How To Build Neck Muscles With Dumbbells

How To Build Neck Muscles With Dumbbells

The muscles in and around the neck are vital to protecting your neck and preventing injuries. In this article we will go over how to effectively build neck muscles with dumbbells. Whether it be building your neck muscles to prevent future injury or to recovery from a past injury and prevent it from happening again, this article will help you achieve these goals. You’ll learn multiple exercises to build the muscles within and around the neck safely and effectively.

When people ask “how to build neck muscles with dumbbells” they usually cannot think of many exercises that involve dumbbells and targeting the neck. The neck muscles shouldn’t be your only target, the traps are another vital muscle that must be trained to improve neck strength. The trapezius and neck muscles are different but work together to support and build a strong neck. Shrugs, neck curl, neck extension, and farmers walks are just a few of many effective ways to build neck muscles with dumbbells.

The most important part of neck training is learning correct form, ignoring this vital rule can cause you years of pain and possibly stop you from being able to do many workouts in the future. Ignoring form can cause not only neck pain but possibly neck disc bulging or herniation. So the best beginning advice I can give you as you start working to build neck muscles with dumbbells is to focus on form first. Go light and pay attention to your form, keep it as close to perfect as possible.

We will go over 5 extremely effective neck exercises that I personally use almost every time I workout. I have 2 herniated discs in my neck from combat sports practice, but I am still able to do these exercises with no pain. The key to training with an injury to is listen to your body and don’t force yourself to break form or lift heavy to the point the weight causes you to break form. Whenever I did this I pinched a nerve in my neck, it has happened multiple times in the past, but now I understand what I can and can’t do. Maintain good form and posture and do not ego lift.

Lets get started going over the 5 exercises to build neck muscles with dumbbells.

Lying Neck Curl

neck training neck raises

For this exercise, its best done with a dumbbell that has flat sides, if you have dumbbells that have a metal rod sticking out, then most likely you have a dumbbell which has removable plates. I suggest taking out a 5 or 10 pound to start and lying on a flat bench or elevated surface where you can lay flat on your back and still have a spot where you can leave your neck to hang down off the bench or surface. With this exercise you will feel how great it is to build neck muscles with dumbbells.

Place the weighted plate on your forehead and hold it there, now curl your neck up and try to touch your chest with your chin, don’t force it, just try to reach enough and when you start to feel too much neck strain or pressure, relax and bring your head back down to the hanging position. Do this for 6 to 8 repetitions and relax.

Yes, I know you are trying to build neck muscles with dumbbells and you can with this exercise, but you do require a dumbbell with flat ends, in the off chance you don’t have one, just remove the plates and use those, that is what I personally do and it has brought my neck strength to new levels. This exercise is extremely effective to build neck muscles with dumbbells because it targets the neck directly.

Lying Neck Extension

neck bridge alternative

Similar to the first exercise, this is best done with a dumbbell that has flat sides, if you have dumbbells with metal rods on each side, you most likely have the dumbbell that has a removable plate. I have the same, just remove the plate and use that, the great thing is you can use bigger plates and also stack them but you need to hold them tightly and carefully. This is a great way to build neck muscles with dumbbells.

Now lay on a flat surface again, such as a bench, this time lay flat on your stomach. Take the plate(s) and place them onto the back of your head, make sure you hold the plate(s) tightly. Now as your neck is hanging off the bench or surface you’re laying on, lift your head up while tucking your chin in, your head and neck should be aligned and chin tucked. Hold this for 2 seconds and relax while going back down to a hanging position. Do this for 6 to 8 repetitions.

This neck exercise will really work the muscles in the back of your neck and help build them very strong. So far you’ve hit the muscles in the front and back of the neck, now lets do the sides of your neck.

Neck Side Raise

side neck raise

This is similar to the previous 2 exercises above and the final variation I will show you. For this exercise, just like above, have a dumbbell with flat sides, if you have a dumbbell with metal rods pointing out, just remove the plates and use those. I suggest starting with a single 5 or 10 pound plate. I highly suggest lowering the weight for this exercise because the muscles within the side of your neck will not be as powerful as the front and back.

