Dynamically strengthening the neck (either using manual resistance of a 4-way neck machine ) is very popular amongst strength coaches in football. Most often times people feel that football players have large necks as a result of shrugs or dynamic neck exercises. However, it would be foolish to conclude that neck size is a direct result of performing shrugs etc. In the case of football players, much of their neck strength is a result of the static strength needed to wear a football helmet for long periods of time and possibly due to the nature of the game. Static (Isometric) strength is extremely important considering football players are continuously taking blows to the head and head issues are a major problem for players after their playing career. The repeated head strikes (whiplash) that occur during football practices & games are reasons why most football strength coaches advocate those neck strengthening philosophies, but because the deep neck muscles are trying to stabilize the cervical spine upon contact, shouldn’t we try to train them in the same manner? Posture plays a significant role in the often inhibited deep neck flexors (longus coli & capitis). Janda’s Upper Crossed Syndrome is what we often see in most people because the 21st century has lead us to sit longer whether at a desk, computer, our job, or watching TV. The picture below is showing the postural deformations caused by these lifestyles.
The patterns seen are a kyphotic upper back (thoracic spine), forward head posture, forward slumped shoulders. As a result people will have tight pecs, upper traps and levator scapula and weak deep neck flexors, rhomboids and serratus anterior.
Simple exercise for strengthening the deep neck flexors. Wall Chin Tucks
*Keep the back of your head on the wall at all times
*Keep mouth closed and think of “making a double chin”
“Packing the neck” back and making sure that it is in normal alignment also allows for a stabilization to the rest of the spine. Basically more mobility at the cervical spine leads to more mobility at the lumbar spine, both of which are meant to be stable. As a result, we should be keeping neutral cervical spine alignment with all exercises (deadlifts, squats, push ups)