I utilize neck isometric contractions to stabilize my neck. This helps to place myself in an optimal position for daily life and to protect it on the mats. Head positioning is everything in grappling, and lack of it not only puts you at a competitive disadvantage, but also predisposes you to nagging injuries.
I use two main positions and I cover both in this article: One lying down and one sitting. Both are simple.
I’ve found these exercises also help me to keep a steady head — something that’s foundational in order to exhibit stability and strength as an athlete. The simplicity of this exercise also makes it something I not only use for myself, but also advocate for others. With minimal cueing I can have them performing the exercise effectively, and they can thus soak up the benefits right away!
Exercise #1: Supine Neck Isometric
- Lie flat on the ground
- Slightly tuck chin to lengthen the back of your neck
- Then push the back of the head into the ground
- This should create a contraction of the neck and in between the shoulder blades
- You should also feel a slight lift of the tissue between your shoulder blades off the ground
Exercise #2: Multi-Angles Seated Neck Isometric
- I also use neck isometric from the classic cross-legged position you would hold for meditation.
- Tuck chin slightly to lengthen the back of the neck
- In yoga terms, this is a body lock called jalendara
- From here, I focus on keeping shoulders down and away from the ears
- I place my hand on the back quadrant of my head
- Keeping it straight and symmetrical, I push my head into my hand as I push my hand into my head
- Then work to the side of the head and perform same movement with same cues
- Then work to the front quadrant before switching sides In all, we are doing 3 positions on each side of the head
Some Tips To Enhance The Effect of Neck Isometrics
I love using a mirror to assess for symmetry in my alignment for the second exercise. As always, I focus on long slow deep breaths. I aim for each isometric contraction to be near maximal intensity for 5 to 10 seconds.
Adding these two isometric to your training protocol will help strengthen and stabilize your neck for sustainable training, performance and vitality.
Throw them into your routine before and after will help you deposit positive points in keeping a consistent and healthy training schedule!
I cover more performance training tidbits at Mobility Training that will help you prepare, recover, and perform better on the mats!