There are those who rightly argue that core strength includes all of the muscles that control the alignment of the spine including those of the neck. The purpose of this article is to discuss some of the specific exercises that we use at Combat Lab to develop this important physical attribute.
The first series of exercises I want to discuss are ones taught to me by Vladimir Vasiliev. These make use of resistance provided by a training partner to develop the muscles of the neck.
In this exercise our partner sits astride our back and does sit ups. As his weight pushes down on the back of our head we use our neck muscles to resist his weight and ultimately to push him back up to the sat up position.
In this exercise we stand up straight and fall back towards our partner, a pre-arranged number of times, who then catches our head each time we do it. Our goal is to remain straight and to not sag in the middle or bend our neck. Each time we fall backwards our partner should allow us to fall a little further. This way the force on the neck is increased with each repetition and there is an element of confidence building added to the exercise.
Now we stand up straight and our partner pushes on the various sides of the neck while pushing on the opposite side of our body. Our goal is to remain stood up straight without being bent over. Like all neck strengthening exercises the pressure should be steadily applied so as to not jar the muscles and cause injury.
The last of these exercises involves my partner and I bending at the waist whilst facing in opposite directions. You then put the arm nearest your partner over the back of their neck and he does the same to you. In this position you then wrestle. The goal of both you and your partner is to push the others head down towards the floor whilst resisting his attempts to do it to you.
Core Stability Ball Exercises
The first way I use a core stability ball is to place the ball against the wall and then to perform a plank by placing my forehead against it. The goal of the exercise is to keep your spine in a neutral position. This exercise can be made more challenging by either bringing the feet closer together or by lowering the ball so that it is on the floor, whilst also against the wall. One thing that is essential is to keep both of your hands up ready to break your fall should you fall off the ball.
The next exercise involves placing the ball on the wall and standing with your forehead on the ball and your feet in a ready stance similar to that used in wrestling. Again you keep your hands up, but this time you apply pressure into the ball using your head and move the ball around using changes in head position.
The last exercise can be done with a bench or chair if a core stability ball is not available. In this exercise we place it on the floor, whilst against the wall. We then place our head and upper shoulders on the ball. Then we bridge up so that our hips are pushed towards the ceiling and the back of our head is the only point of contact with the ball. This exercise can be made more challenging by either narrowing the base of support of our feet or by introducing the use of weight training exercises such as the dumbell chest press. If really strong it is also possible to move the ball so that it is not against the wall and free to move in any direction.
This is a compilation of these exercises done in order of difficulty.