This exercise will have to be done twice. Once for each side of the neck, that way you hit both sides. It will be a great way to build neck muscles with dumbbells.

Now lay flat on a flat surface again, such as a bench. This time you will lay on your side, you can start with the left or right, it doesn’t matter. Now place the weight(s) on the top of your head which is facing up. You will only have one hand to hold the weight(s) so press them a bit against your head to hold them in place and apply a bit more resistance.

Tilt your head up towards the sky and try to touch your shoulder with your ear, hold for 1 or 2 seconds, then relax. Do this for 6 to 8 repetitions and turn to the other side. Once your on the other side, begin doing the same exact thing for 6 to 8 repetitions. You’ll feel the effect and see how good it is to build neck muscles with dumbbells.

These exercises will give you an incredible workout on the sides of your neck, do not push yourself too hard because it does not take much to workout the neck effectively. The neck also grows at an extremely fast rate, so working out the neck often is not needed. Once a week is perfectly fine. I personally have done these exercises for years and when I had gotten my neck injury in combat sports, my physical therapist had me doing this same exercise, except without weights.


How To Build Neck Muscles With Dumbbells shrugs

Now we can finally use your dumbbells normally and build neck muscles with dumbbells. I wanted to do the direct neck exercises first because that is our main goal. We want to target and build the neck. Now its time to build the muscles around it and the ones supporting the neck. The trapezius is a large muscle that are not only around the neck but expand into your back. So these exercises will definitely give you a more muscular look.

This exercise is fairly simple but I suggest watching your form and doing it as close to perfect as possible. I have pinched a nerve in my neck multiple times while doing this exercise, because I either shrugged the weight up too quickly or used too much weight, or a combination of both. It caused stiffness in my neck that lasted longer than a week. I had lost almost all of my ability to turn my neck, luckily it healed a little over a week after resting and icing it. This is still one of my favorite ways to build neck muscles with dumbbells.

To do this exercise, stand up straight with good posture, keep the head and neck in a neutral position. While keeping your shoulders back, try to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Now while holding this position, bring your shoulders up and picture yourself saying “I don’t know”.  I try to bring my shoulders up as if I am trying to touch my ears, but obviously don’t try to actually touch your ears with your shoulders. Just bring them up as far as you comfortably can and try to feel the muscles in your shoulders and upper back being worked. You’re mainly trying to feel your trapezius being worked.

Do this for 8 to 12 reps and relax.

Farmers Walk

How To Build Neck Muscles With Dumbbells farmers walk

This exercise is one of the best exercises you can do to help build powerful trap muscles, strong forearm, and grip strength. Whenever I mention how to build neck muscles with dumbbells, I mention this exercise. Its fairly simple to do and is highly effective.

To do this exercise, simply grab some heavy dumbbells and grip them tightly, now start walking around with them and hold them for as long as you can, once you feel your grip about to break, set the weights down and relax. Do these often and you’ll reap many benefits.

I suggest keeping good posture while doing this exercise and walking around with the weights, watch your head and neck position especially.


These are the main exercises I incorporate into my routine every week to keep my neck strong and healthy. They all can be done with dumbbells and some can be modified if you don’t have flat ended dumbbells. You will reap many benefits from consistently doing these exercises, especially if you do them safely and follow good technique.

After doing these exercises I suggest doing some light strengthening to build flexibility. Strength is important but flexibility is just as important, put the two together and you’ll have a bulletproof neck. I will link to an article below which will show you some great and simple stretches to do after a workout and to help with neck pain too. I suggest doing these stretches after doing these exercises to build neck muscles with dumbbells.

Top 5 Best Neck Stretches for Neck Pain Relief

Here are some recommended articles from great sources to help further build a healthy and powerful neck. All of these articles will not only help you build neck muscles with dumbbells but will also help you build an overall healthy and powerful neck.

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