Sports specific functional training is the best way to prepare athletes for the rigors of their chosen sport. The definition of sport specific functional training is 'exercise which involves training the body for the activities performed during athletic performance.' Functional training, if performed correctly, will lead to better joint mobility and stability, as well as more efficient motor patterns. Improving these factors can dramatically decrease the potential for an injury sustained during an athletic endeavor.
Benefits of Neck Training
The benefits that may arise from the use of training methods that emphasize the body’s natural ability to move in six degrees of freedom, or ranges of motion, can be game changing. In comparison, though 4-way neck machines appear to be safer to use, they restrict movements to a single plane of motion, which is an unnatural form of movement for the body and could potentially lead to faulty movement patterns or injury.
In 2009 The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, through clinical testing, compared functional training to fixed variable training techniques, which was considered the first research of its type comparing the two methods of strength training. Results of the study showed very substantial gains and benefits in the functional training group over fixed training equipment. Functional users had a 58% greater increase in strength over the fixed-form group. Their improvements in balance were 196% higher over fixed and reported an overall decrease in joint pain by 30%.
These numbers are impressive and I believe that emphasizing the body’s natural ability to move in six degrees of freedom is the key to functional training. Working a joint out in one or two planes is not adequate in what our goals should be as strength and conditioning coaches. This would especially include training the neck. If we functional train the neck and put it under load and tension in every possible position it can be out on the field, court, mat or slope, then we have accomplished sports specific functional training for the neck. As a result the athletes will be better prepared in scenarios where a concussion may occur and against sub-concussive blows with a superior force dissipating neck cylinder that is stronger, more flexible, and has a better range of motion. A neck machine, or exercises that work the neck out in one or two planes of motion cannot do this.
The Iron Neck is the only neck strengthening device that functional trains the neck. We now know that a stronger neck will protect the brain. One pound of neck strength increase equals a 5% less likely chance of a concussion. If we functional train the neck, increase ROM and flexibility as well as strength we have done all we can as strength coaches to protect the athletes under our care.