A head harness is often used by weightlifters, bodybuilders, and other athletes to strengthen and define the muscles of the neck. Typically made of leather or nylon, this piece of exercise equipment is used in conjunction with free weight plates and can weigh up to 250 pounds (113.4 kilograms). Routine use of a head harness can build muscle mass as well as strengthen neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles.
A head harness typically consists of one long strap that goes over the top of the head and two stabilizing shorter straps on the forehead and back of the head. Each end of the long strap fastens to steel chains that subsequently attach to free weights. As the person wearing the head harness raises or lowers his or her head, resistance against the attached weight plate exercises the neck, shoulders, and upper back muscles to strengthen and define. Many fitness experts encourage strengthening the neck to help avoid injuries while performing other exercises or physical activities.
Weight lifting is often intended to showcase muscle mass and body definition. The neck is usually the most obvious group of muscles since other parts of the body are generally covered by clothing. By defining the neck muscles with a head harness, a bodybuilder can easily exhibit muscular development.
Use of a head harness as exercise equipment typically includes standing, sitting, and prone postures. Standing or sitting and lowering and raising the chin while wearing a head harness attached to a weight plate can strengthen neck muscles. Exercising the neck while in a prone position can be accomplished by either lying flat on the back or on either side. When using ahead harness while lying prone, exercising both sides of the neck typically leads to a symmetrical development.
Many fitness experts stress the need for safety when using a head harness. The neck is a critical area to protect, as damage to the vertebrae and nerves can lead to loss of proper limb function and paralysis. Using low weights and high repetitions instead of heavy weights and fewer repetitions is a common method to safeguard the neck.
Athletes who regularly use head harnesses for neck strength include wrestlers, boxers, weightlifters, and bodybuilders. The harness also is commonly used by other participants of sports that require strong, well-developed necks, shoulders, and upper backs. Competitive bodybuilders who increase muscle mass in other areas of the body but neglect the neck typically receive lower competition scores, as do competitors who overdevelop the neck area.