Get Strong

Neck Muscle Strength

On January 31, 2014 the American Journal of Sports Medicine published an article on neck strength titled, Effect of Neck Muscle Strength and Anticipatory Cervical Muscle Activation on the Kinematic Response of the Head to Impulsive Loads. The findings indicated that male and female athletes could potentially modify risk factors for concussion by developing neck musculature. It was shown that having greater neck strength when bracing for impact reduces the magnitude of the head’s kinematic response.

The anticipatory act of bracing for a violent collision is important in protecting oneself from the effects of whiplash, yet bracing in itself is a common occurrence.  When you run, neck muscles contract before your foot hits the ground. The process of running is inherently bouncy as our muscle tendon units act as springs to propel us up and forward. This aerial phase neck muscle contraction is in anticipation of the ground reaction force.  Ground reaction force causes a vertical acceleration of the head that actually pitches the head forward at foot strike.

The human head uses a self-stabilizing system that does not rely on muscular reflex to control the pitching action during running. Reflex alone cannot control the action of the head once ground strike occurs – having fewer than then 10 milliseconds to control the up and forward action of the head is not enough time for our natural reflexes.

Our head, which is pitched forward upon landing, also rolls and yaws. This requires contractions of neck extensors, as well as flexors and a downward swing of an arm that dampens vertical acceleration. Each arm constitutes about eight percent of total body mass, roughly the same relative percent as the 5 to 6 kilogram runner’s head. If you consider the head in running as the primary mass then the downward swing of the stance side arm becomes the counter mass accelerating in the opposite direction, thereby dampening the skull’s oscillation. The athlete then alters their running form by bending and swinging his or her arms in movements with the appropriate power and speed to counter these varying vectors of force.  Changing the mass or active stiffness of the arms through strength training and not addressing the mass and/or muscular system of the head and neck can be problematic. The coach and athlete will spend countless hours trying to achieve a particular running form that cannot truly be corrected unless they address the musculature that is controlling the movement of the skull.

There is another issue that the neck must attend to during running. When we land during sprinting we avoid falling down by utilizing the muscles of the lower back and hip – particularly the largest muscle of our body, the powerful gluteus maximus – to decelerate the trunk. As the trunk accelerates forward and then backward the head and neck accelerates backward then forward. Try this at home: Sit in your car and accelerate quickly forward then step on the brake. Vehicle acceleration provides example that the more the trunk pitches the more the head reacts. Increasing the strength and/or mass of the trunk and not addressing the strength and/or mass of the head and neck adversely effects athleticism.

As mentioned, the head also rolls and yaws during running, usually towards the stance side foot at foot strike.  Once the runner is in the aerial phase one leg quickly swings forward while the opposite leg is thrust behind the body, causing angular momentum around the vertical axis. We counteract this by swinging our arms in an opposite phase to the legs to have an equal and opposite angular momentum. The neck must not only rotate in the opposite direction of the trunk but quickly prepare for being thrust vertically and forward upon landing.

The human brain is encased in a rigid skull and covered by a muscular scalp which is surrounded by three layers of membranes and floats in a protective cushion of cerebrospinal fluid. Though protected, brain trauma can occur with sudden acceleration or deceleration within the cranium. Control of head stabilization is one important line of defense for protecting the brain from perturbation.   During activity, it remains relatively stable as we integrate information about the head and body from our eyes, vestibular system and proprioceptors of the neck. For athletes involved in any sport with an associated head trauma risk, protecting the brain from excessive subconcussive forces through strength training head and neck musculature for bracing is the first job of a strength and conditioning coach.

For any athlete to excel in sport, they must train the structures that decelerate opposing masses. This means that athletes must have head and neck training as part of their exercise regime. The head and neck muscles are countering arm swing, trunk pitch and rotation, as the arms are countering head pitch, leg swing and trunk movement. Developing one area and neglecting another is not conducive to optimal athletic development or performance. Train the entire system. 

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 Make Neck Training an Integral Part of your Program

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

The One-Arm Overhead Press

In overhead pressing movements the humeral head is pushed towards the socket. Depending how an object is held the joint space can be increased or decreased by the lifter to obtain shoulder pain relief if needed. Pain inhibits function, promotes atrophy and if not properly tended to the shoulder will become worse. 

