Updated: Oct 3, 2021
The prone neck bridge (also known as the neck bridge prone or the neck plank) is a neck strengthening exercise. It is a relatively simple and easy exercise to do.
Table of Contents:
How to Do (Step-by-Step)
Start in a prone position on the floor, on your hands and knees.
Place your head next to your hands, slightly further out, then extend your legs, driving your hips into the air.
Slowly transition into supporting your weight on your head, slowly remove your hands from the ground or gradually reduce the pressure on your hands.
Hold the neck bridge for your desired amount of time, but we recommend less than 1 minute at a time.
Then slowly return your hands and knees to the floor and back out of the exercise, do this slowly to avoid lightheadedness or fainting.
What Is the Prone Neck Bridge
The prone neck bridge is a neck strengthening exercise. It is also known as the neck bridge prone or the neck plank.
This exercise is simple and easy to do; you can also do it anywhere, making it an excellent addition to your home workout routine if you want.
This exercise is great for building up overall neck size and strength; bodybuilders, strength athletes, and anyone can benefit from it.
Is It Safe?
People sometimes question the safety of the prone neck bridge. When you look at this exercise from an outside perspective, it does look unsafe.
Is the prone neck bridge safe? Yes, as long as you do this exercise correctly.
As long as you follow the correct form and use the proper technique, the prone neck bridge is safe.
You can keep this exercise safe by following the tips below. Perform this exercise slowly and with control.
Only use your body weight; if you're very overweight, you may want to skip this exercise or try an alternative to the prone neck bridge.
If you have any neck or head injuries, avoid this exercise.
Slowly back out of this exercise if you feel any pain or discomfort.
Once you have finished each repetition, very slowly get back up to avoid lightheadedness or fainting.
The prone neck bridge works the neck and upper trapezius muscles primarily. This exercise also utilises the whole body for this exercise; therefore, it also activates other muscles such as the abdominals, legs and back muscles.
However, this exercise targets and strengthens the neck muscles, including but not entirely limited to the following.
Deep cervical flexors
The diagram below highlights in red the main muscles worked.
Benefits of the Prone Neck Bridge
The prone neck bridge targets various neck and upper back muscles; most exercises and workouts don't target these muscles.
Because most exercises and workouts don't target the neck or upper back muscles, the prone neck bridge can be a beneficial exercise to add to your workout.
It can help build up your overall neck size and strength. Strengthening your neck muscles may help you to release tension, tightness, and stiffness.
Neck exercises such as this one can also reduce pain and increase flexibility. (1)
A strong neck can help to prevent neck and spine injuries as well. (2)
If you're are a boxer or practise martial arts, a strong neck can benefit you significantly, preventing injuries and even knockouts.
As a bodybuilder, a thicker neck results in a more aesthetic physique.
If you're a strength athlete or powerlifter, a strong neck may help you lift heavier weight and prevent strains or tears.
Benefits of a Strong Neck:
Reduced risk of neck, head and spine injuries.
May result in improved strength.
A better-looking physique.
May release tension, tightness and stiffness.
How to Make It Harder
There aren't any specific ways to make the neck bridge prone harder.
However, increasing the number of repetitions you do or increasing the time spent doing the exercise (time under tension) can increase the effectiveness of this exercise.
You should not use any additional weight for this exercise; this can cause further strain on the neck, increasing the chances of injury.
Only increase the time spent doing each rep up to a maximum of around 1 minute.
How to Make It Easier
There aren't any specific ways to make this exercise easier.
However, doing fewer reps and reducing the time for each rep can make this exercise easier.
As you progress and get better at doing this exercise, gradually increase the time spent doing each rep up to around 1 minute at the most or do an extra repetition at the end of the set.
Alternatives to the Prone Neck Bridge
There are multiple alternatives to the prone neck bridge, as shown below.
Lying Neck Extensions
The lying neck extension exercise is an excellent alternative to the prone neck bridge.
This exercise has all the same benefits and can be done by anyone.
