Neck Cranks: The How To & Why You Really Shouldn’t

Neck Cranks: The How To & Why You Really Shouldn’t

In Brazilian jiu-jitsu certain type injuries prevail – commonly these are focused on neck, shoulder or knees.

But what makes neck cranks different from almost any other submission is that you should really tap to it before experiencing real discomfort. And certainly before it gets to this point:

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For many practitioners a major issue is to recognize the point at which someone should tap so some education is necessary when it comes to this lethal option.

Much like with heel hooks, a neck crank is only as dangerous as the people practicing it are ignorant.


But let’s first take a look at the guidelines of the most significant organizations around. The IBJJF is explicit in applying the rules – the neck cranks are only allowed when they are a part of a choke.

A Spinal Lock without a choke is illegal and will get you disqualified in an IBJJF rules event.


Typically gym rules reflect this guideline in that they either forbid neck cranks or recommend one exercise caution. 

Cervical lock with choke/ choke with spinal lock


This technique consists of putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the opponent’s cervical spine while putting your hand on their forehead. Surprisingly, it is legal at all belts even though it is technically a neck crank. There is no choke here but the term IBJJF uses is choke with spinal lock.

Now a neck crank can cause sprains and or strains on your neck.

UEJJF forbids:

“To make any locks attacking the spinal column without a choke (Pulling from the underneath position is not considered as Neck lock)”

ADCC rules also forbid some moves like the Full Nelson and Crucifix Neck Crank.



What’s the difference between sprains and strains?

Strains are muscular injuries often where the neck muscles fail to resist the opposing force. Sprains are ligamentous injuries which occur when the range of motion is surpassed.


What is normal range of motion?

The spine as a whole works as a chain link: if one of the 24 segments (7 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar) lacks mobility than the segment above and/or below has to take up the slack. That hypermobile segment is the weakest link and likely the one that will get strained. Make sure each segment is mobile and you have a uniform curve when you bend your neck.

Be smart and Tap! Often a choke may not be perfect and it ends up cranking the neck instead of putting your to sleep. Don’t have an ego. Tap today and train tomorrow. You may feel like a doofus to tap to a lower belt but you will feel like a complete jackass if you cannot train for 2 weeks.