Monday, October 16, 2017

New Wrinkles in Neck Work - Hugh Cassidy (1973)

This Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed

Why Do Neck Work? 

Many football coaches are aware that, like the arms and legs, the neck is simply another appendage jutting out from the body which must be exercised. It must be strengthened to withstand the violent head and neck blows coming from elbows, shoulders, knees, feet, heads and the pile-ups characteristic of the game. Besides providing protection, a powerful neck is often used as an offensive weapon in "spearing" onrushing linemen. It works with the shoulder as a lever to push the opposition in the desired direction. The report of the National Commission on Product Safety states that football players in the U.S. annually suffer from 250,000 to 500,000 brain concussions during play. If one receives a brain concussion, you can imagine the strain the neck had to bear. In 1970, 29 players were killed in football games. Most of the 29 fatalities resulted from head, neck, and spinal cord injuries. While many of the accidents are directly attributable to the inadequacy of the football helmet, one might guess that the statistics would be somewhat lower had the player performed sufficient neck training.

Boxers have long known the "secret" of preventing a "glass jaw" - by building a strong neck - a neck capable of withstanding blows which would easily knock out an untrained man. The neck's girth and muscularity act as a shock absorber and cushion much of the knockout blow and consequent head snap and whiplash which causes the brain to "bounce" inside the skull. Bobo Olson, former World middleweight boxing champion, often did teeth-lifting in his backyard and was known as a man who could take a punch.

In wrestling, of course, the neck is indispensable as a "3rd arm" in maneuvering the body and evading he pinning situation. Some other sports such as tumbling, trampoline work, and acrobatics require neck strength to a greater or lesser degree. A strong neck will certainly fare better in an auto whiplash accident and the possible collapse and injury liable from the squat bar rolling up your back!

Many bodybuilders are reluctant to work the neck, thinking that it takes away from the appearance of shoulder width in the judge's eye. Actually the neck crowns the shoulders and sets them off. A small neck and wide shoulders, on the other hand, will be sure to call attention to itself. No other body part, in my opinion, can quite substitute for the rugged look a massive neck will provide. Close-cropped hair will cause the neck to appear much larger than actual as it is head size compared to neck size that largely determines that rugged look. As the spinal erectors and trapezius both terminate at the base of the skull, full development of these muscles cannot be complete without neck training.

Here's a little more on neck training: 

And this way cool neck training approach by longtime Iron Brother and great guy Terry Strand:

Buy a 16" INNER TUBE from any bicycle store for about ten bucks. It will outlast you. Or take one hanging from a nail in your garage, like I did. You can use up to a 20" tube.
  • SET the pulley height at your forehead height on a CABLE CROSSOVER MACHINE.
  • HOOK one end the TUBE to a CABLE CROSSOVER machine by unclipping the handle and clipping on the TUBE.
  • SLIP the other end of the TUBE over your head like a headband just above your the photo above.
  • The cable will now be about HORIZONTAL, NOT coming up from the floor.
  • NOW you can stand and work your neck from front and back and sides depending on which way you FACE the pulley....face north, south, east, then west.
  • I 'invented' this exercise for myself about ten years ago and it works magic since it is so DIRECT on your neck muscles...yet nobody ever does these in all the gyms I have used.
  • The rubber of the tube really grabs your head so it doesn't slip off unless you are oily or sweaty, then you have to towel off if this happens. ALSO the rubber tube 'gives' slightly and cushions your neck against the exercise starts and stops.
You must go light to start with 2 warmup sets. I use no more than 4 plates on my Cable Crossover stack. Do reps, not max weights which will really screw you up.

How Strong is the Neck?  

There are many fantastic and unbelievable feats which have been performed with the neck and jaws. David Willoughby, in his great book "The Super Athletes," tells of Farmer Burns, the wrestling champion who demonstrated his neck muscles by having himself hanged in an exhibition, taking the drop as in a genuine hanging!

