Neck Training with No Equipment for Football

Not every football player has a machine as a means for neck training, however, strengthening the neck can be a part of any training program year round. Manual resistance exercises have been around for decades and more so now than ever they’re being used to consistently implement neck training. These exercises are performed when the lifter has a spotter, and the spotter provides the resistance for the exercise. Obviously, this mode of training works well with large groups and when the resources for neck training are extremely limited. It’s also a great choice for in-season neck training when time may be limited.

When coaching manual resistance make sure that the athletes understand each of the coaching points. Don’t leave room for error.  We  suggest a 10-15 repetition range for these exercises, however, know your population and make meaningful decisions.

The resistance provided by the spotter should allow the lifter to perform each repetition at the same speed, in other words it should look very smooth. If there is jerking movement, the spotter or lifter or both are giving too much pressure.  Skilled spotters will understand that they should apply different amounts of pressure through the full range of motion because of the neck and head biomechanics.

The speed of the repetition should not be any different than using a machine or free weights, slow and controlled with a pause in the contracted position. The eccentric should be slightly slower than the concentric.  There should be constant tension through the range of motion.  If the spotter feels any relaxation during the movement there should be immediate feedback to the lifter.  In the fully contracted position the lifter must keep great tension on the muscles.  The exercise is done when the lifter has reached failure or the target repetition has been completed. Small movements, or limited ranges of motion are appropriate for these two exercises. The movements should only be happening at the head/neck.

Manual Resistance Front Neck

The lifter must sit on the ground with their hands and feet posted firmly.  Their torso should be stable with upright posture. The spotter needs to post their lead foot parallel to the lifters back, to promote stability. The side of the spotters leg should be pressed firmly into the lifters back.


The lifters head should begin in a neutral position, looking forward.  The spotter will place one palm right above and between the lifters eyebrows, covering their hand with the other. The spotters palm should be fitting in the dip right above the lifters nose. There should already be some pressure on the lifters forehead with the spotter’s hands, creating tension on the neck.

The movement begins with the lifter flexing the head and neck down to their chest, pausing in the contracted position, and returning slowly back to the neutral position.

Coaching Points:

  1. Lifter is positioned firmly on the ground
  2. Spotter is behind, with leg posted behind lifters back
  3. Spotters hand is placed firmly at or directly above lifters eye brows, with other hand covering
  4. Lifter begins with head and neck in neutral position
  5. Lifter begins movement with flexing the head and neck to the chest while the spotter is providing resistance
  6. Lifter pauses in contracted position, then returns back to the neutral beginning position while spotter is providing resistance through this range

Manual Resistance Back Neck

The lifter must be on “all fours”, with their arms locked out and torso firmly tightened.  The spotter should be standing square to the athlete, with their palms placed on the back of the lifters head, sort of in a butterfly fashion. The spotter should not stand at the side of the lifter, where they could possibly give the pressure to the head and neck in the wrong range of motion.back2

The lifter should have their head in a neutral position, not flexed down.  The repetition is completed by the lifter extending their head and neck, pausing in the contracted position, and then slowly returning to the neutral position.

The lifter should not flex their head and neck beyond the beginning neutral position.  This may put undo stress on the connective tissues or discs between the cervical spine.

Coaching Points:

  1. Lifter is positioned on ground
  2. Spotter stands square to the lifter
  3. Spotters hands must be placed firmly on the back of the lifters head, not the neck
  4. Lifter begins to extend the head and neck while the spotter is resisting
  5. The lifter pauses in the contracted position while the spotter is still resisting
  6. Lifter returns to the neutral beginning position while the spotter is providing resistance through this range

When coached and executed properly, all of the major movements of the neck can be stressed.  There are a number of rules that should be understood and followed precisely in order to increase safety and efficiency of training while using this type of training. Please ask if there’s any questions about how to implement any of these exercises. Remember this, we lift weights in order to reduce the risk of injury during football. The most delicate part of a football players body is their head and neck. Help them protect it by strengthening the muscles around it.



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