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The Ralph Cornwell Files

Ralph Cornwell is a Ph.D. candidate in health promotion/human performance at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Prior to pursuing his Doctoral Degree he was a collegiate strength coach.

He is currently developing a  protocol for strength training the musculature that protects the cervical spine.

Ralph explains, the upper trap is a neck muscle and to develop it you must treat it as such.


In the early 80’s two Medical Doctors from the University of Pennsylvania modelled the movement of the head and neck from dried skeletal material.

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They took the defunct skull, spine, and thoracic vertebral body of a remodeled cadaver and laid it prone on a table. Using wires, fake discs, and nylon pulleys that represented the origin and insertions of the dissected muscle that was removed. They reconstructed a working model of the head and neck.

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describe the imageThis is what they ultimately found that interested me. The  semispinalis cervicis and the capitis muscles were orientated in a direction that generated a pure extension force on the head and spine.  I had already known the semispinalis capitis was a massive powerful muscle that came into play during high force, and therefore was always an important part of my strength training.


Finding the upper trap works in concert with the cervicis and capitis muscles when you fixate or secure your upper arms, as in grasping an object has tremendous implications in training.

For those who have heard in the gym that training the traps with high pulls and shrugs is enough neck training to protect the athlete, hear this…….

When the upper limb is securely stabilized while holding on to  something, only then is the upper trap sufficiently involved in extending the head. When you are shrugging, because you are holding the bar, you can extend the head with your upper traps but there is no resistance, hence no development of  the upper trapezius muscles.


Also understand, the upper trap is actually a neck muscle. When the cervical spine has been positioned and secured, that is, when you are about to make a tackle, the trapizeus musculature becomes primarily a muscle of the upper arm. This means you better have strong semispinalis neck muscles because the upper trap is now working on wrapping up during the tackle.

Looks like you better include neck extension in your training. This does not mean stop shrugging…………Keep Shruggin’

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Closed And Open Chain

Open kinetic chain exercises of the lower limb are movements, where the distal segment is unloaded and free to move. The opposite is true of closed kinetic chain exercises, whereby  there is enough resistance to prohibit free motion.

Closed kinetic chain exercises are movements such as squats, Pendulum Squat Pro, leg presses and lunges, while open chain exercises are actions like leg curls, leg extensions and the Pendulum Reverse Glute Ham.

The kinetic chain can be understood as interrelated joints and body parts working with one another during motion. This creates a chain of events that affects the movement of neighboring joints and segments.

The advantage of open chain movements is that they tend to be better at isolating muscle and often are selected for specific rehabilitation and used to accentuate performance. While closed chain movements in general would be classified as more functional and closely approximating movements that are used in sport and daily life.

Pendulum Reverse Glute Ham Machine

Open Chain Reverse Glute Ham

Pendulum Power Squat Pro

Closed Chain Pendulum Power Squat Pro

Pendulum Power Squat Pro XT

Closed Chain Pendulum Power Squat Pro XT

Arkansas Baseball Weight Room
arkansas weight room
arkansas weight room
arkansas weight room
arkansas weight room
arkansas weight room
2-for-2 Method

Some trainers, coaches and athletes use what is called the 2-for-2 Method for increasing training load. The rule is if the trainee can perform two or more repetitions over one’s ‘repetition goal’ in the last set of an exercise, for two consecutive workouts, the weight is added for that particular exercise the next training session.

Bench Rep