There are many ways to do manual front of the neck. Laying on a bench or sitting on the floor seems to be the most popular.
Mike 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. He explains, that laying on the floor is an effective way to manually train the front of the neck.
Before you begin manual resistance make sure the athletes know and understand the rules and are proficient in safely administering exercise to one another.
Training the neck while laying on the floor is an effective way to teach and carry out the exercise.
The athlete lays supine with their arms bent as if they are making a goal post. This position negates the athlete from using the trapezius to throw or initiate the forward shortening contraction of the neck muscles when the exercise begins.
The floor acts as the traps do in protecting the athletes cervical spine during the lengthening phase of the contraction.
What is interesting is, that even with the floor an athlete can achieve almost a full range of motion by dorsiflexing their chin and extending their head.
The spotter places a hand on the lifters forehead. During the first few repetitions the lifter must pace himself. The lifter cannot begin the movement as if they were doing a one repetition max. They must ease into the movement and progressively work harder each repetition.
The spotter not only coaches the lifter through the movement following the rules of manual resistance, but must also coach the lifters hands. By coaching the hands you are making sure the lifter is not moving their head with their traps and the lifter is not trying to use their torso for additional leverage.
In the left photo,the lifter's hands are starting to rise off the floor. This means he is trying to use something other than his neck muscles to raise his head and ultimately tuck his chin to complete the rep.
Also, notice the lifter is slightly turning his head towards the right as he elevates it from the floor. Very often young lifters are stronger on one side of the neck than the other. No different than one leg or arm being stronger than the other. Over time with good technique this will be corrected.
Sometimes the head may be canted to one side or the other as the athlete raises it, because they wiggle their head from side to side while lifting. This reduces their muscular tension so the lift is easier. It is important for the spotter to check for and the lifter to use good form.
I am a strong believer that all programs should be using neck machines, but if you presently use manual resistance try the above method.
Coach the hands and use the following rules.....to GET STRONG
The Rules Of Manual Resistance
1). If you use Manual Resistance make sure you and your spotter know and understand the rules.
2). The Lifter begins each exercise with the goal of 6-8 reps. This requires pacing, in other words, the first repetition is not an all out effort. The effort must be increasing for every subsequent repetition.
2a). The Spotter should allow the lifter to perform each repetition at the same pace or speed of movement. This will require different amounts of pressure by the spotter during the rep ( because of leverage). The lifter will feel as though the resistance is similar at all joint angles (the resistance will feel smooth).
3). The lowering phase of every repetition should be slower than the raising phase. A guide in learning manual resistance is raise the involved limbs up in 1-2 seconds or at a 1-2 count and lower them in 4-5 seconds or at a 4 or 5 count.
3a). The Spotter must make sure that they feel more force by the lifter during the lowering phase of each repetition.
4). The Lifter should continually contract their target musculature during the raising phase and the lowering phase of every repetition.
4a). The Spotter must give feedback to the lifter to ensure there is always a constant contraction on every repetition performed. The spotter should identify any relaxation or loss of force by the lifter during the movement.
5). The Lifter should pause with pressure against the spotter's resistance at the top of every movement. Pausing with pressure and no relaxation is extremely difficult.
5a). The Spotter should insure the lifter is applying force at the top of the movement. The spotter must feel if the lifter is relaxing. The spotter must ease slowly into the lowering phase of the exercise. Slowly easing into the lowering phase or decent is extremely important.
6). The exercise is completed when the athlete reaches momentary muscular failure.