You’ve probably seen some pretty crazy neck exercises on the side of the ring in Muay Thai, MMA, UFC and a number of other high power, strike heavy martial arts. Maybe you know what’s going on, maybe you don’t but we’re here to tell you why regular neck exercises are key to preventing a knockout.

In Muay Thai, fighters strengthen their necks and jaws in a bid to be able to withstand more blows to the head without being knocked out. Since your neck provides support for your spine, skull and the brain inside it, and all your neck muscles that hold your head up, it undoubtedly needs to be strong – especially for those who partake in combat sports.

The science behind it is quite simple in fact. When you get hit flush on the chin, your entire neck can rotate at an accelerated pace, causing your head to spin and the brain inside your skull to bounce around. This is basically concussion because the brain is slamming into your skull, damaging it and making you feel dizzy, sick or even pass out. Ironically, although it is the brain that is damaged, it is the neck’s fault this has happened, so with a strong neck, you’ll be able to withstand a much stronger punch before this happens, as rotation is minimized.

In MMA or Muay Thai, you’ll often find yourself in a clinch, a move where your opponent tries to pull your head down so they can hit your head with their knees with the aim of knocking you out. With a strong neck, you will be able to keep your head upright as you fight off your opponent trying to snap your neck down. Neck strength will also help you pull your neck up after it’s been cranked down, preventing your opponent’s attacks from landing.

So, the big question is – how do we make our neck strong then? Well, Muay Thai has some perfect exercises that can be adopted across all types of martial arts and can be performed literally anywhere.

The simplest of all exercises is a simple nod. Just spend your day doing strong, stern nods and shakes of the head. Sure, you may look a bit mad to onlookers, but who’s the mad one with the weak neck, you tell me! As you nod or shake, slowly increase the range of each pass. The more you do this, the stronger your neck is and you’ll be relieving neck tension at the same time! Bonus!

On the other end of the scale is the neck harness. This medieval-looking contraption is weighted with chains but is ideal at strengthening the neck. You may have seen Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Muay Thai World Champion Petchboonchu use this to build their neck before a match. It’s hard to explain so here is a video explaining how to do it from the seated position.

Bridging is also a great way to build strength in your neck. Not only does it work on your neck muscles but it also helps build your abs, legs, and hips – so what’s there not to like?! All you need to do is to lie on your back, lift up your knees and instead of using your hands near your head to hold a yoga type arch, use your head. Move your body up and down and use your neck to control and bear the majority of your weight and you’ll be golden.

Just remember the stronger your neck, the more attacks to the head you can withstand before you are knocked out. It is simple science and doesn’t even need any proactive though processes in the moment if it’s already strong then you’ve already got the skill. Oh, but please remember, a strong neck is no substitute for actual defense, so don’t forget to practice that too…