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You've seen them in the gym, the men and women whose necks are so big they could wear a belt for a necklace. This kind of neck is developed with a lot of time spent in the gym, a strict diet and a genetic predisposition for large muscles. Working out can make your neck bigger but only if you are willing to put in the work.
Several different muscles support and stabilize the neck, some of which are inconsequential in terms of strength training and used only for swallowing. The neck muscles you'll want to focus on are involved with head and trunk movements and include the sternocleidomastoid, splenius, upper portion of the erector spinae, levetor scapulae and the upper fibers of the trapezius.
The smaller muscles of the neck should only be worked with isolation exercises that use light resistance. Weighted neck flexion will target the sternocleidomastoid while weighted neck extension will work the splenius. The neck's larger muscles can be targeted with more powerful and dynamic exercises such as the shrug, deadlift, hang clean, snatch and farmer's walk.
How Much, How Often
You're not going to grow a bigger neck overnight -- it will take a lot of hard work and dedication. To build bigger neck muscles, the National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends performing three to six sets of six to 12 repetitions of each exercise. For the large-muscle exercises, use weights that are 67 to 85 percent of your one-repetition max. Strength exercises for the neck can be performed every other day, allowing 48 hours of recovery time in between workouts.
It's All in the Genes
How big your neck will get from working out is ultimately dependent upon your parents and grandparents. If most of your family members look like they could have the physiques of Greek gods with a little work, then there's a pretty good chance working out can give you a bigger neck. On the other hand, if your family is more on the wiry side, it may not be in the cards for you to have a big neck. Train hard to make the best of what you've got to work with.