Many “complete programs” leave out arguably the most important area of the body, training that addresses the head, and neck. When we ask coaches why they don’t train the head and neck we get the normal excuses of, “We don’t have time, it doesn’t make our athlete faster, or we don’t have a neck machine so we can’t train the neck,” all of which are actually untrue. But even if it didn’t make your athlete faster, or improve running mechanics, but did mitigate forces to the head and neck, isn’t it worth training, even if it only take a couple of minutes? Your athlete will only get one brain so it may be best to protect them the best of your ability.
There are many ways to address training the neck, but, other than shrugs, we have three staple exercises we use on the Rogers Athletic 5-Way Neck: flexion, extension, and protrusion. Flexion addreses the muscles on the front side of the neck, the myohyoids, SCMs, sternohyoids etc. Extension addresses the muscles on the back side of the neck, semispinalis capitis, splenius capitis, splenius cervicis etc. Protrusion addresses terminal extension of the neck, specifically the suboccipital muscle group. With a neck machine, each of these motions can be progressively loaded and tracked like any other exercise in a strength program, and can be sufficiently trained in three or four minutes.
So what do you do if you don’t have a neck machine? Manual resistance is a time efficient way to address neck flexion and extension and can be done in the weight room, or on the practice field. However, before using manual resistance every athlete, coach, and staff member should know the rules of manual resistance to ensure the exercises are administered in the safest way possible. Personally, I like to do the manual resistance program to a set cadence especially when having a whole team go through at once, that way we know proper tempo and time under tension are being rules are being followed. After one athlete finishes flexion and extension they will switch with their partner, and repeat the process. Using this method we can train the necks of the entire team in four or five minutes, and it is easy to incorporate into part of the warm-up before practice on the field or court.
A complete strength program must address the head, neck, and upper back area of the body. Relatively speaking it takes very little time to adequately train this area of the body, and can be done either on a Rogers 5-Way Neck machine, or with manual resistance. To learn more about manual resistance neck flexion watch this video by Doug Scott from The Pingry School.
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