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Eccentric Neck Strength: Turn your Negative into a Positive

By: Craig Fitzpatrick

The column of power!

The eccentric neck strengthening series is a powerful and effective way to strengthening the neck.  And we don’t mean eccentric like your co-worker who is always telling you, “you need to do a cleanse,” eccentric.  The eccentric we are referring to is, “loading a muscle while it is being lengthened.” A simple way to think of this is doing a bicep curl: as you curl the dumbbell up towards your shoulder, that is where the bicep muscle is shortening, or the concentric portion.  The eccentric portion would be when you lower the dumbbell, and your bicep muscle becomes lengthened; this is also known as the “negative” portion of a repetition in broscience terms.  

“Big whoop. Why should I care?”

Great question! The reason we are focusing on the eccentric/negative portion is that numerous studies have shown that we are significantly stronger in the eccentric portion of an exercise than the concentric (depending on the source, some claim we are between 30% to 75% (!) stronger on the eccentric portion VS. the concentric).  Also, studies have shown that test subjects who did eccentric only training had noticeable strength increases compared to subjects that did concentric only or groups that did eccentric and concentric.

“So why do I want a strong neck?”

Another great question! The neck tends to be weaker than many of our other regions, yet it houses the most important nerves and blood vessels in the body; remember – you can survive without a leg or arm, but you can’t survive without a neck.  So we must find a way to strengthen the neck and lower the risk of injury.

That is why the eccentric neck strength is so great. It allows movement in all planes of motion (rotation, lateral flexion, forward flexion and extension), while challenging the muscles at their strongest point in their range of motion. Plus, you don’t need any equipment, just your hands. All we are doing is simply pressing our head into our hands, and then our hands use slightly more pressure to push the head into the opposite direction. Now, we are not trying to go for a PR on your lateral neck flexion strength; we are simple using our hands to gently overpower the effort our head is pushing into it.  

“Wait a minute – is this going to give me a huge muscular neck that makes me look like a just swallowed a tire?”

No.  You are not going to have a change in muscle size from this exercise.

We can all benefit from a stronger neck.  Give the eccentric neck strength series a try.  If this feels too intense for right now, check out our static neck strength series.  If on the other hand, this feels too easy, go to the full neck strength series.  

Remember:  the worst thing that can happen is it will improve your athletic endeavors and prevent injury.

 

References:

LaStayo, Paul C. Ph.D; Woolf, John M.; Lewek, Michael D.; Snyder-Mackler, Lynn; Trude-Reich, Lindstedt; Stan, L. Ph.D; October (2003). “Eccentric Muscle Contractions: Their Contribution to Injury, Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Sport”. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. 33 (10): 561.

Roig, M. Et al. (2008, Novermber 3rd). The effects of eccentric versus concentric resistance training on muscle strength and mass in healthy adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18981046

Poliquin Group Et al. (2017, February 27th). Ten Things You Must Know About Eccentric Training. Retrieved from:http://main.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/1575/Ten_Things_You_MUST_Know_About_Eccentric_Training_.aspx