Being Summer time here in the U.S., I have a lot of aspiring football players coming into the weight room to prepare for the upcoming season. A strong neck is high on the list of priorities. I ran across this article awhile ago. It brought back some memories. As a teenager in the late 60's and early 70's we tried a lot of different methods to increase our neck strength. The 4-way neck machines that we have now didn't exist then, not even in our imaginations. We did bridges, did neck lifts with head harnesses, and even rigged up an old football helmet with a dumbbell bar sticking out of the top which we could load with weights and work our necks from a variety of angles. Of course a strong neck is vital in contact sports, but even for non-contact athletes a strong neck is important and seems to be often overlooked today. Obviously a strong neck could save your life in a car accident. Even for throwing athletes, the body is one piece and having a strong, stable neck assists in being able to hold proper posture and technique through the finish of a throw. Pulling exercises and heavy shrugging does a lot to stabilize the neck area, but direct work of both flexion and extension is also valuable. It only takes a few sets a few times a week to make a difference. The only downside is that you may have to start getting larger dress shirts.
Strong Neck, Safer Head
By Mike Phelps
According to some experts, a simple way to help prevent concussions involves focusing on what some believe to be a lost art in strength training: the neck.
Neck strengthening will be one of many topics discussed at "The Legends" football strength clinic in Cincinnati in June, directed by former NFL strength coach Kim Wood. It is currently believed that a stronger neck and trapezius muscle will help cut down on the head and neck trauma that often leads to concussions.
"The neck is under the microscope more because of the tie-in with concussions," Cincinnati Bengals strength coach Chip Morton told the Bengals official Web site. "With the way the brain sits in the skull cavity and it bounces on the inside of the skull, one of the ways to hopefully reduce that is to strengthen the thickness or strength of the column that supports the head so the absorption of the force is that much better."
Ray Oliver, Director of Strength & Conditioning for the University of Kentucky, believes neck training has fallen by the wayside in favor of "glamour" exercises such as bench presses, power cleans, and squat thrusts.
"Remember looking at athletes 30, 40 years ago?" Oliver told the Bengals Web site. "You could tell they were athletes because they had the big necks. Now the legs are bigger, arms are bigger, chests, but not necks. I remember one of the first things Kim Wood teaching me was that the neck is the number-one priority."
Now we spend all this time developing faster guys with bigger bodies and train them for these huge collisions," he continued. "Then we stand there and gulp and can't breathe when one of them can't get up for five minutes."
Morton, however, believes neck strength could soon become a priority.
"Think about it," he says. "If you're missing games or practices because of a concussion, what's best for a team? A guy that can bench press 400 pounds, or he's out because of a concussion? What impacts the thinking more? It's fascinating."
Neck training is also in the news at the college level. Ralph Cornwell, a PhD candidate in health promotion/human performance at Virginia Tech, is conducting a study aimed at preventing concussions and also creating a neck strengthening protocol that he hopes strength and conditioning coaches will have to adhere to in the future.
To research his study--dubbed "Project Neck"--Cornwell has measuring and exercising the necks of students at Elon University. He hopes to learn about the effects of consistent neck conditioning on concussion prevention, with the idea that the muscles in a stronger neck will better disperse energy from a hard blow to the head.
"The stronger your neck is, the more likely it is to dissipate the energy from a blow," Matt Kavalek, Cornwell's lead research assistant and a sophomore at Elon, told The Times-News.