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The Contracted Position

Posted by Mike Gittleson on Oct 3, 2015 7:50:00 PM

The storied Pingry School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey has been in operation since 1861. Doug Scott has been a member of the Pingry faculty since 1999 and has served as a Physical Education teacher and Strength and Conditioning coach since that time. Coach Scott runs a comprehensive program designed to get the most out of each participant. Doug describes a successful technique that he uses to strengthen and protect his student athletes.

describe the imageTeaching strength training to athletes is important for many reasons. The most important being developing a high level of muscular fitness is the best form of preventive medicine from athletic injuries. In the case of developing the muscles of the head, neck, and upper back it is important that every measure be taken to insure maximum stimulation of the musculature. Holding an exercise in the muscles contracted position does just that. A technique that has proven to be very successful is to have the athlete hold each exercise in the contracted position for a designated amount of time before returning back to the starting position. Here is a progressive system where the athlete tracks not only the weight and repetitions performed but also the hold in the contracted position. Every two weeks adjust all three variables to ensure overload.


Holding a neck extension in the contracted position on the Pendulum 4 - Way

Week 1 – 2

Neck 4 ways (8 second hold in contracted position) 5-7 reps

Week 2-4 * increase weight 5-10 lbs

Neck 4 ways (6 second hold in contracted position) 7-9 reps

Week 4-6 * increase weight 5-10 lbs

Neck 4 ways (4 second hold in contracted position) 8-10 reps

Week 6-8 * increase weight 5-10 lbs

Neck 4 ways (2 second hold in contracted position) 10-12 reps

Week 8-10 * reduce weight to 10 lbs over starting weight and start system over


Pendulum neck flexion hold to Get Strong

Topics: Pendulum 5 Way Neck, concussions, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Neck training, Strength Training

Cincinnati Bengals Weight Room

Posted by Mike Gittleson on Jun 9, 2015 7:40:00 PM
Cincinnati Bengals Weight Room Pendulum Equipment
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Pendulum Seated Squats
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Pendulum 5 Way Neck Machines
Pendulum 3 Way Rows
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Pendulum Hip Presses

Topics: Pendulum Seated Squat, Pendulum 5 Way Neck, concussions, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Pendulum Hip Press, Pendulum 3 Way Row

Miami University Synchronized Skating

Posted by Mike Gittleson on Feb 19, 2015 10:11:00 PM

MacKenzie Cutter is a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Miami of Ohio University, she runs a comprehensive strength and conditioning program for each of the University's teams that she is responsible for. The Miami University Synchronized Skating team has been our Nations best, they have won National Collegiate Championships in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014. Neck training is a part of their program.

In the 1970s, colleges began introducing strength training into their athletic programs to enhance performance, as well as reduce injuries. 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. Yet wrongly conceived beliefs still linger today when it comes to training the muscles associated with the cervical spine. Neck training for the female, which increases the stiffness of the musculature rather than the size, is important not only to protect each athlete by reducing sub-concusive forces but perfect their balance and skill.

As great as these Miami synchronized skaters are, falls and collisions occur, protecting each athlete is paramount. 







Topics: Pendulum 5 Way Neck, concussions, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Neck training, Manual Resistance

Head and Neck Training

Posted by Mike Gittleson on Dec 30, 2014 12:28:00 PM

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. He explains, there are methods for lowering the risk and reducing the number of sport-related concussions across America.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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Topics: concussions, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Neck training, Pendulum 3 Way Row

Neck Develop Progressions From 6th Grade To 12th

Posted by Mike Gittleson on May 5, 2014 9:54:00 PM

Neck Develop Progressions from 6th Grade to 12th

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6th grade students doing 'dynamic tension' neck flexion

Laying out a regime for an entire athletic department requires much thought and anaylsis. Doug Scott, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Pingry School, designs his strength training program to enhance performance, but first and foremost to protect the athlete.  Below Doug shares his thought process in examining and implementing exercise throughout the Pingry School's athletic department.  

