Does BJJ Make Your Neck Bigger?

Lets face it nobody wants to have a skinny pencil neck. Unfortunately, not all of us were blessed with a Mike Tysonesque neck. Don’t become discouraged, the neck like all muscles can be developed through training. Is BJJ a form of training that will make your grow and force you to buy new shirts? Lets find out!

Does BJJ make your neck bigger? BJJ will make your neck bigger. Having your neck squeezed and pulled while you tuck your chin and flex your neck to defend chokes will develop your muscles causing your neck to grow. Your neck is also further developed through performing many passing techniques and takedowns such as double legs and single legs.

BJJ may not cause your neck to grow as much as wrestling but the Brazilian grappling art still places a lot of stress on the neck muscles which forces them to grow bigger.

What BJJ Techniques Cause Your Neck To Grow?

  • Defending chokes – Having your neck squeezed over and over again strains your neck muscles, it is very common for new BJJ practitioners to complain of muscle soreness after being repeatedly caught in chokes, after a while your neck will adapt, the muscles will grow and before long someone squeezing with all their might won’t even warrant a reaction from you or your iron neck
  • Passing – Many passing techniques, particularly in No-Gi where grips are limited athletes will use their head like a bull, they will pass headfirst and use their head to establish control over their opponent, when performing this style of passing you need to keep your back and neck straight otherwise you risk injuring your neck
  • Maintaining Position – Some BJJ athletes will use their head to control their opponents, it is common to use your head to pin arms and legs in position, during a head and arm choke an athlete will trap an opponent’s arm between his head and his opponent’s head, opponent’s will often thrash to free their arm, you need to have a strong neck to keep that arm in place
  • Takedowns – During takedowns you need to keep your head in a strong position by slightly looking up, then when you complete a takedown you need to keep your head glued to your opponent and use your neck to add extra power to your finishes, this takes a lot of neck strength and your neck will be forced grow to deal the rigors of performing takedowns

Is BJJ Bad For Your Neck?

Is BJJ bad for your neck? Yes, BJJ can be bad for your neck. Neck injuries are common in BJJ with many long term practitioners of the martial art suffering from herniated discs and nerve damage in their necks. Catastrophic neck injuries leading to permanent damage such as paralysis are rare but do occur in BJJ, usually when body weight is applied when the neck is in a compromised position.

The neck is placed under considerable strain when training BJJ. Your opponent’s are constantly trying to grab and bend your neck to establish chokes and use your head to control your movement. It is common in BJJ to get your neck stuck in some compromising situations where your neck is bent and being crushed under your opponent’s weight. These situations can lead to neck injuries.

The most common neck injury in BJJ is a cervical sprain. A Cervical sprain is a soft tissue injury which usually occurs due to excessive movement past its natural range of motion. Fortunately, they are usually minor but they can still cause some serious pain and stiffness. A cervical sprain can turn into a long term injury if you do not perform proper rehab and recover before you return to the mats.

Celebrity BJJ practitioners Joe Rogan and Sam Harris have both suffered neck injuries from BJJ. The injuries were serious enough that they both had to take significant time off from the mats. Joe Rogan said he suffered from herniated discs from repeatedly attacking head and arm chokes. His neck got so bad he was experiencing numbness and weakness throughout his arm.

How Do I Avoid Neck Injuries In BJJ?

  • Warm up – stretch, go through common BJJ movements such as bridge, hip escape, shoot takedowns, move your neck through full range of motion
  • Keep your neck in a strong position – neck and back straight, core engaged, looking slightly up, spine stacked on top of each other in straight line
  • Don’t try risky moves you haven’t practiced – if you aren’t experienced performing a high risk move that puts pressure on your neck then just leave it alone, you do not know how your opponent may react and you could easily mess the move up and end up in a dangerous position
  • Tap early – if your neck is in a bad position just tap, it is better to restart and have your pride hurt then your neck
  • Strengthen your neck – you can perform specific exercises to develop your neck

How Do I Strengthen My Neck For BJJ?

How do I strengthen my neck for BJJ? To strengthen your neck for BJJ you need to train more BJJ. The more BJJ you train the more your neck will develop and adapt to the rigors of the sport. You can further strengthen your neck by performing weightlifting exercises such as 4 way neck exercise and using a weighted harness. You can also train in wrestling.

What Are Some Good Neck Exercises For BJJ?

What are some good neck exercises for BJJ? There are some good neck exercises for BJJ:

  • 4 way neck exercise – all you need is a bench and a weight plate, lie on your stomach on the bench with your head off the bench, place weight plate on the back of your head, bring your chin to your chest and extend until your neck is straight, lie on your back and both sides and repeat the process until you have done all 4 ways, start off light and perform 20-30 reps each side, add weight once you can perform 30 reps with ease
  • Weighted neck harness – you can buy a harness which you place on your head and can attach weights to, to strengthen your neck move your neck up and down and back and forth, start off light, the neck is a sensitive area, so it is best to perform high repetitions with low weight vs low reps with high weight

  • Rolling bridge – this is an adaption of the wrestler’s bridge, the wrestler’s bridge is a famous neck exercise however it can wear out your discs, this is a safer version, get in the plank position, put weight on your forehead and roll without letting your shoulders touch the ground until you are back in the starting position, perform 20-30 reps

  • Deadlift – deadlifts don’t only develop your back and legs, they also will help your neck grow, start off performing 3 sets of 8 reps and try to add weight every workout, start off light and add 5 pounds per workout

Does BJJ Give You Big Traps?

Does BJJ give you big traps? No, BJJ does not give you big traps. BJJ can give you a bigger neck but to develop your traps you are going to have to perform other exercises. Interestingly, wrestlers tend to have much bigger traps than BJJ athletes, which is probably from the extensive hand fighting training.

How To Develop Big Traps For BJJ?

How to develop big traps for BJJ? The best way to develop big traps for BJJ is through weightlifting. BJJ will not provide enough stimulation to force your traps to grow. Weightlifting can provide large amounts of targeted stimulation which will give you hulk like traps in no time.

What Are The Best Exercises To Develop Big Traps For BJJ?

Here Are Some Of Best Exercises To Get Big Traps:

  • Deadlift – the king of all weightlifting exercises, the deadlift will cause your legs, back, arms, neck and traps to grow, this is the best exercise to perform if you are looking for something that will increase your strength and muscle mass rapidly, start light, focus on good form and attempt to add weight to the bar on every workout, start off with 5 sets of 5 or 3 sets of 8,
  • Farmer’s carry – if you want to build that farmer’s boy strength and develop bulging traps then this is the exercise for you, you pick up two weights, one in each hand and walk, start off with doing 5X20m

  • Shrugs – if deadlift is the king then shrugs are the prince when it comes to building traps, pick up barbell and try to touch your ears with your traps, perform 3 sets of 20
  • Bent Over Rows – great exercise to build both your back and neck, pick up barbell, bend over so your back is 90 degrees, bring bar from your to hip, 3X12 is a good rep range


BJJ places a lot of stress on your neck. To deal with this your stress your neck will adapt and grow. This is why you will see so many BJJ athletes with bull like necks. If you are looking to further develop your neck you can add specific exercises to your training routine. Some of the best exercises include 4 way neck exercise, weighted neck harness and rolling bridge.

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