thighs and holding it with a shoulder-width grip, then shrugging your shoulders up toward your ears. Coach Charles Poliquin recommends either performing your set of deadlifts, then going straight into a set of shrugs, or adding three shrugs after every deadlift in your set.
Moving to the Neck Level
Don't try to force your neck during deadlifts. The stimulation from lifting a heavy load will be enough for it to grow, so there's no need to actively flex your neck during the exercise. Optimal neck position varies depending on a number of factors, but your best bet is to avoid cranking it right back or letting it drop forward, advises trainer and exercise scientist Bret Contreras. If your neck hurts when deadlifting, ask a qualified coach to check your form.