Get Strong

Start From Neutral

When training neck flexion start the exercise from neutral. In the neutral position the machine will be providing tension before the exercise begins. This means the lifter will have to push the face pad forward several inches and hold it with good posture before initiating the rep. Once in the fully flexed position of the repetition the lifter should always pause to recruit as much tissue as possible. While holding the movement paused in a fully contracted position all available fibers become active. 

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Below is Darl Bauer Assistant Director of Strength and Coaching of the West Virginia Mountaineers. Each athlete is in a neutral contracted position awaiting Coach Bauer's exercise initiation command. 

Neutral to Pause to Get Strong.

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Topics: Pendulum 5 Way Neck, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Neck training

The University Of South Florida

The University of South Florida adds Pendulum to Get Strong.

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Topics: Pendulum 5 Way Neck, Pit Shark, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Pendulum Hip Press

The Blind Side

Research regarding neck training in athletics comes from many fields.  Whiplash is a common unwanted occurrence in sport. Whiplash refers to a series of neck injuries caused by or related to a sudden distortion of the neck, whereby the head and neck suddenly accelerate and are “whipped” back with deceleration. This action can cause damage to the supporting muscles, ligaments and other connective tissues in the neck and upper back. In athletics the term is often referred to as 'blind-sided', that is a hit on the athletic field while being vulnerable and unprotected. 

Neck injuries in athletics transpire, yet are slight compared with what occurs while we are moving daily through life.  The National Highway Traffic Administration estimates that there are 5.25 million traffic accidents in United States each year with 2.9 million suffering light or severe injuries. When you total up auto, sport, work, falls, etc. it is estimated there are at least 3 million new cases of whiplash per year - understandably much of the known research on neck trauma is unrelated to sport yet very applicable to it.

It is known in the automotive world of science that rear-end collisions typically cause more cervical spine damage than frontal or side collisions. An interesting 2015 study, "Analysis of Neck Muscles at a Simulated Rear-end Impact in Healthy Subjects."  found that "A high force capacity of anterior neck muscles has preventive value to reduce the consequences of whiplash accidents." Knowing this as a coach it makes perfect sense that by strengthening these muscle we can protect the athlete from the 'blind-side'.

Make sure neck training is an integral part of your sports program and is as important as any other exercise that you do........... for safety on and off the field of play.

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Train the anterior neck muscles when Geting Strong.

Topics: Pendulum 5 Way Neck, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Neck training

The Dumbbell And The Utility Bench

Using the Adjustable Utility Bench

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Dumbbells come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Using heavy dumbbells to Get Strong is not without its issues, whether it be getting the weight into a starting position, safely pressing the weight (especially the last few reps) or lowering heavy dumbbells to the floor upon completion of a movement. Carrying and returning hefty loads to the storage rack and even spotting can become problematic. Grab a pair of 200 pound dumbbells and the above statements will be telling.

The following is a way to lighten the load and get more out of the dumbbell bench press and the adjustable utility bench.

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Start with the dumbbells on the adjustable bench in the flat position. Call this position level one. The goal is to achieve 10 reps. Each rep must be paused at the top of the movement and the weight descended under control.

Upon completion of the 10th repetition the bench should be quickly adjusted to the next setting which is a slight incline.  Get 10 more reps immediately at this new adjustment which is called level two.

The rule is simple, four levels and 40 reps. The object is to achieve 10-10-10-10 continuous repetitions, quickly changing bench press positions and beginning each first rep of the set at a selected 'timed interval'. Example: selected 'timed interval' is 30 seconds...upon completion of the first level the lifter has 30 seconds to set the dumbbells down change the bench height and begin the next set of repetitions.  

Once the 10-10-10-10 rule is matched, raise the weight the following workout. 

It should be obvious that the weight of the dumbbells to be utilized is much lower than one would use if they were doing a dumbbell bench press staying only at the first level.

There are many strategies that can be used after executing a desired 10-10-10-10 sequence. Whether it be starting the sequence in a reverse order first level 4 then 3-2-1 or adding levels (1-2-3-5 skipping level 4).  You may even decide to change level sequences (ie. 4-2-4-1) or start or finish a sequence with a seated dumbbell press (seated press-4-3-1)..... (1-2-3-seated press). You can also adjust the time you are allowed to switch levels and begin the next 10 rep set. Example: Start the 10-10-10-10 routine with 40 seconds rest when the rule is matched change the rest interval to 35 seconds with the same weight.

The definition of utility is "the state of being useful, profitable or beneficial"  Get the most out of your 'utility bench' to Get Strong.