How to Do (Step-by-Step):
Lie face-up on a flat bench while holding a weighted plate on top of your forehead. You will need to position yourself so that your shoulders are slightly above the end of a flat bench for the traps, neck and head to be off the bench. This is your starting position.
While keeping the plate secure on your forehead with your hands, slowly lower your head back, but not too far, just below an imaginary straight line through your whole body from the end of the bench.
Slowly raise your head back up to the starting position of the rep. Hold this for 1-2 Seconds.
Repeat this for your desired amount of repetitions.
Side Neck Stretch
The side neck stretch is another alternative neck exercise.
This exercise is not as powerful at strengthening or building muscle. Still, it can help to improve flexibility, reduce stiffness and pain.
How to Do (Step-by-Step):
Start with your shoulders relaxed and gently tilt your head towards your shoulder.
You can assist this stretch with a gentle pull on the side of the head.
Repeat on the other side.
Seated Head-Harness Exercise
The seated head-harness neck resistance exercise is excellent for building strength and size.
Most people can do this exercise but avoid it if you have head, neck or spine injuries.
How to Do (Step-by-Step):
Place a neck strap on the floor at the end of a flat bench or similar piece of equipment. Once you have selected your desired weight, sit at the end of the bench with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointed out.
Move your torso forward until it is almost parallel with the floor. Using both hands, securely position the neck strap around your head, make sure the weights are still lying on the floor to prevent any excess strain on your neck.
Grab the weight with both hands while elevating your upper body back until it is almost straight up; your head and torso needs to be slightly tilted forward to perform this exercise.
Place both hands on top of your knees, and this will be your starting position.
Slowly lower your neck and head down until your chin touches your upper chest (while breathing in).
While exhaling, bring your neck and head back to its starting position.
Repeat this exercise for your desired amount of sets and repetitions.
Should You Do the Prone Neck Bridge
If you want to improve strength, build up your neck muscles, improve flexibility or reduce neck pain and stiffness, then the prone neck bridge should great for you.
But, make sure you have no head, neck or spine injuries.
The prone neck bridge can increase the risk of injury around the neck, especially if you use an incorrect technique.
If you have injuries, you could speak to your doctor or healthcare professional about possible alternative neck exercises.
Other than that, the prone neck bridge is a great exercise.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some frequently asked questions about the prone neck bridge.
How can I improve my prone bridge?
The key to improving your prone bridge is repetition, practice and progressive overload. Like any exercise, if you keep increasing the reps and time under tension, you will get stronger and improve your prone neck bridge.
Do bridges hurt your back?
Prone neck bridges can increase your risk of injury to the neck, head or back. But if your use the correct technique and form, the risk of injury is low. To keep this exercise safe, follow the proper technique.
Are neck exercises safe?
Neck exercises have a higher risk of injury than other exercises. You can reduce the risk of injury by following the correct form and technique. Overall, neck exercises are safe as long as you use the proper form.
Below is more technical information about this exercise, such as the type of exercise equipment needed, main muscles worked, etc.
Main Muscles Worked: Various neck muscles
Equipment: Soft flooring
Mechanics Type: Compound
Stretch Type: Other
Written by Billy White
Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.
He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.
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This evidence and experienced based exercise guide on the prone neck bridge features 2 references, listed below.
1. Louw S, Makwela S, Manas L, Meyer L, Terblanche D, Brink Y. Effectiveness of exercise in office workers with neck pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. S Afr J Physiother. (2017, Nov 28) ✔
2. Naish R, Burnett A, Burrows S, Andrews W, Appleby B. Can a Specific Neck Strengthening Program Decrease Cervical Spine Injuries in a Men's Professional Rugby Union Team? A Retrospective Analysis. J Sports Sci Med. (2013, Sep 1) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
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Caution: Perform the prone neck bridge slowly, backing out if any discomfort is felt also avoid it if you have any neck injuries. When you have completed the movement, don't get up straight away, slowly get back up to avoid the risk of fainting.