The neck bridge exercise places pressure on your cervical vertebrae.
Sports such as football, rugby, wrestling, mixed martial arts and boxing require strong neck muscles to help cushion impact. The neck bridge exercise helps you strengthen your neck without using any equipment. However, the exercise is demanding and requires precise technique and focus. It may be dangerous because it places considerable stress on your cervical spine and may cause neck injury. But, you can do less-demanding versions of the neck bridge to strengthen your neck. If you have a neck injury, consult your doctor before doing any neck-strengthening exercises.
While the neck-bridge exercise strengthens your neck muscles, it comes with a high risk of injury.
Know Your Neck Muscles
The neck bridge targets the major muscles of your neck including the splenius, sternocleidomastoid and levator scapulae. The splenius runs down the back of your neck on either side of your vertebrae, and the sternocleidomastoid runs down the sides and front of your neck. The levator scapulae runs from your upper trapezius to the sides of your neck.
Understand the Rear-Neck Bridge
The rear-neck bridge primarily targets the splenius, with a secondary effect on the sternocleidomastoid and levator scapulae. To perform the exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent and flat on the floor. Raise your butt and lower back, place your arms across your stomach and balance your weight on your feet and the back of your shoulders. Arch your back, push your head into the floor and push your hips upward. Roll back on your head, hyperextend your neck and balance your weight on your head and feet. Lower your hips and body until the back of your head and shoulders touch the floor. Your body position and the range of movement of the exercise place considerable stress on your neck muscles and, according to the University of Texas at Brownsville, also compress your cervical vertebrae, increasing risk of spinal injuries.
Reduce Risk of Injury
Reduce the pressure on your neck muscles with a modified version of the rear-neck bridge. Lying on your back, reach back and place your arms on either side of your head. Bend your elbows, place your hands flat on the floor. As you perform the bridge, let your arms take some of the weight off your neck.
Make it Easier
The wall rear-neck-bridge exercise places less pressure on your neck muscles and cervical vertebrae and helps you strengthen your neck while minimizing the risk of injury. Hold a folded towel behind your head, stand about 2 feet in front of a wall, lean back, bend your knees and rest the back of your head and shoulders against the wall. Push your head into the wall, hyperextend your neck so you are looking upward, arch your back and straighten your knees. Roll your head down, return to your starting position and repeat.
Understand the Front-Neck Bridge
The front-neck bridge primarily targets the sternocleidomastoid, with a secondary effect on the splenius and levator scapulae. To perform the exercise, kneel on the floor, reach forward and place your hands on the floor. Place your head on the floor between your arms. Raise your knees, straighten your legs, place your arms behind your back and balance your weight on your head and toes. Roll onto your forehead until your nose almost touches the floor, then roll back onto the top of your head. Your body position and range of motion compress your cervical vertebrae and place considerable stress on your neck muscles. Reduce the pressure on your neck and cervical vertebrae by keeping your hands on the floor as you perform the exercise.
Keep It Safe
The wall front-neck bridge is a safer and easier alternative to the front neck bridge. Stand about 2 feet in front of a wall. Hold a folded towel in front of your face, lean forward and push your head against the wall. Keep your body straight and your arms behind your back. Roll your head upward until your nose touches the towel and then roll your head downward until your chin touches your chest. If you are uncomfortable doing this, place your hands against the wall to ease the pressure on your neck.