T Nation

Neck Work & Health

Here’s a question for anyone with experience in neck injuries or with a good knowledge of the spine. I currently use an Ironmind head harness for working the back of my neck. You can view it here: http://www6.mailordercentral.com/ironmind/prodinfo.asp?number=1232 (I use the 4-way neck machine for the front). As with anything, I lift relatively heavy (about 3-sets of 8). For me, that means about 3 sets of 8 with 80lbs hanging off my head. My neck is getting stronger, so the weight is going to continue going up. I am not having any problems with my neck & the only soreness I get from it is good ol’ muscle soreness. When I do the lift, I lean forward and squat a little with my hands on my knees for support while keeping my back straight.

My concern is this:
When doing any variation of deadlifts, it is common knowledge that you must maintain natural alignment in your spine to avoid injury. When using the neck harness, this isn’t possible. You have to bend your spine in order to complete a rep. There’s just no way around it. I’m a little worried that one day I’m going to hear a POP and one of my discs is going to shoot out of the back of my neck and put someone’s eye out across the room. Am I worrying over nothing?

Any advice would be appreciated. I would also like any input from anyone else currently using a head harness for neck strength and your thoughts on lifting form, etc.

Thanks,
J.W.

[quote]J.W. wrote:
Here’s a question for anyone with experience in neck injuries or with a good knowledge of the spine. I currently use an Ironmind head harness for working the back of my neck. You can view it here: http://www6.mailordercentral.com/ironmind/prodinfo.asp?number=1232 (I use the 4-way neck machine for the front). As with anything, I lift relatively heavy (about 3-sets of 8). For me, that means about 3 sets of 8 with 80lbs hanging off my head. My neck is getting stronger, so the weight is going to continue going up. I am not having any problems with my neck & the only soreness I get from it is good ol’ muscle soreness. When I do the lift, I lean forward and squat a little with my hands on my knees for support while keeping my back straight.

My concern is this:
When doing any variation of deadlifts, it is common knowledge that you must maintain natural alignment in your spine to avoid injury. When using the neck harness, this isn’t possible. You have to bend your spine in order to complete a rep. There’s just no way around it. I’m a little worried that one day I’m going to hear a POP and one of my discs is going to shoot out of the back of my neck and put someone’s eye out across the room. Am I worrying over nothing?

Any advice would be appreciated. I would also like any input from anyone else currently using a head harness for neck strength and your thoughts on lifting form, etc.

Thanks,
J.W.[/quote]

I’ve used a neck harness from Iron Mind for many years now. I train with it as you have described. And…I have not yet had a disc blow out the back of my neck and put someones eye out.

Two things to remember when you are training with a neck harness:

-There is no need to use extremely heavy weights. You stated that you current perform 3x8 with 80lbs. I would strongly recommend that you stay in the 12 to 20 rep range. Your neck will grow from this trust me. And you will help keep your neck healthy as well. There is always a temptation to hang great amounts of weight off your head once you have been training a while. My advice is DON’T DO IT. Stick with reps of no less than 10 that you can perform without straining. In other words leave at least 2 reps on the back burner.

-Be very careful about the “track” that your neck is taking as you do your reps. I have seen some people run into trouble by getting out of their “zone” with the neck harness. In other words, if you are comfortable in the bent over position that you described with your hands on your legs for balance, make sure that you stay in that position. Don’t assume that simply because you’ve been training your neck that you can perform any movement with that same amount of weight.

By all means attempt other motions if you like, but start out light as if you are a beginner.

You are correct in being cautious about using the neck harness. But if you use your head (pun intended) you won’t have any problems.

Good luck,

Zeb

Zeb is correct when he says stick to higher reps. I grapple and so having a strong, flexible neck/yoke area is of vital importance to avoid injuries.

I use a home-made neck harness for high reps 20-40 per side as well as yes/no’s and manual resistence from a partner along with traditional neck bridging. Boxing and wrestling are two sports to study if you want to improve your neck; not the sports themselves per se, but what is done for the neck.

Jim Wendler at Elite Fitness Systems wrote a short article recently about training “The Yoke.” (Neck and upper traps) He suggested 20 rep sets for neck work.

I have used a head harness for more than 25 years. My work sets are always in the 15 to 20 rep range. I also do several warmup sets, which I would not normally do for other movements in that rep range.

ZEB gave sound advice about finding your groove and staying in it. I also suggest you do this movement in a slow, controlled fashion. (About a 2-1-2-1 tempo) You don’t want the weight to start swinging and torque your neck!

Thanks for the good info, guys. I will definitely alter my reps to the 15-20 rep range. Not going to failure makes sense too. All of it is good info.

Hearing about one of you using the neck harness for 25 years really puts my worries at ease. I guess I’ll just swallow my pride and drop that weight down to around 60 lbs.

I got good results also with higher rep ranges. I used a 4-way natilus machine, but the concept is similar.

Do you need to lie on a bench to train the front of the neck when using a harness?

Doubt anyone will be reading this, but it has been over a year since I posted this topic and hindsight, as oft stated, has proven to be 20/20. Although the Ironmind Neck Harness is a sturdy, well-made piece of equipment, it has seen very little use since I bought it. I had every intention of rocking that thing at least once a week, but honestly, I just always forgot to bring it with me to the gym.

What I have learned in the last year, is that I didn’t need a neck harness for my neck to grow. My neck has grown in proportion with the rest of my body, solely from indirect work. I’m guessing deadlifts have played a big role, but I’m sure many of the other basic lifts have contributed as well.

The main thing is that I am pleased with the increasing size of my neck, and have not had to do any exercises that require putting a load on a bent spine.

Just my $0.02.

Neck work, just like grip, abs, and RC work, has a tendency to get neglected too much for too long… My neck harness and CoCs pretty much collect dust except for a few weeks/year or so…