Our neck muscular system is complex and redundant. There are more neck muscles than degrees of freedom, that is more muscle than all the directions in which independent motion can occur. This is important as it allows us to function when we have strained tissue in this region. An example is waking in the morning with a stiff neck from an awkward sleeping position and we are still able to carry on as we can substitute motion with unaffected regions.
Not only are neck muscles redundant, the neural control of the neck is not based solely on optimizing individual muscle biomechanics. Lines of pull and application of power are clearly defined anatomically. Yet, the synergistic effect – how muscles work together to obtain a force greater than the sum of their separate effects – is optimized by neurological control, rather than by lines of action. Our neurological system can both attenuate and amplify different components of a muscle’s underlying biomechanics.
With a cervical spine comprised of a muscular system with more muscles than degrees of freedom operated by a complex neural system and not wholly contingent on biomechanical function, it is important when neck training to pause at the top of the movement. When exercising stopping allows the neural system time to maximize as much of a muscles tissue that can be incorporated into the action. Because of the redundancy, as parts of the system fatigue, pausing also provides time for other muscular groups less likely to be trained to become involved in force production. Stop, pause and Get Strong.
Pause at the Top of each Repetition