 Neck Progression Pingry School

Teaching athletes the importance of developing neck strength should be the goal of every strength coach.  In order to effectively teach young athletes, it is important to have a plan of when to introduce new movements as to insure mastery, this is often referred to as “movement progression.”  At the Pingry School we start training the neck muscles as a part of Physical Education class in the sixth grade and continue all the way through high school.  Listed below are how we teach neck strength from 6th-12th grade.

6th grade

7th grade

8th grade



Teach neck flexion and extension while standing


Dynamic Tension exercises (Front, Back, and Sides)














Dynamic Tension (F,B,S) 60 seconds each


Introduce Neck Machine


Flexion x 12

Extension x 12

(fixed weights)


Shrugs 2 x 12

Dynamic Tension (F,B,S)

60 seconds each


Neck Machine


Flexion (progressive)

Extension (Progressive)


Introduce sides x 12


Introduce 1 arm shrugs

Dynamic Tension (F,B,S) are used as part of warm up for sports


Neck machine

Flexion, Extension, Sides (progressive)


2 arm shrugs and 1 arm shrugs


introduce manual resistance

Dynamic Tension (F,B,S) are used as part of warm up for sports


Neck Machine Flexion, Extenson, Sides (progressive)


Introduce neck machine

Protrusion, Cranial Flexion, Cranial Extension


Manual Resistance



In the 6th grade the students perform neck movements without resistance. These are the movements that the students will eventually being doing on neck machines. The object is not only to to teach the motions but for each athlete to understand that it is important to train the entire system. We use the term 'dynamic tension' to describe moving the head and neck while contracting the muscular. We teach pausing at the top of the movement for a full second contraction before returning to the starting position for each rep that is done.

In the 7th and 8th grade dynamic tension is done more aggressively for 60 seconds in each movement. The students are also introduced to the Pendulum Neck Machine with a fixed weight for flexion and extension 12 reps.  Lateral side flexion is added in 8th grade. The weight is not done progressively nor is it heavy.

Beginning in 9th grade the students begin progressive resistance exercise in all movements and they work to Get Strong!

Neck strength women

Topics: Pendulum 5 Way Neck, concussions, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Strength Training

Manual Resistance

Posted by Mike Gittleson on Apr 30, 2014 8:05:00 PM

In 1978, 76 strength coaches attended the first National Strength Coaches Association convention in Lincoln, Nebraska, many of these coaches were part time employees.  Manual Resistance was introduced to the college and professional strength and conditioning coaches in 1979.  Dan Riley was the head strength coach of Penn State University and a speaker at the NSCA, during his presentation he showed film of his players training, selected exercises were done with partners and without the use of weights which he deemed manual resistance. 

With colleges and universities previously uninvested in strength training and tremendously limited facilities manual resistance was a great way to augment training for the newly founded position of strength and conditioning coach.  It gave coaches an avenue to accomplish work with limited strength training tools.  In 1982 Dan published Maximum Muscular Fitness which discussed the art of manual partner training.

Since the 70's and the advent of diverse weight training technologies many have stepped away from manual training and built great weight rooms with different types of exercise devices that make manual training no longer necessary.

West Virginia Neck Program

Manual resistance still has value as it allows a coach to teach athletes movements that the athlete may not be able to do away from the facility or if their facility is lacking.

The issues you must keep in mind if Manual Resistance is part of your program:

  • We have a concussion crisis in athletics. The absolute best tools for strength training the muscular that lowers subconcussive forces are the 4- Way and 5- Way Head and Neck Machines.  Manual resistance can be used to augment these exercises or used when these devices are not available but the 4 and 5 -Way Head and Neck Machines should be priorities in your facilities.
  • When training manually all athletes must understand the rules and not only perform the exercise themselves but be able to teach, as well as administer the exercise to others. 
  • Once an athlete understands how to perform manual resistance it requires the same effort and motivation as if trying to improve on a bench, squat, clean or any other strength training exercise.
  • When training manually to progressively overload it requires some strength measurement to track progress.  A circumference will give you information but fluctuates in regards to time of day, body composition and other physiological variables.
  • Remember when training manually around the head and neck athletes should have clean hands especially during flu season.
  • After a head or neck injury you need strength values for return-to-play.  The athletic trainer and physician use strength levels of the shoulder and knees for return-to-play but without a neck machine and previously obtained strength results one can only guess about the levels needed to resume activity safely.