If an athlete has a shoulder issue and is encouraged to train the Pendulum Core Developer can be ideal.  Kneeling varying elbow and/or hand placement the athlete can alter the path the bar takes to full extension. A variable line of execution allows the athlete to train around the deficit, strengthening as many pain free structures of the joint as possible. 

A great way to Get Strong.

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Topics: Pendulum Core Developer

Go To The Grip Cart To Get Strong

The gripping capabilities of individuals are associated with heart health, longevity, overall strength and power, performance - even hormone levels, sleep and more. It is no wonder that hand grip weight training tools grace performance centers throughout the country. Keeping all these unique, seemingly simple training devices presented in an orderly fashion to accentuate their importance is imperative in administration of a program.  

To maximally develop all the musculature required to obtain powerful hands and forearms obligates us to address how we grasp implements.  Each grip -- hook, ball, pinch, precision, wrist extension, finger extension and finger adduction and abduction must be targeted. This necessitates us to train our hands in particular manners, which is by no means different than selecting from a wide variety of exercises to fully develop the upper or lower torso.  

The ideal storage area to keep all the handgrip equipment logically placed is the Pendulum Grip Cart. The 'cart' can be moved throughout the weight room during a workout, there the athlete easily finds and chooses which tool needed to augment the appropriate musculature.

Pendulum Grip Carts come in a variety of manners:

They can come empty for you to fill with your existing weight room tools.

They can come completely filled by Rogers Athletic addressing each hand grip.

They can be custom designed adding labels, team logos or inspirational quotes.

They can be built to a variety of customer specifications.

Get the hands Strong....at the Pendulum Grip Cart.

 

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Power Grip Wrist Roller

The Pendulum Grip Cart

 

Topics: Pendulum Gripper, Pendulum Grip Cart

Water, Water, 'Every Where'

From 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'

"Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink."

"Water, water..." hydration has always been a tremendous concern for coaches, trainers and athletes in sport. Attempting to maintain the goal of keeping athletes in the less than 2% body mass loss. Studying football, rugby, basketball, tennis, ice hockey - sports with reported high sweating rates - fluid balance disturbances generally have been low and water replacement opportunities sufficient. During exercise in the heat, core body temperature and heart rate increase by 3 to 5 beats/min for every 1% of body mass lost, yet performance remains stable unless metabolic demands can no longer be met. 

When exercising in the heat, internal temperature and heart rate increase. A water deficiency results in the deep structures of the body increasing in temperature, decreasing blood volume and physiological adjustments must be made to ward off dehydration. Dehydration increases the heart rate, followed by a decrease in stroke volume (that is the amount of blood pumped with each beat), this causes the heart to pump faster to move the blood, leaving less filling time for the heart. If a depleted state continues, our system heads toward the 3-4%, a state of hypohydration and athletes are put at risk.

When this cascade of physiological events begins to occur the athlete suddenly perceives the necessity to alter pace and intensity, which may or may not be seen in the performance of a highly skilled or motivated sportsperson. What we often see as the effects of a significant water loss accrue is muscular cramping, but it is important to note that during the contest the participant may also be suffering from visuomotor, psychomotor, and disrupted cognitive performance.

Cognitive function is a relatively new area of research regarding the understanding of hydration's impact on physical performance and is more difficult for the coach and athletic trainer to identify. It is important to remember there are physical ramifications, but the more difficult to recognize is the mental ramifications of dehydration. Keep your athletes properly hydrated so they can physically and mentally play well and above all keep them safe.

Avoid a Neck Strength Deficit - Use the Pendulum 5 Way Neck Machine 

 

 

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

Testing Grip Strength

Two important components of muscle function are muscular strength, that is, the peak force a muscle group can produce, and muscle power—how rapidly the force comes to fruition. Testing is accomplished in a multitude of ways: laboratory-based dynamometery, linear position transducers, force plates, Tendo units, Nottingham power rig, fly wheels and much more.

For those who like to test their athletes, assessment of upper and lower body strength and power can be derived with one simple tool, a hand-held dynamometer. In recent studies it has been shown that hand-held dynamometry has good to excellent reliability. It has demonstrated validity in most measures of lower and upper limb strength and power in healthy populations.