Also mentioned is the old-time Italian strongman and equilibrist (an acrobat who performs balancing feats, especially a tightrope walker), "Milo." One of his feats involved balancing a platform holding a man and a 400 lb. field gun and carriage totaling more than 600 lbs. And all of this was balanced on a pole on his chin! 

Willoughby also lists Joignery, a strongman at the Hippodrome in Paris in 1879, who supported for "several minutes" the weight of a horse and rider suspended from his teeth. 

Both Sigmund Brietbart and Alexander Zass (Samson) had amazing neck strength. These contemporary strongmen of the twenties could both drive well loaded wagons where the only connection between horse and wagon was the harness held in the teeth of the driver by means of a bit! 

My friend, Ottley Coulter, one of the last of the remarkable circus strongmen, could, at a bodyweight of 130 lbs., lift a 182 lb. dumbbell with his teeth while doing a handstand. 

Ottley's friend, the late Ed Quigley, with a 19.5" neck at 5'6" would, by way of a head strap while in the supine position on a bench, regularly exercise with 200 lbs. for reps! Joe 

Vitole owns the highest poundage in the teeth-lift (with hands on knees) at 550.5 lbs. as a middleweight! 

Warren Lincoln Travis has the world's record for the teeth-lift (with hands behind back - much more difficult) at 460 lbs! 

More recent are the feats of Bill Cook, North Carolina superheavy, who has balanced 400 lbs. on his head and pulled a "train" of several cars across a parking lot with his teeth. 

Mention should be made here that teeth-lifting, contrary to popular thought, is much more a test of neck strength than that of teeth or jaw. 

Hugh Cassidy on Teeth Lifting here: 
You might try some of the aforementioned stunts yourself on a smaller scale, then you can better appreciate the mindboggling power of a well trained neck. Maybe you will discover a new way to demonstrate your neck strength. I know of a barfly who used to amaze patrons with his ability to shell pecans with a forehead slam. This, however, is hardly a test of neck strength even if the fellow were to graduate to black walnuts and brazils!

Building a Strong and Massive Neck

There are many ways of building the neck and some are quite unusual. Gary Young, accomplished boxer, wrestler and former deadlift record holder in the 242's, has several interesting methods to build his massive neck. He does a headstand up against a wall and lets himself rock down and up on his head alternately stretching and flexing the neck muscles. He has done 200 reps in this manner. Guy Borelli also uses this method among others, but unlike Gary, finds it tears his hair out and often results in bleeding from the scalp. Gary will also lay prone and supine on a bench with the head extended over the end as a partner applies pressure to the head and jaw. Gary resists the pressure throughout the movement.

Another quite unique exercise of his is the "push-up" performed on the floor in the supine position. You place hands behind the head and attempt to push up and support your body by chin and toes alone. You can put a soft towel under your chin, and you'll need it. It's a real tough one!

Many fellows use the neck strap, but much weight must be used for this to be effective, as the changing leverages throughout the movement cause an uneven and incomplete stroke. The head strap's very construction is at fault here, as the straps holding the weight are made of cloth. This allows the weight to swing toward you as the head moves in its upward arc. To be most effective, the neck should be contracting throughout the lift. The weight therefore should move in the same direction as the head and I'll provide a solution to this later.

Some trainees use the wrestler's bridge with great effectiveness. This is an excellent method to build size and stamina. For some however, this position can be quite awkward, particularly for those like myself who lack this flexibility and for others who possess quite tender heads. It too can tear the hair out. This exercise often becomes less direct by the unconscious utilization of the feet as an aid in rolling onto the head.

