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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:16 am 
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I'm on a roll today. I was going to make one post, "things that are on my mind", but I knew I would be better breaking it up because I use far too many words to explain myself. The failure/motivation one is first. This is next. After this, it's breathing, assuming I feel i can articulate it well enough for others to understand my own perspective.

Neck Packing has been on my mind for about a year or so. Actually longer. I have obsessively corrected neck position in row and push up variations for as long as i've been training people, which isn't that long. However, and like many, and even with my own lifting, the neck advice goes out the window when it comes to squats and deadlifts, especially deadlifts. I was on the fence for a while, not really taking a solid stance because I didn't understand it enough, but for the last 6 months or more I strongly believe in most cases your neck should be packed, head neutral. Whipping it back and staring at the ceiling is just wrong, and I see no reason whatsoever for shoving your head up to be a good thing when lifting heavy weights.

An unstable neck is an unstable spine.

It's as if we forget that the neck is part of the spinal column. Well, we don't on rows but we do on deadlifts. If your neck is unstable, then your spine is unstable, simply because your neck IS your spine! If you're losing stability then you're losing strength, and potentially causing more wear and tear than you should.

Here's a post by Charlie Weingroff, who at least for me was the first person to really say this, point it out, and explain it in a way that made sense. This will cover the technical/biomechanical reasons.
http://charlieweingroff.com/2010/11/pac ... -the-neck/

What actually is it? Basically, as it sounds - give yourself a double chin (chin down/tuck the chin) - this is the position. It creates a "neutral spine", only, you're not forgetting about the neck. To maintain as you strain, pull your chin into your ears, as opposed to looking and tilting your head up and back.

If you're used to looking up on a deadlift, you need to look about 6 ft in front of you, on the floor. Think about staring through the eye brows. This will feel pretty un natural at first, if you were like me and rammed the neck back into hyperextension when you deadlifted before. However, when it clicks, it clicks, and you won't look back.

For some, neck packing won't be a new concept. For example, Rip says "look down" in the squat - same thing. A lot of PL types say as a squat cue, "shove your head into your traps" - same thing.

Also, anyone Box? You don't just "tuck the chin" to keep it out of the way. You tuck the chin because you flow better and roll better with the punches, tucking the chin in boxing allows you to throw your whole shoulder/upper quarter into the punch, not just your arm. You get a blatantly better pivot/rotation from head to toe with a tucked chin. I know this because i'm a horrible boxer, too stiff, can't loosen up and roll with the punches. Too blocky. When I focus on tucking the chin, it changes everything.

When you get used to it on DL's, it actually feels like there's less ROM. Your hip hinge feels much better. I've seen this fix tightness felt in the hip from deadlifts - like magic. I've seen it completely resolve issues with finishing deadlifts with the lower back - yes just by packing the neck. Like magic!

I've seen it completely clean up clients single leg deadlift form, too.

If there's a "missing link" - it's the neck.

Anyway, any questions, fire away. It's a big deal with me right now, i'm all about the neck, so felt compelled to share.

KPj

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:47 pm 
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It's one of those things that many people don't really take into consideration, as if it wouldn't be a big deal or something. And you are absolutely correct. Well, I prefer more the term neutral zone on the neck and spine in general, so that there's a small range where the neck will most likely move, especially on heavy weights.

Mike Robertson has talked a good deal about neutral neck, and made an article and a video. You should deifinitely check it out:
http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blo ... tral-neck/

Also, on Assesment & Exercise, John Izzo talks a good deal about head posture and cueing the double chin especially on spinal stabilization exercises and corrective exercises.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:05 pm 
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The drawings on the cover of my copy of starting strength show neutral spine, including neck. You are not alone.

But at my gym the orthodox view is "the weight follows the eyes." I'm not prepared to violate the advice of all of the trainers in the gym just yet, not without solid experience.

For me the jury is out.


EDIT: Just watched the video. Anterior pelvic tilt you say (guess who sits all day and has tight hip flexors? Guess who has to say over and over in his head: activate the glutes! activate the glutes!), The entire spine is connected and head up pushes the spine out of neutral?

Now I've got something to think about, never a good thing.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:34 am 
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Ken, if you give it time I guarantee you won't regret it.

I got the old school advice, too. I'm actually wanting to make a video, or atleast video comparison, throwing myself under the bus. I've been working on this all year. However I kept thinking I had it then I would video myself to realise I never. But in general, especially in a deadlift, I would grab the bar, arch, pull chest up, and kick the head and chest back...back...back.... Ya know...

One thing to do is put your neck, just from sitting right now, into that hyperextended position it goes into during a deadlifts - no one can convince me that feels good!! Then on top of that, add however much you want to deadlift to that. It just doesn't sit well.