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The Pendulum Foot Pedal as seen above Makes the Machine a great Testing Device 

The Pendulum Gripper has advantages over hand-held dynamometry. Not only are you able to measure hand strength accurately, you are able to train and improve force as well. The following is a simple test to measure the grip strength of your team:

. First, you will have to find the amount of weight that only your strongest athlete can hold. The grip handles must touch and be held together with exactly zero movement, for 60 seconds. This weight will become the standard amount that your entire team must try to accomplish.

. With the standard weight selected, the athlete uses the foot pedal on the Pendulum Gripper to join the handles. The athlete squeezes the handles tightly and releases the foot pedal when instructed to begin the timed test. Using a stop watch the administrator carefully watches the 'attempted 60 second hold' looking for any separation of the steel handles. Once the handles break apart in any manner the test stops and the time is recorded.

.  Each athlete is aspiring to accomplish the 60 second hold of the teams strongest athlete.  Their test time reflects their grip strength in relation to the teams highest handclasp (ex.33 seconds vs. 60). The entire teams poundage is raised when the strongest athlete can hold the standard weight for 90 seconds. If 90 seconds is eventually achieved by anyone in the group then the teams 60 second testing load is increased by 2.5 pounds for the next grip evaluation.

. Upon appraisment you will find some athletes only capable of keeping steel on steel for a few seconds, many will be graded as average, and some athletes will hold the handles together not far off of the teams best. The results will inspire all to strengthen their hands, and all will quickly find hand training to improve other lifts.

. Administering this assessment, the Pendulum Gripper, and grip strength suddenly take on a new training importance very similar to what occurs when athletes know they will be evaluated by a bench press or squat.

Challenge your team.  Get them Strong.

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Use the Foot Pedal to close the Gripper to begin the Test

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The Handles are squeezed tight -Steel touching Steel.

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 The Handles have separated - Test is Over

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Pendulum Grippers Getting Ready to be Shipped 

 

Topics: Pendulum Gripper, Pendulum Grip Cart

Sleds Are For Training

Sometimes we forget that training tools, like the Rogers Athletic Drive Sled, are not just for football. Conditioning and developing power and strength are for all athletes. 

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Topics: Drive Sled

Superman, Strongest man, Strongman, Champion, or Just Loves Weights

Not long ago, a blog was written about one of the best kept secrets in the United States, Vernon Smith, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Marian University in Indianapolis, Indiana. http://info.rogersathletic.com/get-strong/who-is-the-strongest-strength-coach-in-the-world

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Vernon recently visited the Clare, Michigan factory and Pendulum showroom, and stunned America with a workout with enormous weightsmaking it look almost casual. During Vernon's leg workout Coach Smith lifted 1260 pounds for repetitions, and more than one set on the Pendulum Squat Pro. He squatted over 600 pounds pausing on the 5th rep to get the most out of the exercise as the weight was extremely light for him. 

Watching Coach Smith squat, we knew it would be worth a 5 hour drive to Marian University just to observe him pick up weight off the floor. Monday we called Vernon and requested to take a few pictures of a deadlift workout. Vernon said 'come on down,' but indicated he deadlifted pretty extensively a few hours earlier but would be glad to do a similar workout the next day. 

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Above Vernon is using about 635 or 655 as part of his warm up, following 225, 405 and over 500 pounds.

Vernon is a true gentleman. He welcomed us, and was truly unconcerned about lifting two days in a row a similar routine. We chatted with Vernon about a variety of subjects as he loaded the bar. Coach Smith, counted how much weight he was adding only for our benefit. The weight ended up being 725 or 745, which was actually irrelevant as it was just for pictures, not purposeful training.  We were watching, and probably should have been timing bar speed, because during each lift the bar appeared to move to the fully erect position at the exact same pace, indicating the weight was far far below his capabilities.

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Coach Smith Releases the Bar after Completion of the Rep

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What we enjoyed the most was how Vernon held the bar in the fully contracted position. He did so in order to make sure we got the appropriate picture before releasing the weight to the ground, and was curious if we saw any flaws in his technique.

So who is this Vernon Smith? We know of his coaching prowess based on his accomplishments at Marian University, his strength causes one to pause yet, he doesn't compete in lifting and when you meet him he never speaks about his abnormal power. The question is; is he Superman, the strongest man, a unique and extraordinary strongman, or a weightlifting champion unfolding? Or what most of us suspect a man and coach who truly 'Just Loves Weights' and 'Loves' to Get Strong!

