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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 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 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

Small And Powerful

The multifidis muscle starts at the sacral bone at the base of the spine and extends upward to the second cervical vertebra. The multifidis takes pressure off the discs and it's strength adds stability to the vertebral column. Though small it is the most powerful muscle that supports the region. 

Studies show that the size of the multifidis and the risk for head and neck injuries are associated in contact sports. Once a neck injury occurs there is a rapid degeneration of the cervical multifidis and MRI's show a fatty infiltration into the tissue. The muscle must be kept thick and strong along the entire spine and rehabilitated like any other region of the body post injury.

If you contract your shoulder muscles dynamically or isometrically there is an increase in thickness of the multifidis which serves to protect the head and neck. The muscle will thicken regardless of force direction to the shoulder or arm. This is a wonderful way our body safeguards us from excessive trauma - when an appendage is hit the cervical spine stiffens.

Take advantage of this small, but powerful muscle and make sure all athletes train and rehabilitate the multifidis....... Get Strong

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West Virginia Strength Coach Darl Bauer Neck Training Athletes

 

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

Training The Upper Trap On The 5-Way Neck

The cervical spine consisits of seven vertebra numbered C1-C7. The back of the head or skull is called the 'occiput' and is numbered C0.  The occiput sits on the first vertebra of the cervical spine (C1), which is called the 'atlas'. The juncture between these two bones is called the 'occipito-atlanto joint'.

The second cervical vetebra (C2), is called the 'axis'.  The junction between atlas (C1) and the axis (C2) form the 'atlanto axial joint'. The axis is unlike the other cervical vertebrae, as it has a fingerlike projection called the 'dens' that protrudes through C1, so the atlas can rotate around it somewhat like an axle of a wheel (though the movement is far from a complete rotation).

The bones C0-C2 include the aforementioned joints and ligaments, but unlike the other cervical vertbrae have no discs. The lower cervical have intervertebral discs that do not allow for lateral flexion.

As a coach you can use this imformation to help identify when an athlete is maximally contracting during an upper trap movement. Since the occipito-atlanto and atlanto axial joints do not have discs they have the ability to move to opposite sides of lower segments.

The best movement for the upper trap is a one arm shrug. When the athlete reaches peak contraction the upper cervical vertebra can and will pivot on the dens and the athletes head will turn away from the elevating shoulder shrug action. The muscles of the upper cervical region at C2  have an individual specialized arrangement and when fatigue occurs and the upper trap is truly targeted the head will turn without any coaching. If the head does not turn the athletes form is incorrect or there is not enough effort. You only need to observe, asking the athlete to tilt their head would be a poor coaching cue, as the head tilt occurs naturally. 

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One arm shrug

Training the Upper Trap on the Pendulum 5 Way Neck

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

Best And Most Important Clinic Of The Year

In 1931 Paul Brown was the head coach of the football powerhouse Massillon High School in Massillon, Ohio. He lost only 10 games in eleven seasons and was hired as the head football coach at Ohio State University, where in 1942 his team won the National Championship. Paul Brown followed this by winning three NFL Championships as the coach of the Cleveland Browns.  Brown then co-founded the Cincinnati Bengals and became their head coach in 1968. His storied career included inventing the face mask, developing the taxi squad, running the draw play and installing a radio transmitter in the quarterbacks helmet. In 1975 Paul Brown made a lasting impact on the physical development of athletes, hiring Kim Wood as the NFL's first full-time strength coach. 

Kim Wood maintained the position for 29 years and his influence on the exercise world is unparalleled. Kim has built world leading companies, influenced equipment design and program implementation, he continues to fight performance enhancing drugs and has preserved the history of weight training with his vast collection. Wood's philosophy as a coach was effective simple and direct, "Prepare each athlete for the rigors of the game and get the most out of every repetition that is done."

Each year Kim runs America's best Strength Clinic

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Kim Wood's Study.....Photography by Ed Cicale

In 2015 in the Journal of Medicine Science and Sport researchers found that if you suffer a concussion the risk of a lower body injury is twice as great for months, a year or even longer.  In 2016 this information was once again reiterated in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. The clinic is designed to provide and share techniques that will reduce sub-concussive forces that can cause head and neck injuries and thus reduce the risk of injury throughout the entire body.  Also, the clinic provides the most current research and new techniques to train the head, neck and jaw from a wide array of professional coaches. 

The clinic is important enough that professional football players, major college strength coaches and writers from Sports Illustrated, ESPN Magazine, NFL.com and the local newspapers have all attended.

It will be held in Pallet 23 Event Space, 3932 Spring Grove in Cincinnati. Pre-registration on footballstrength.com. The clinic begins Friday, June 24th at 7 p.m. and Saturday June 25th at 9 a.m. The cost is $25 which includes both sessions.

Register now: space is limited.

Topics: Head/Neck/Trap/Shop, Clinics, Neck training, Success

Concussions And The Lower Body

The  American Journal of Sports Medicine recently published, "Concussion Increases Odds of Sustaining a Lower Extremity Musculoskeletal Injury After Return to Play Among Collegiate Athletes."  Approximately one year prior to this article Medicine Science and Sports published, "Acute Lower Extremity Injury Rates Increase after Concussion in College Athletes."  Both of the above studies found that their is an increased risk of a lower extremity musculoskeletal injury after a concussion.  A lower extremity injury can be considered anything from an ankle sprain, muscle pull, meniscus or knee. The risk is approximately 2 - 2 1/2 times greater than the controls in the studies who were without a history of being concussed.  This rise in incidence of injury was indicated to extend months post concussion regardless of whether playing football, soccer, hockey, softball, basketball, wrestling, or volleyball.

It is apparent that abnormalities in motor functioning after head trauma persist. These abnormalities are twice the norm.  In other words, it could be said that an athlete that has been concussed has a 100% greater chance of a lower extremity musculoskeletal injury after a concussion. Having a higher possibility is a signal to the coach that a particular athlete's injury may not be attributed to atypical outcome of cause and effect and this significantly affects program design.  

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In a recent paper featured in the 2016 edition of Sports Health "Full-Contact Practice and Injuries in College Football," researchers looked at athletic injuries, and correlated them with the weekly exposures to full-contact practices, total practices, formal scrimmages, and games. The pre-season injury rate was much higher than in-season, and the game injury rate was over six times greater than the practice rate; which for most coaches is understood without substantiation from the literature. What is of concern, and backs up the aforementioned studies is --"Concussions constituted 14.5% of all injuries, and the incidence of concussions correlated with the incidence of all injuries."

Strength training the head, neck and jaw is an important addition in every sport. Concussive forces must be lowered to protect each athlete. Having a strength component as an integral part of the athletic trainers and physicians return-to-play protocol is not just to protect the concussed individual against further head trauma, but to guard against all types of athletic injuries.

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 Train the neck.....Get Strong.

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

Full Range Neck Flexion

Full range neck flexion is somewhere between 82 and 90 degrees for males. Females in general have less range of motion in flexion then their counterpart. When training full range flexion start the exercise in a neutral position with the head slightly retracted. Beginning the exercise from neutral in retraction elicits about 10% more neural activity hence recruiting the most neck muscular. You need a great 'start' to Get Strong.

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

Six Pendulum Neck Machines For The Midshipmen

The Naval Academy installs six Pendulum 5 Way Neck Machines to train it's midshipmen.

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Getting Strong in Annapolis, Maryland.

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

The Contracted Position

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.

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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

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Pendulum neck flexion hold to Get Strong

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