Neck and Head Training to Maximize Athletic Performance
Head and Neck Strength for Athletic Performance
- Nerve impulses running from the brain through the spinal cord can be affected by damaged, weak, or fatigued neck muscles. This can diminish both static and dynamic balance as well as basic locomotive actions. A stronger neck can thus improve balance and locomotion.
- Regarding head training, having strong jaw muscles can lower the risk of injury. The ability to maximally bite down or clench on a mouthpiece prior to a collision is desired.
- Similarly, knowing a head or neck impact force is forthcoming can better prepare the athlete for what lies ahead. A study found that when athletes knew it was coming, they were then better able to contract neck and head musculature prior to impact and reduce the severity of concussions.
- Believe it or not, the strength of the neck can also impact the respiratory system and the quality of breathing. The anterior, medial, and posterior scalene muscles, along with the platysma and sternocleidomastoid muscles, contract and assist in respiration, especially during demanding exercise.
Head and Neck Training for Athletic Ability
A final argument for head and neck training is general athletic ability. Many technique and skill coaching philosophies center upon Coach Gittleson’s concept, “Where the head goes, the body will follow.” Quick, precise movements are dependent upon a number of factors, including the ability to see, even though the eyes are not connected to the neck muscles. Gittleson gave this example:
- Stand straight and lightly put your fingers against the back of your neck.
- Quickly move your eyes right and left, but keep your head stable.
- You’ll feel the neck muscles contracting in preparation for movement in the desired direction.
A List of Effective Head and Neck Exercises
- Neck protrusion
- Neck flexion
- Neck extension
- Neck lateral flexion
- Head flexion
- Head extension
- Single-arm shrug
- Two-arm shrug