 

Topics: Announcements, Success, Strongman

The Pendulum Power Stack

How do things Stack up? Combine Pendulum Power Stacks, mount Power Stacks between the racks, in the rack, on the wall, around posts, bridge them together - Stack them up to develop Power and Get Strong.

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Topics: Pendulum Power Stack

Weighing In On The Head And Neck

Mike 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. He explains: 

Some of our greatest moments in coaching have nothing to do with success on the field of play. They are often more liken to do with the camaraderie built in unexpected moments as we prepare for victory. These foundations of lasting memories and friendships unknowingly influence the directions we take in our lives. Mine in recent years has been to assist in the development of tools and dissemination of knowledge for the safety of the athletes in the sport I love.

The normal head weighs between 12 and 20 pounds, and recent studies continually reinforce the fact that head circumference correlates with body size. Size and shape matter for fitting hats, or helmets, or any item that graces your head. Manufacturers go beyond letters and numbers for fitting, they add head shape verbiage such as 'long oval,' 'intermediate oval,' and 'round oval' to give further description to measurement. 

Yet, in modern day athletics the numeric correlation of circumference and body size is far from correct. Though the cranium remains genetically normal, often players are asked to and do gain enormous amounts of muscular weight to augment their prowess on the playing field. This distorts the relationship between circumference and body size. And at a glance head shape and size becomes skewed to the viewer as the normal head now graces an abnormal heavily muscled body.

One summer, just prior to warm-ups for a football conditioning session, I walked on to the field to find the players huddled in a huge spirited somewhat heated debate. The argument was of all things who had the biggest head. Unannounced to the group muscle mass was actually interfering with sound judgment in discerning the facts.

There was a clear division among the players. The student-athletes were taking sides in the argument. Not only was this a lively debate, I might add, it was getting quite animated with these aggressive young men and getting testy. It was obvious to me the dispute was not going away and would affect the focus of our running workout. I needed to take action, so I walked into the middle of the group and authoritatively said, ”Okay men, lets settle this issue." "Inside!" and pointed.

I took a clipboard and pad and we all filed into the weight room, about 70 athletes. We crowded around the old Toledo scale that graced the entry way. Some stood on benches. Each man subsequently was required to lay down and rest his head upon the scale. We were about to weigh everyone’s cranium. This was becoming more than an argument about size, suddenly it also had to do with what gray matter was inside the skull. It was college, brains mattered!

An assistant strength coach meticulously adjusted each athlete to assure that the head was resting properly on the scale while being weighed.  Each athletes neck muscles were palpated for indications of contraction while weighing. The purpose was to negate any cheating if one was so inclined.  Science at it's worst, entertainment at it's best.

Each player was formerly and dramatically introduced, their football position rendered and the head's weight clearly and loudly announced to the anticipating team amongst their 'ooooh's' and 'aahh's' of delight. The suspected big bulbous heads that led to this controversy were weighed last adding much to the anticipation of those who were the most vocal in the argument.

I think what intrigued me the most was the insane interest that the team had about each of their teammates head scores. Big heavy heads were okay, average heads were okay, but having the heaviest (or now the lightest) was apparently not. Of course, my weighing each head did nothing to really quell the argument, but broadened the controversy as you might guess. It did make for a lighthearted prelude to a difficult run. And without question, it was a wonderful team building experience that brought us all closer together. The earlier tensions, that were becoming personal, turned into all of us making fun of ourselves, and etched lasting memories into our hearts of this silly raucous episode.

Protecting heads, big or small, no matter what they weighed has always been important to me and was always the focal point of my training. I trained the athletes neck three days per week. At the very least, the first exercise of their regime was just that.

Before the advent of the neck machine I used Manual Resistance for training. Reading the old Strength and Health article “A Strong Neck and Powerful Jaw,you can see the precursor to Manual Resistance. Strong men were exercising with self-imposed resistance instead of working with a partner. Adding a partner to assist was a very natural occurrence.

Manual Resistance was a good thing but had its limitations; quantification of results, poor spotters, poor application of technique, and really in actuality upon reflection, a menagerie of other issues that interfered with optimal results. 