Topics: Muscular Strength, Pendulum Utility Bench

Up-To-Date

The following are a list of references on the importance of training the head, neck and jaw. Great information and great reasons to Get Strong.

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Sports Health. 2017 Mar/Apr;9(2):168-173. Epub 2016 Nov 15. Sex Differences in Anthropometrics and Heading Kinematics Among Division I Soccer Athletes. Bretzin, Mansell, Tierney, McDevitt.

Sports Med. 2016 Feb 9. [Epub ahead of print] Neck Muscular Strength, Training, Performance and Sport Injury Risk: A Review. Hrysomallis.

Am J Sports Med. 2014 Mar;42(3):566-76. Epub 2014 Jan 31. Effect of neck muscle strength and anticipatory cervical muscle activation on the kinematic response of the head to impulsive loads. Eckner JT1, Oh YK, Joshi MS, Richardson JK, Ashton-Miller JA.

Sports Med. 2016 May 3. [Epub ahead of print] Minimizing Head Acceleration in Soccer: A Review of the Literature. Caccese, Kaminski.

Am J Sports Med. 1979 Jul-Aug;7(4):231-3.Neck motion in the high school football player. Observations and suggestions for diminishing stresses on the neck. Pearl AJ, Mayer PW.

J Prim Prev. 2014 Neck strength: a protective factor reducing risk for concussion in high school sports. Collins CL, Fletcher EN, Fields SK, Kluchurosky L, Rohrkemper MK, Comstock RD, Cantu RC.

Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2014 Feb;26(1):33-40. Epub 2013 Oct 2.The relationship between impact force, neck strength, and neurocognitive performance in soccer heading in adolescent females. Gutierrez GM1, Conte C, Lightbourne K.

Sports Health. 2013 Jul;5(4):320-6. Neck strength imbalance correlates with increased head acceleration in soccer heading

Laryngorhinootologie. 2015 Jul 17. [Epub ahead of print] [Electromyographic Analysis of Neck Muscles at a Simulated Rear-end Impact in Healthy Subjects]. [Article in German] Raven , Volk GF, Stadler J, Graßme, Anders , Guntinas-Lichius.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Jun 8. [Epub ahead of print] Acute Lower Extremity Injury Rates Increase following Concussion in College Athletes. Lynall RC, Mauntel TC, Padua DA, Mihalik JP. 

Cortical hypoexcitability persists beyond the symptomatic phase of a concussion. Powers KC, Cinelli ME, Kalmar JM

Am J Sports Med. 2016 Mar;44(3):742-7.  Epub 2016 Jan 19. Concussion Increases Odds of Sustaining a Lower Extremity Musculoskeletal Injury After Return to Play Among Collegiate Athletes.

Sean Gregory, Neck Strength Predicts Concussion Risk, Study Says Time Sports 02.21.2013.

Robert Nash, Angus Barnett, Sally Burrows, Warren Andrews, Brendyn Appleby, Can a specific neck strengthening routine reduce cervical spine injuries in a Men’s Professional Rugby union team? A retrospective analysis Journal of Sports Medicine  2013 12,542-550

Paul Steinbach Sports Injury Expert Dawn Comstock Talks Concussion Prevention Athletic Business; Apr 2013, Vol. 37 Issue 4, p11

Beeman SM, Kemper AR, Madigan ML, Duma SM Effects of bracing on human kinematics in low-speed frontal sled tests. Ann Biomed Eng. 2011 Dec;39(12):2998-3010

Bose D, Crandall JR., Influence of active muscle contribution on the injury response of restrained car occupants. Ann Adv Automot Med. 2008 Oct; 52:61-72.

Vaccaro AR, Klein GR, Ciccoti M, Pfaff WL, Moulton MJ, Hilibrand AJ Watkins Return to play criteria for the athlete with cervical spine injuries resulting in stinger and transient quadriplegia/paresis.Spine J. 2002 Sep-Oct;2(5):351-6.

Anita N. Vasavada, Barry W. Peterson, Scott L. Delp, Three-dimensional spatial tuning of neck muscle activation in humans Exp Brain Res (2002) 147:437–448.

Thomas J. Roberts and Emanuel Azizi The series-elastic shock absorber: tendons attenuate muscle power during eccentric actions, Journal of Applied Physiology August 1, 2010 vol. 109 no. 2 396-404.

Armstrong B, McNair P, Taylor D., Head and neck position sense. Sports Med. 2008; 38(2):101-17. 

