A strong neck can be the difference between a safe spine or an injured spine, the difference between a safe brain and a concussion, or the difference a finished or a failed takedown. Why, then, do grapplers and MMA fighters spend so little time working out and strengthening the muscles of the neck? There’s no good reason, in part because they may be lacking in the proper equipment.
The Iron Neck says it solves that problem. The product is marketed to grapplers and MMA fighters, so we decided to give the Iron Neck a full review.
What is the Iron Neck?
The Iron Neck is a posture and neck strengthening device that is worn on the head and attached to a resistance band that is attached to something stable. The product inflates to fit snugly but comfortably on the user’s head, and the user can move his or head in all directions, using the pull and resistance on the iron neck to help build muscle.
Most traditional neck strengthening tools only work in one linear direction. Hanging weight from the head, for example, only works the neck in the direction of gravity. Unlike many traditional neck strengthening tools, the Iron Neck sets itself apart by allowing full rotational movement of the head. So rather than just strengthening one side of the neck, the user can strengthen all the muscles of the neck, including rotational muscles that are difficult to train using traditional methods.
Who should consider using the Iron Neck?
Again, the Iron Neck is marketed to grapplers and MMA fighters, and that makes plenty of sense. Grapplers’ heads are constantly pulled on, pressured, twisted, and used to apply pressure and techniques. And MMA fighters experience those same stresses on their necks, in addition to the trauma and whiplash involved in strikes to the head. As we’ll discuss more below, a strong neck helps in these activities to both prevent injuries and aid in sport performance.
The Iron Neck is also a useful tool for anyone looking to improve their posture or reduce overall neck pain. Many of those people are also grapplers or fighters who experience chronic pain or poor posture as a result of their sport.
UFC commentator Joe Rogan has spoken extensively about the Iron Neck, and the product is endorsed by a number of fighters and grapplers. Listen to Rogan talking about the Iron Neck on his podcast with former UFC champion Frankie Edgar:
What are the benefits of the Iron Neck?
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Sure, the Iron Neck purports to strengthen the neck, but why is that so important? Other than just building muscle, what are the practical benefits of the Iron Neck?
Perhaps the most important benefit of the Iron Neck is the reduction in neck and spine injuries. By strengthening the muscles of the neck, the delicate bones of the neck are more supported and protected. Additionally, stronger neck muscles mean a neck that is more resilient against sudden impact or torque — things that regularly happen during MMA or grappling. After all, which is stronger, the twig or the tree stump? By thickening and strengthening your neck, you’re creating a stronger support system for your head, neck, and spine.
More specifically, strengthening the neck correlates to a reduced risk of concussion. Both grapplers and MMA fighters should be concerned about concussions, which can be suffered through slams, collisions, or strikes, and can have long lasting and serious side effects. For that reason, strengthening the muscles of the neck should be a priority for any athlete looking to protect his or her brain.
Don’t just take our word for it, either. According to researchers from Rutgers University, a stronger, thicker, and more properly aligned neck reduces the amount of energy that is transferred to the brain, thereby reducing the risk of receiving and severity of concussions.
In short, strengthening your neck makes participating in grappling and MMA safer.
Strengthening for better performance
More than just preventing and reducing the severity of injury, a strong neck can improve performance in grappling and MMA. For grappling, and particularly wrestling, a strong neck and posture is needed to prevent your opponent from pulling on your head and breaking your posture. And offensively, any good wrestler knows that the head, coupled with a strong neck, can be used like an extra appendage to apply pressure or finish a double leg takedown.
And once strikes become involved in MMA, a strong neck aids in performance. Being more resilient to concussions means more resilience against strikes. In fighting terms, that resilience is referred to as a fighter’s “chin,” and having a good chin means that fighter is harder to finish, keeping him or her in the fighter longer, all thanks to a stronger neck. Those benefits to a fighter’s chin are in addition to the benefits in grappling as a result of a stronger neck.
Better posture and reduced pain
One benefit of a stronger neck that many don’t consider is a reduction in chronic pain and improvement in posture. Thanks to the repeated stresses involved in grappling and MMA, grapplers and fighters of all levels tend to suffer from chronic neck or spine pain. That pain is often coupled with or caused by poor posture. That pain and poor posture is often exacerbated by spending hours a day hunched over a smart phone or sitting at a computer.
By strengthening the muscles of the neck, the Iron Neck says it can reduce overall pain and improve posture. Scientists at the National Research Center for the Working Environment in Copenhagen found that strength training that focused on the muscles of the neck and shoulders led to a 75% reduction in pain among women that suffered from chronic neck pain.
Posture is related to pain, and strengthening the muscles of the neck can improve posture by correcting imbalances and weaknesses in the neck. Improved posture leads to improved breathing, improved mobility, and and overall reduction in pain. These are all things that grapplers and MMA fighters would benefit from.
What are the different Iron Neck models?
The Iron Neck comes in three models: the Starter, the Varsity, and the Pro.
The Starter (buy here)
The aptly named Starter is the entry-level Iron Neck product. This product is ideal for anyone looking to reduce chronic pain, improve posture, and generally strengthen the muscles of the neck. Like all Iron Necks, it comes with three different interchangeable head pads to fit craniums of all sizes. The biggest difference between the Starter and the other two Iron Neck models is that the Starter does not offer rotational friction or resistance (more on that below).
The Varsity (buy here)
The Iron Neck’s mid-tier model is the Varsity. This model provides everything included with the Starter, but also provides steady friction (i.e. resistance) during the rotation of the head. More than just providing resistance through the attached band, this model provides resistance as the head is rotated (shaking your head “no,” for example). For this reason, this model would be perfect athletes that not only want to reduce chronic pain and prevent injury, but also strengthen their neck for optimal performance in BJJ and MMA.
The Pro (buy here)
The Pro is the Iron Neck’s top-of-the-line model and its most expensive. This model comes with everything included with the Starter or Varsity, but also includes a variable friction dial that allows the user to adjust the amount of resistance on rotational movements. This model is ideal for anyone looking for optimal performance in BJJ and MMA, or anyone that suffers from chronic pain and wishes to continue comfortably participating in BJJ and MMA.