Manual Resistance Rules

1). Each athlete must know and understand the rules.

2). The Lifter begins each exercise with the goal of 6-8 reps. This requires pacing, in other words, the first repetition is not an all out effort. The effort must be increasing for every subsequent repetition.

2a). The Spotter should allow the lifter to perform each repetition at the same pace or speed of movement. This will require different amounts of pressure by the spotter during the rep (because of leverage). The lifter will feel as though the resistance is similar at all joint angles (the resistance will feel smooth).

3). The lowering phase of every repetition should be slower than the raising phase. A guide in learning manual resistance is raise the involved limbs up in 1-2 seconds or at a 1-2 count and lower them in 4-5 seconds or at a 4 or 5 count.

3a). The Spotter must make sure that they feel more force by the lifter during the lowering phase of each repetition.

4). The Lifter should continually contract their target musculature during the raising phase and the lowering phase of every repetition.

4a). The Spotter must give feedback to the lifter to ensure there is always a constant contraction on every repetition performed. The spotter should identify any relaxation or loss of force by the lifter during the movement.

5). The Lifter should pause with pressure against the spotter's resistance at the top of every movement. Pausing with pressure and no relaxation is extremely difficult.

5a). The Spotter should insure the lifter is applying force at the top of the movement. The spotter must feel if the lifter is relaxing. The spotter must ease slowly into the lowering phase of the exercise. Slowly easing into the lowering phase or decent is extremely important.

6). The exercise is completed when the athlete reaches momentary muscular failure.

Pendulum 5-Way Neck Machines

Topics: Head/Neck/Trap/Shop, concussions, Manual Resistance

Neck Muscle Strength And Cervical Muscle Activation

Posted by Mike Gittleson on Mar 8, 2014 8:13:00 PM

In the January, American Journal of Sports Medicine, Effect of neck muscle strength and anticipatory cervical muscle activation on the kinematic response of the head to impulsive loads. The authors concluded...."In male and female athletes across the age spectrum, greater neck strength and anticipatory cervical muscle activation ("bracing for impact") can reduce the magnitude of the head's kinematic response." 

Neck Stength Women

Neck strength and anticipating the impact are modifiable. All coaches attend to developing skill and all coaches should develop head and neck strength with their athletes to reduce risk and potentially lower the incidence of concussion.

Neck strength women

Brace for impact...Get Strong.

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

Neck Machine Training And The Adjustable Cam

Posted by Mike Gittleson on Jan 30, 2013 6:28:00 PM

Anthony Delli-Pizzi was hired as the first strength and conditioning coach in Saginaw Valley State school history. It was a great choice. After years of experience in Division One athletics, Anthony has been able to build SVSU's program from the ground up. In actuality he is building the SVSU athletes from the top down. The first thing you notice upon entering the facility are neck machines. The athletes begin their workouts and end their workouts with a sophisticated head and neck protocol. 

In a several part series you will be able to take an in depth look into a program that epitomizes preventative sports medicine.

Neck Machine SVSU

Pendulum 4 Way Neck Machines at SVSU

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The Pendulum Adjustable Cam

Located on the Pendulum cam are adjustment holes that allow a coach to target specific areas of the head and neck to maximize development. In the charts below Coach Delli-Pizzi instructs the athlete which hole settings should be used during each set and the tempo or pace of each rep that should be performed. He also makes sure each rep is paused or held with tension during the movement. Pausing when training the neck is critical for maximum recruitment of fibers, development and important for safety.

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In the above workout for neck flexion, the athlete is instructed to use the adjustment holes of 4,8, and 12 on the Pendulum Neck Machine. What this means is that the athlete trains in a range of 10-12 reps in hole number 4. When the athlete can no longer perform a rep he or she quickly moves the face pad adjustment to hole number 8 and performs as many reps as possible then moves the face pad to hole number 12 and continues until a rep can not be completed.  A difficult and rewarding routine to Get Strong. 