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017 Apr 13. Neck strength and self-reported neck dysfunction: what is the impact of a season of rugby union? Salmon, Sullivan, Handcock, Rehrer, Niven.

J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Mar 13. Can Neck Strength be Measured Using a Single Maximal Contraction in a Simulated Contact Position? Salmon, Handcock, John Sullivan, Reherer, Niven.

Topics: Pendulum 5 Way Neck, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Announcements, Muscular Strength

The Importance of Training the Head, Neck and Jaw

describe the imageMike Gittleson was the Director of Strength & Conditioning at the University of Michigan for 30 years and was a part of 15 Football Championships in that time. The following is an article that he wrote for the NCAA on the "The Importance of Training the Head and Neck."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) – which is used interchangeably with the term concussion – as a complex pathophysiologic process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biomechanical forces secondary to direct or indirect forces to the head. A concussion or MTBI can be caused by a blow or a jolt to the head or body that disrupts the function of the brain.

There are methods for lowering the risk and reducing the number of sport-related concussions across America. Some of the factors are return to play, rules changes, the number of exposures, skill development, protective equipment and strength training to lower subconcussive forces. All of these considerations play a part in abatement of concussion. Exclusion of any one item affects the safety of the student-athlete. Each factor must be reviewed by the professional who, by using assiduity and diligence, can and will have a positive impact on risk.

Preventative sports medicine is the hallmark of any strength and conditioning program. The first goal of a professional is to develop effective and practical ways to reduce the number of sports-related injuries.

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In the 1970s, collegiate programs began introducing strength training into their athletic programs to enhance performance as well as reduce injuries. There was very little research on the subject of weight training and athletics and many misnomers about strength training in general. At the time, the majority felt strongly that the use of barbells and strength training devices would inhibit athleticism by bulking and stiffening the athlete. Women, in general, had a strong fear of becoming too muscular. Educators worked to dispel those fears and strength and conditioning programs are now commonplace throughout athletics. Though some wrongly conceived beliefs still linger today when it comes to training the musculature associated with the cervical spine.

The benefits of muscular development are far greater than initially purported since the inception of strength training into intercollegiate athletics. One of the important functions of strength training has become the development of the muscle and tendon as a unit. The muscle-tendon unit attenuates and dissipates force. Developing a strong musculoskeletal system is what is needed to protect joints and reduce injuries. This attenuation and dissipation of force is not exclusive to particular joints in the anatomical system.

Dawn Comstock, associate professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health, collected data on 6,704 student-athletes in six sports: boys' and girls' soccer, basketball and lacrosse. Her results indicated that for every pound of improved neck strength, an individual reduces his or her concussion risk.

Dr. Comstock from her years of injury surveillance points out the primary mechanism for concussion injury is athlete-to-athlete contact. The researcher then asked, "Did the athlete see the blow coming?" And she found that for the athletes who saw the blow coming – those who had a chance to activate their neck muscles – experienced less severe concussion.

The attenuation and dissipation of force and bracing before impact by activating neck muscles can lower subconcussive trauma. This is a great reason for training the musculature that moves the neck and supports the head.

There are many more reasons for an athlete to train this region of the anatomy. ‘Where the head goes the body will follow’ is an athletic axiom that coaches teach. Stand straight, place your fingers lightly on the nape of your neck. Without moving your head quickly move your eyes left and right. You will feel the musculature in your neck begin to contract. The eyes are not connected to the neck muscles but the brain is preparing the body for movement. Like our limbs it is important to move the head quickly. Training the head and neck will enhance performance.

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The respiratory system’s process of inspiration and expiration involves much more than the diaphragm and the internal and external intercostal muscles. The scalene muscles in the neck are involved in almost every breath we take. The platysma and sternocleidomastoid are involved in heavy breathing. Injure or develop neck muscles and your body’s athleticism will be affected. 

Conventional wisdom suggests that strength training increases body mass index (BMI) in a positive way, but does it? BMI is a simplistic measure of body fat. It is calculated by dividing one’s weight in kilograms by the square of one’s height in meters. The derived results can then be compared to a chart of normative data provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). BMI is useful for the overweight and obese, yet it does have limitations. BMI may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have muscular builds. The problem is this simple tool does not differentiate between fat mass and lean body mass. It has long been argued that heavily muscled, weight-trained athletes are healthy despite their BMI classification.

At issue is the athlete that increases muscle mass and vascularity significantly in all areas of the body but the neck region alters peripheral vascular resistance in an acute way. Peripheral resistance is a function of the internal vessel diameter, vessel length and blood viscosity. Having a large body and an undeveloped neck changes the force of the delivery system’s blood flow to the head.

