Neck Bridging: How Safe Is it?

Neck Bridging: How Safe Is it?

Guest post by Dr Kickass, Mike Piekarski, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Former MMA Fighter, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt. Follow him on instagram.

Neck bridging: Is it safe?

The neck bridge has been a strengthening exercise that grapplers have used for hundreds of years. Grappling is fairly hard on the neck so having a strong neck is key for injury mitigation. Does the neck bridge reduce injury or exacerbate it?

The challenge with this exercise is while you are strengthening the cervical muscles you are also axial compressing the spine. The cervical muscles have two main jobs:

1️⃣resist motion
2️⃣orient your head for optimal sensory input.

These muscles are stabilizers, not prime movers and not designed to support the human body.

Intervertebral discs are spacers between vertebrae. There is an inner layer (nucleus pulposus) surrounded by the outer layer (anulus fibrosus). The orientation of the structure is designed to absorb compressive forces on the spine.

Potential mechanisms of injury regarding discs:

1️⃣Excessive axial compression or shear forces from a single traumatic event. (Ex: landing on your head following a throw or sweep.)
2️⃣Repetitive forces of a lower magnitude over a prolonged period. (Ex: getting choked for several years.)

The body is designed to adapt to stress, however there is a fine line regarding appropriate and excessive stress.

When to do this exercise:

I cannot recommend any exercise without knowing someone’s medical history and goals. If properly dosed this exercise can be used with caution. For an athlete with a previous neck injury I would recommend alternative methods (Isometric holds and open chain strengthening, such as @theironneck ).

In the end there are no “bad” exercises as long as there is a rationale that will meet the desired goal. If used properly this can be a great exercise.

“You will always regret not training the position where you were injured.” @drandreospina