The factors I disliked the most about manual training had little to do with methodology and everything to do with the huge amount of time involved in teaching and coaching.  When it came to the front of the neck, even with a towel, the athletes sputum on my hands, especially during the flu season, got to me.

The development of the Neck Machine was figuratively and literally a life saver. I ended up with a dozen neck machines in the facility. I was a neck fanatic. A neck freak…

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So why spend so much time training this area?.

Having a contact sport or car collision can cause ‘whiplash.' If you have a small cylinder or neck there is potential for more bend during the collision. If the cylinder is bigger there is less bend, so a pencil sized cylinder (neck) of the same material (neck muscle) bends more than a big round 'can' sized neck. The larger cylinder, without question, will dissipate more force. It is a simple reason for training, easy to understand, even if someone hasn’t taken physics.

Also remember neck muscles wrap around the spines vertebrae, vertebral artery and spinal cord. If you want to protect this vital area bubble wrap it with muscle tissue. My job as the strength coach was to protect the athlete and keep the athlete on the field. They don’t forget their helmets at practice and I wasn’t going to forget their necks in training.

The neck musculature can be broken up into two distinct functional units: the muscles that extend and flex the head, and the muscles that extend and flex the cervical spine. This is where training the neck gets a little tricky, to paint a picture let's use the arm as an example.

Holding a dumbbell and flexing from your elbow with your hand fully supinated exercises the bicep. Holding the same dumbbell and keeping your arm straight, bringing the dumbbell parallel to the floor then exercises the anterior deltoid and does very little to the bicep.

The neck is no different, there are several functional units of musculature that move the head and spine differently, and you don’t always treat them as one entity. If you want to fully exercise the neck, can you imagine trying to train the bicep without ever flexing from the elbow?

You can train the capital muscles of the head or you can train the muscles of the cervical spine. Knowing this, and paying attention during exercise, increases the volume of the neck. Of course you need the right exercise tool, a device that allows you to differentiate.

Here is another thought about neck muscles. When someone strains, lifting an object, such as a power clean, or squats with a barbell, or squats on a machine, you can readily see all the muscles of their neck contract under the strain. The rigid organs, called bones, function to move and support the load. Your neck holds the bones of the upper torso in place, providing support. This allows other groups of your musculature to transfer force and attend to the displacement of the object. When you press a weight it is more than your feet becoming the base for lifting, it is your neck muscles holding your clavicle as a base of support as well. So we therefore can say a strong neck helps move the load. 

You need to overload the muscles of the neck to grow, to stabilize, to transfer force, to contract quickly as you would any other muscular group in your torso. To think the muscles of the neck will simply adapt to their ultimate capacity by pulling on objects, or simply shrugging with objects is contrary to the cellular function of the musculature.

I got involved with Rogers Athletic and Tyler Hobson the inventor of Pendulum in building a neck machine, I was excited. I personally can't invent anything but have ideas and understand muscular function. Tyler can translate your thoughts into functional steel that we call an exercise machine. I told Tyler the neck machine must first be a 5-Way Machine. I called him about 2:00 AM in the morning with this thought, needless to say I was more enlivened than he that early in the morning.

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Pendulum's Tyler Hobson

In building a 5-way neck machine, you must have elevation. in other words, you need to shrug or pull. The problem with the shrug is that most people can lift more with their traps than they can hold with their hands. Tyler needed to solve this and come up with a unique strength curve on the shrug to address this situation.

The next thing I indicated to Tyler was that on a neck machine you must be able to address training the musculature of the head, as well as the musculature of the cervical spine and not necessarily together.

And third, you must have a range limiter with adjustments in the right spots to address the stated issue of functional muscular units, and target specific regions such as the deep neck flexors: the longus capitis and longus coli.  

You know what? Tyler Hobson did it. Not only did he create a head and neck machine, but made a training device for rehab, or insanely aggressive neck training like doing 'drop sets.'  And now my own neck, after training with the Pendulum 5 Way Neck Machine, is looking good even as I am losing myofibrils through aging as I write this blog.

Coach up your athletes with experiences that enhance team chemistry, and above all protect your athlete with your training methods for when they take the field....Get Strong.

 

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

Rope Pull On The Pendulum Lat Combo Pull

Turn your Pendulum Lat Combo Pull into a rope pulling machine to Get the lats and hands Strong.

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Topics: Pendulum Combo Lat Pull