The cervical spine’s associated musculature is regarded as an important proprioceptive organ for postural processes. The muscles are small with a high spindle density. You can think of this region as the hotbed of proprioception. Disturbances of gait can occur by interfering with, damaging, weakening or fatiguing the muscles of the head and neck. Training this region augments static as well as dynamic posture – our ability to balance.

The head and neck muscular system is a complex anatomical structure and has apparent muscle redundancy; that is, more head and neck muscle than degrees of freedom. It is been postulated that individuals exhibit a large variation of neck muscle activation strategies for accomplishing the same task intra individually, as well as between subjects. The health practitioner’s return-to-play protocol after a concussion, whiplash, nerve or muscle trauma must contain a measurable strength component to restore each muscle to normalcy, redressing this tendency to substitute by the injured athlete. 

Head and neck muscles can be thought of as two distinct muscular units, the musculature that moves the head and the muscles that move the cervical spine. Each unit must be trained to maximize development and ongoing strength values collected. This aids in overall muscular fitness and post injury assessment in returning a student-athlete to their appropriate functional movement 

Injuries to the mouth, face and jaw are part of sport. Having a strong jaw helps in bracing, clenching against a mouth guard, and resisting the pull of the chin strap in helmets. Injured masseter muscles, strained temporalis, pterygoids, digastrics all must be rehabilitated and strengthened when damaged.

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To help lower subconcussive forces, protect the student-athlete returning to play, maximize performance and fitness, strength training of the head, neck and jaw must be inclusive when designing exercise programs. 

Topics: Head/Neck/Trap/Shop, Pendulum 5 Way Neck, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Neck training

The Fighting Irish

The University of Notre Dame upgrades their weight room with a wide variety of Pendulum Strength Training Machines.


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They are Getting Strong in South Bend

Topics: Pendulum Seated Squat, Pendulum 5 Way Neck, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Pendulum Hip Press, Pendulum 3 Way Row, Pendulum Combo Lat Pull

Weight Charts To Get Strong

Weightlifting percentage charts are used by coaches throughout the country.  They provide guidance in selecting loads to place on the bar for training.  Percentage tables can be chosen from multiple authors Stone & Bryant, Epley, Bryzcki, Prilepin, Mann, Westside, NSCA, and direction from Tendo, GymAware, Push, and others.  Based upon your beliefs, training style or who you may deem as the most credible source, the selection is up to each coach or indvidual. You may use 'standard weight lifting percentage charts' or 'velocity based percentage charts for training. 'Velocity charts' are based upon the relationship between the percentage of one's maximum lift (1RM) and the corresponding velocity of the bar or machine's work arm - meaning when the individual was tested for their 1RM, their velocity was tracked, and percentages of this velocity then are used to select training loads and speeds. Velocity based training requires the use of an accelerometer to measure the vector quantity of a bar, dumbbell, or other object of choice. 

Standard weight lifting percentage charts are derived in many ways. The following is an example of derivation of weight lifting percentage chart without a accelerometer:

First a population is tested in a single maximum repetition (1RM) of a given exercise.  Once the values are obtained the group is tested in maximum endurance at a percentage of their obtained 1RM.  A formula is gleaned that assigns a numerical value to each repetition.

Example :

A population of people found to have a max of 300 pounds on the bench press are further tested at 75% (225 Pounds) of their maximum .  The average result is 10 repetitions for the test.  The value of each rep is therefore 0.0333 or 7.5 pounds a rep.

0.0333 x 225 pounds = 7.5 pounds per rep.

7.5 pounds x 10= 75 pounds

225 pounds + 75 pounds = 300 pound max

Once a value is assigned to the repetition based upon the study, in this case 0.0333,  a 'Weight Lifting Percentage Chart' is constructed for the general population.

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To use a chart a weightlifter simply finds his or her maximum along the left side.  The load to workout with is selected based on the percentage and repetitions forthcoming from their workout plan.

Sample of an athletes instructions from a Coach...

Today we are going to use 75% of our maximum for 10 reps, then 85% of our maximum for 6 reps and 90% for 4 on the bench press.  The above chart tells you the weight you should be working out with based on your individual max to Get Strong.

The athlete with a 270 max chooses...

75% - 205 x 10

85% - 230 x 6

90% - 245 x 4

Exactly what these percentages really mean to the muscle tissue is a an ongoing question that has required continual research. 

Try this to explore the percentage chart that you may be using...