Also, in rows this position screws up scap movement, over recruits upper traps, normally creates an anterior tilt of the scap (this preceeds rounding in a DL), puts the lower traps and lats at a mechanical disadvantage. It's my opinion that you can't get as much from the lats with your head/neck way back - I can't throw EMG data at you or anything, it's just one of those things that "make sense" to me.

If you watch lots of DL videos, particularly competition pulls or just heavy pulls where things tend to go at least a little wrong, normally the head kicking back is the first thing to "break", then the hips shoot up, then the whole spine rounds.... Normally, not all the time, but most. One issue with this is a lot of lifters purposely kick the head back and aren't trying to keep the neck packed, and this is when I see magic happen.

Also, the body does in fact follow the eyes, and this is no different with a packed-neck-deadlift. Staring through the eye brows gives you the same feed back since the eyes are looking in the direction that you want your body to go in. Think of coming up from the floor with your eyes like The Undertaker!

You still use your eyes to drive movement, in other words. You also still pull your chest back. But rather than thinking "head up/back", start with the chin down, and pull the chin back.

A lot of veteran lifters have a neutral neck when they lift without ever thinking about it. I've also had the chance to coach 2 boxers recently and a also train an ex rugby player and i've not had to coach neck position at all. This is where your body wants to be!

It's good to work on this with a light weight first, if you're going to. The most uncomfortable thing is the change of view. Sounds weird but seeing the floor rather than the wall/ceiling is really off putting. When you get over this it almost instantly starts to feel brilliant. I've found it almost as hard to keep the neutral neck with a light weight for speed as i have with a heavy weight.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:17 am 
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I've read your whole reply, I do have one thing to add. I usually have to be reminded to put my head back on deadlift, by instinct I never do it, unless I remember that somebody in the gym is going to yell, "head back!" and do it because of that.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:43 am 
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Yeh, that's quite tricky, really, because it is a very old, almost sacred deadlift form cue. Being in your position, training with more experienced and stronger lifters and trainers, to be honest, I'd probably just "shut up and lift", if anything, out of respect.

I know from coaching it, with clients and training partners that previously, when I said "head back" it was a cue said in response to the back rounding, or if i said it during the set up, it was because they had started with a rounded back and saying "head up" put the whole spine in a better position.... Well, except the neck, which is the kicker for me. It's a face-palm moment, actually, because I was basically saying, "put your cervical spine in a horrible position so that your thoracic and lumbar spine can go into a better position".

I'm amazed that so many people, myself included, settled for this for so long.

I should say I don't have this totally mastered yet but it's been the main, well, only thing i've been working on in my technique for DL the majority of this year. I became real strict with it on clients from a few months ago and almost kicking myself that I didn't start coaching it sooner.

KPj

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 22, 2012 9:30 am 
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In just about all sports, the conventional thinking is the body follows the head. Consequently, your head goes forward you go forward (a very common problem in new squatters). My gut reaction (a very large reaction if it is a gut reaction), would be to immediately refute the premiss, but after reading everything I understand where you are going.

If you think about the squat position, and place 500 on your back, you will tend to collapse towards the front. "Head up" in theory gets you under the bar. I think the thought is that if you get your head up, you set your traps and get into position.

Having said that, I thought about what you are saying (I am familiar with the head down controversy) and the way you said it, actually makes sense. Interestingly (maybe purely subconciosly) I tried what you were saying sitting in my chair. I made the double chin, okay for me a quad chin. Guess what... The natural motion was for my entire back to straighten, my chest came up and my traps tightened. All I could say was hmmm.

Now doing some experimenting (purely unscientific I assure you). Sit in your chair and place your arms in a mock squat position. Now stick your chin into your chest and make that double chin - stop at this point and you fall forward a little, but I feel my traps tighten. Now, keep your chin where it is and try and look as high as you can. For me - I'm now in the perfect squat position and the upper back is REALLY tight. Consequently, my head is looking down, but the last motion to look up with my head kept down gets me in good position.

Having said all of that... after training the last month with some people who know what they are doing, I realize I don't know $h1t about lifting so take this with a grain of salt.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:51 am 
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hoosegow wrote:
Having said that, I thought about what you are saying (I am familiar with the head down controversy) and the way you said it, actually makes sense. Interestingly (maybe purely subconciosly) I tried what you were saying sitting in my chair. I made the double chin, okay for me a quad chin. Guess what... The natural motion was for my entire back to straighten, my chest came up and my traps tightened. All I could say was hmmm.


I just tried it with deadlifting this morning.

Took my time getting set, and last but not least positioned my neck neutral with spine and looked up through my eyebrows. Did this very deliberately on all warmups, top sets, but was getting forgetful on the backoff set.

If nothing else it was no better and no worse. Time will have to tell.

To me the long term test will be if my neck loosens up, since it is frequently but not always stiff. Oh, and having my numbers go up would be nice.


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