Training the head and neck is complex and leverage must be managed. In head and neck exercises we often use our traps and torso to accelerate and decelerate weight, either consciously or unconsciously, interfering with development. Coaches therefore teach proper form of exercise to achieve a desired amplification of force by putting us in appropriate leverage advantage and disadvantage positions to maximize muscular output.
We elevate our traps by shrugging to protect our cervical spine, which keeps our head and neck from going to far into extension. We also use our traps to assist in accelerating our head and neck forward into flexion, protective actions that are reflexive in nature. These movements can readily be seen through the example of a loud noise occurring. Upon hearing a strange sharp noise you quickly shrug to assist in ducking your head and the quickly elevated traps protect the head and neck from being whiplashed backwards.
We also use our torso to move our head in space, this allows us to fully flex the muscles of the head and neck while dodging anything that is about to make contact with our countenance. Against a load on a neck machine it is very difficult to have lateral flexion of the head and neck without lateral flexion of the spine accompanied by some rotation, this is simply how our structures move as we contract our muscles.
In studies on training the neck, it has been found that the greatest electrical activity in the targeted musculature is achieved sitting. But though this is the effective position, coaches know that even in a seated posture and properly addressing the leverage of the traps and torso ...... it is the arms that are often used to what in the 'exercise world' has been labeled as 'cheating'.
Bryan Fitzpatrick is the Associate Strength & Conditioning Coach for Football and Coordinator of Speed/Agility Development for Navy. Bryan has coached at Penn State, the Minnesota Vikings and West Virginia before arriving at the Naval Academy. Bryan is extremely sharp and recently talked about a training technique that he uses with the Midshipmen to teach form, address leverage and get the most out of lateral neck flexion when using the Pendulum Neck Machine.
Bryan simply takes a dowel or PVC Pipe and creates the shape of a goal post with the arms before beginning lateral flexion (an approximately 40 degree movement). The face pad's work arm is placed in the fourth hole on the cam of the Pendulum 4 or 5 Way Neck machine. When the exercise begins the pipe may tilt a few degrees during the movement as the torso begins to flex - which is normal - yet the coach has the trainee keep the pipe as close to parallel to the floor as possible.
The athlete trains several weeks with the acquired posture. Once picture perfect form is obtained and the weight has been increased the athlete understands how it feels to train lateral neck flexion with the desired motion. Accomplished, the trainee alters his or her style by holding on to the bottom of the seat pad to stabilize the torso. Using both arms to stabilize the trunk and depress the traps (not assist in the motion) allows lateral neck flexion to become the incredible neck developer that it is.
A great way to teaching the skills of Getting Strong.