Find your one repetition maximum in a multi-joint exercise such as a free weight barbell squat or bench press.  Select a percentage such as 65%, 75% or 85% of that maximum and do as many repetitions as possible with that percentage and record your repetitions.

Now select a 'single-joint' exercise such as barbell curl and repeat the test.  Whether trained or untrained you will find you achieve fewer repetitions at the same percentage of 1RM with a single-joint movement and more repetitions with a multi-joint movement.   In other-words multi -joint and single-joint exercises have different values of a repetition.  The amount of muscle mass involved in a multi-joint exercise and the neural system alter the outcome.

If this same test is done with a large group of athletes, say a team, you will get a similar result.  You will also find a great deal of variability from athlete to athlete in the data. 

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Try this also......

Take all your athletes who's maximum is the same in a particular exercise.  Let's say their maximum is 270 pounds on the bench press.  Using 75% of their max in the above chart (205), test the maximum amount of repetitions they can do.

In general, most may achieve 10 reps as indicated on the chart, but you may find an athlete who can only do 6 reps or another who can do 15.  Very normal stuff, as we all have different neurological efficiencies and muscle-tendon invagination surface areas.

Charts are charts, they set a course.  They give direction. Understand that there are many many variables that affect each athlete each day. Numerically charted recommended weights and repetitions, as well as recommended repetition velocities are only guides.

The best chart to hang in your weight room is the 'Effort Chart'.  When you go to it, it says.... give a 100%  effort to any weight you choose........to Get Strong.

Topics: Pendulum Rack System, Muscular Strength

Weighted Dips Take Nerve

The 'dip' exercise is great for the chest, shoulders, triceps and rhomboids. Training this movement regularly can bring the desired physical results. As one gets strong there eventually becomes a need for a waist belt for adding resistance to progressively overload. 

The hand is innervated by three nerves - the median, ulnar, and radial. As one becomes extremely strong the ulnar nerve tends to be susceptible to the added pressure of weighted dips, which causes pain in the heel of the hand radiating upwards towards the elbow. This nerve compression and uncomfortable feeling does not allow an individual to continue making progress with the exercise. 

Having a dip bar that has a larger than normal circumference takes stress off the nerves in the hand and allows an athlete to Get Strong!

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Topics: Pit Shark, Pendulum Rack System, Rogers Wall Mounted Dip

Food For Thought

The human brain utilizes more energy than any other organ in the body. About 1/3 of its energy is used for maintaining cellular health and 2/3rds to provide energy to fuel neurons so they can communicate with one another. This energy needed represents about 20% of our resting metabolic rate.

Using some of the brains energy to think about gaining and losing weight, it is understood if you eat more calories then you expend you will gain weight. If you create a negative caloric balance or deficit your body will burn it's stored fat for energy and ultimately you will lose the desired poundage that you wish. Counting calories is certainly away to track what is happening when you diet, using dietary software, dietary programs, exercise wrist watches all help. Even with technology and professional dietary programs science says the relationship of counting calories and managing body weight is not as simple as one may think adding to what we already know, that diets, even with the appropriate caloric balance are frustrating.

Let's say, at the time you are 'moderately active' and begin precisely monitoring calories as you up your activity level to 'very active'. The goal is to increase energy expenditure by exercising more while keeping your food intake consistent. This should cause you to lose pounds. Having a new high energy level and watching your diet may initially give you your desired weight reduction, but other things begin to occur. Becoming more fit causes you to relax more completely, you also may nap and sleep through the night soundly. These positive outcomes of becoming in better shape and conserving more energy through rest, can reduce caloric needs. Suddenly the amount of calories from the food that you are taking in is reflective of the caloric needs of being 'moderately active' and the new activity adjustment no longer reduces your weight. The good news is that what is occurring fitness wise is certainly a plus. 

There is another caloric expenditure occurrence that happens as you become more fit that changes energy requirements. Becoming more active leads to becoming stronger and more skilled in movements which gives you what is deemed better economy of motion. This new economy of motion decreases your energy expenditure to perform the athletic skills that you are doing and also decreases the total caloric needs for daily tasks such as stair climbing, walking and a host of other normal activities above your basal metabolism.

Once you begin adding muscle due to your new 'activity level' change - caloric needs once again are modified. Gaining muscle requires additional calories each day to gain and maintain mass. Keeping the number of calories consistent to lose body fat becomes tricky as muscular gains are also an important part of fitness and require a caloric increase that you are trying to avoid.

The bottom line is - all diets have their ups and downs and require adjustments, patience, determination and consistency which are a must if you want to Get Lean and Get Strong.

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Topics: Muscular Growth, Muscular Strength