Coach Delli-Pizzi has each athlete begin their workout and end their workout with neck training. This is a valuble method to manage weight room flow. Not only does this method expedite training but it also emphasizes to the athlete the importance of training the head and neck as a natural part of their development as an athlete.


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Topics: Pendulum 5 Way Neck, Muscular Growth, concussions, Pendulum 4 Way Neck, Neck training, Strength Training

The Workshop

Posted by Mike Gittleson on Jul 5, 2012 4:14:00 PM

The Head/Neck/Trap Workshop                                                                                       


Eastern Michigan University runs a comprehensive Strength and Conditioning program that thoroughly readies their athletes for sport. Head Strength Coach Blair Wagner's assistant Gregory Pyszczynski presents the first of a series of Head/Neck/Trap Workshops that prepare athletes for the rigors of the game.

As a strength and conditioning coach we have the responsibility to prepare our athletes for the demands and rigors of their sport. Therefore if you are willing to spend countless time developing an athlete's squat, bench, or clean, you better be willing to develop what I would argue is the most important area of an athlete, their head, neck, and traps. Regardless of whether or not they are participating in contact or non-contact sport the research is out there proving the benefits of developing and strengthening this area!

Neck machines are the ultimate platform for developing this structure as they allow for a safe and effective way to progressively overload the area being developed. Before having the pleasure of Neck Machines here at Eastern Michigan we were forced to get very creative with our head, neck, and trap development. Recently after a weekend of communicating with a couple of institutions it is ever more apparent that we need to provide coaches and schools with exercises that will allow them to train the head, neck, and traps if they are unable to utilize Neck Machines. Therefore this Head/Neck/Trap Shop is geared towards institutions with minimal and or no equipment.

 Head/Neck/Trap Shop:

 Each group of movements will be performed in a circuit style moving from one exercise to the next until the round is over. Each round is 5 minutes with a 20s period to move to the next set of movements. There will be 3 rounds and 6 total movements. The recommended repetitions will be utilized for this training session. We can then make simple modifications in order to continue to utilize this Head/Neck/Trap Shop for future sessions.


 A1 – Self-Serve Flexion xMR’s (This athlete will not stop until the athlete he is working with in A2 tags him to rotate, this is referred to as Tag Team Set Up)

The key to all self-serve movements is to stay BRACED through the entire ROM. We coach our athletes to act as if someone were trying to choke them and flex all the musculature as hard as possible. For Flexion we will have our heads hang off the bench maintaining a neutral head position and then bring the chin to the chest, at this point we want to act as if there is a tennis ball on our chest and drive our chin through it.

Tempo: 2/1/3



A2 – DB Shrug to Lateral Raise x12

(Shrug, maintain the shrug while performing the lateral raise from side to parallel, once the DB’s have come back to the side we can let the shrug down and then perform the next rep)

Tempo: 1/1/1




B1 – Self-Serve Extension xMR’s (Same guidelines as A1 – Self-Serve Flexion)



B2 – BB Shrug (Double Overhand) 5x:5sx3 (This means you will perform a 5s Iso shrug followed by 3 dynamic reps, this equals 1 rep, you will do a total of 5 reps before tagging your partner at Self-Serve Extension)


C1 – Manual Resistance Nod x6-10 (The reps will vary based on the resistance given) Refer to previous blogs for Manual Rep Rules/Guidelines. For the Nod we want to simply bring the chin to the chest and keep the neck out of it this movement. The Nod is geared to train the musculature of the head.


C2 – Upright Row to Shrug x12.  Use a heavy duty band. As the athlete rows the weight vertically keep the elbows high and have them pull their hands apart at the top and shrug as hard as possible.

Tempo: 1/3/1




 *We train the musculature of the head/neck/traps for strength, endurance, hypertrophy, and as always taking into account the appropriate range of motion for each movement to Get Strong.

Topics: Head/Neck/Trap/Shop, Muscular Growth, concussions, Neck training, Strength Training