Teeth-lifting is quite good but it has advantages and drawbacks. With teeth-lifting as with other types of lifting a certain amount of pain is to be endured. In teeth-lifting the strength of the neck can be directly measured in poundage, as opposed to other neck exercises where one counts reps and no great single effort can be made. Teeth-lifting does a good job in building the back of the neck but some other method will have to be found to build the front and sides where the sternocleidomastoid is found. The sweeping curve of these muscles are certainly the hallmark of a well developed neck. To get the front you can roll your forehead from side to side on a padded bench while on your knees. Bear down fairly hard while still continuing the rolling motion. 3 sets of 20-30 reps will do, the last reps producing a cramping feeling. In all neck exercises high reps seem more favorable toward development. In my experience, at least, anything under 15 reps fails to produce that worked feeling.

The Weighted Helmet

Of all the exercises, this is the one I prefer and is the basis for this article. I won't say I invented this, but the idea did occur to me in 1958 and I've heard of others using it since. Of course, there is every likelihood that this idea was put to use long before I was born.

I fixed a one inch pipe about 6" long to a screw into a fitting I had bolted to my helmet. Four short quarter inch bolts with lock washers are needed to hold the fittings (2 flanges) together. They are the only holes that need to be made in the center of your helmet. Use a standard barbell keeper (collar) to hold the weights on, procure a dell or type of strong chin strap and you're in business.

While the above contraption is relatively simple, I believe it to be a revolutionary advance in neck work. The movement with the helmet is far superior to the headstrap, as when the head moves the weight moves in the same direction and the finish position is just as difficult at the beginning.   

Before getting down to brass tacks, let me say that no neck looks really good unless well developed trapezius and deltoids lie on either side. Whether your aim is for looks and size or strength or both, it is a good idea to get the blood into the trap and delt area prior to your neck exercise. Upright rows do an excellent job of this besides building huge cut up delts and traps. I do mine with a Press grip (18") and raise the bar only to my sternum. Unlike the traditional upright row this method of performance allows one to use more weight and brings in greater deltoid involvement along with the trapezius. I do 4 sets fairly strict with 190x20, 215x15, 225x10, and 180x20.

Brass Tacks

The extremely soft tissues of the neck require more warming up than other body parts so load your helmet up with a poundage you can handle for 25 reps. 5 or 10 pounds may be enough if you have never done neck work before. One well developed bodybuilding friend of mine found the helmet alone sufficient for his first workout.

Get on your knees facing the side of your bench. Lean over with it with the fists supporting the chest and begin your movement at the bottom, thrusting as high as possible upward. DO NOT allow your chest to rise off your fists - this is a neck movement, not an exercise for the upper back!

Now for the front side of your neck. Get up immediately and lie across the bench on your back. Hold the weight with one  by the plate lip as you maneuver yourself into position. Stretch your legs out and flex lightly so you don't aid the movement by rocking. Again proceed for 25 reps. You've just done one superset. After a rest, repeat this superset, adding the proper weight so that you still get 25 reps. For your third set, add weight again only this time do 20 reps for each movement. The 4th and last set is the pump set. Reduce the weight and try for 40-50 reps on each movement.

After you get the knack, these four supersets should pump your neck very close to one inch and sometimes more. After three weeks (working three times a week), your neck girth will surprise you. That will be incentive enough to continue.

Add weight when you feel capable. You will quickly find that the neck is one of the fastest growing muscles in the body. I suppose that is because so little demand is made of it in everyday life. Your neck will also get powerful very quickly. I am able to teeth-lift a 250-lb. man anytime solely by training on the helmet. I can now handle 75 lbs. for 20 reps in both movements with the helmet.

Although I gained 25 lbs., my neck grew from 18" to 20.75" in a very short time with intermittent training. At 290 lbs. plus this isn't very big, but I'm still working on it. Guy Borelli, who has a rugged neck of 18.75" at 5'7" and 185 lbs. also uses the helmet but in a somewhat stricter manner. Lying lengthwise on the bench with the head hung over. Guy does strict full movements supine and prone.

If you want those "gorilla ripples" you'd better get started. Within a short time you'll be bursting out of your shirts, and friends will start calling you No Neck, and Bullet. There could be only one possible drawback to all this neck growth. You just might have to wash behind your ears more frequently! 

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