If you want to dominate the mat Wolverine-style, then besides full-body strength you need to work the smaller muscle groups, including those around your neck. Here, Joe McFarland, head coach for the nationally ranked University of Michigan wrestling program, speaks about the importance of neck strength and how he develops it in his wrestlers.
Competition and practice place a lot of stress on wrestlers' necks, so we work on neck strength and flexibility both in the weight room and on the mat to prevent injury and help maintain good stance and positioning.
We bridge on the mat before and after practice to warm up and develop neck strength, flexibility and endurance. When you bridge on your chest, face the mat, lift your hips, rest on your head and toes, and then rock back and forth and side to side. I recommend starting with your hands on the mat, so you can work a full range of motion. Next, flip over onto your back, arch it so your belly is toward the ceiling and rest your hands and feet on the mat. Then, rock your body side to side and front to back. Pivot your head as far back as you can; eventually you should be able to touch your nose to the mat.
After a period of time, you'll be able to keep your hands off the mat, which will strengthen the muscles even more. We do each bridge for 30 to 40 seconds.
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