Monday, April 11, 2011

The Key to Might and Muscle - (Circa 1926) - Chapter 11 - How a Columnar Neck Creates Nerve Force - By George F. Jowett

In another chapter I made the remark that the calves were among the first things I looked over when making a physical survey of a body builder. If they lacked size and shapeliness, then his whole build was spoiled in my sight. If I want to find out how much physical force a man possesses, or is likely to possess in a dormant state, I look at his neck. That never fails to answer my question. In both men and the other male beasts, the neck has always been the true indication of a quality and quantity of his concentrated nerve power. A strong healthy man always has a powerful neck , and he always will have one.

When a man is sick or has recently been ill, it is customary to say that he is pale around the gills. As age creeps on us, it always shows its mark by the emaciation and the flabby appearance of the neck. A shapely neck is an even finer example of virile manhood than are good hips. Of the two it is more apt to attract your first glance. All animals, the horse, lion or tiger, manifest their superb carriage in their proudly arched necks. It is just the same with man. If the holds his head straight with his shoulders back, and walks with a lilt to his stride and a spring in his step, he owns a real neck. It is one part of your body you cannot successfully cover. Everywhere you look you will always find more scrawny necks, protruding Adams's apples, or hollowed necks, than you will find straight columnar necks of the vibrant man.

The most important muscles that surround the neck are the sterno mastoid and the trapezius, and the seven vertebrae that support the head are known as the cervical spines. The most characteristic feature of the neck is the shortness of the cervical spines. This gives to the ncck the distinct advantage of being able to bend backwards to an acute angle, without any of the attendant dangers that are liable to appear in a lower back bend. If this was not the case, wrestlers would never be able to stand the gruelling to which the head locks subject them. The natural formation of the sterno-mastoid also helps make this possible. It is the prominent muscle projecting on the side of the neck that separates the anterior from the posterior angle, fitting obliquely in the neck. In other words, it forms a triangel from the back of the head to the front of the throat. Actually it is fastened to the occipital bone behind the ear and to the sternum bone. Because of the position of this pair of muscles they give the head a triple movement. Acting alone, either muscle singly, turns the head to either side. Working together they hold the head forward. They also act as extraordinary muscles of inspiration, by raising the sternum and clavicles in a movement similar to raising the face upwards.

Just for a moment, I am going to digress by asking you to call to mind the neck condition of the lower animals. Did you ever notice how much larger their neck is in proportion to their bodies than is that of a man. Just try to hold the head of a collie dog, and see what a time you will have. Ten to one he will break away. A larger dog would haul you over. Just so the necks of a dog, bear, or gorilla are more powerful than of a horse or a cow. The necks of the latter have not the fullness that others have, and by twisting their heads they can be thrown and held down, providing the pressure is applied to the side of the head and neck. The horse and the cow, like the deer, stag or moose, apply their strength in other directions, such as tossing and pulling. Some breeds of cows and horses have shorer and, therefore, more powerful necks, just the same as the difference between long-necked and short-necked men. However, this in not what I started out to tell you. The real issue I wanted to discuss goes back to evolution. It is the result of something we have lost in our march to civilization and which has been retained in the lower animal. If you make a close study of the sterno-mastoid, you will find that on either side these fleshy columns are separated from each other by a fibrous partition. This is a feeble relic in man of the stout elastic ligament which is so often met with among the lower animals. Our erect posture caused it to degenerate, but in the animal that walks on all fours again, yet any muscular action seen in other living creatures, and not common to man, is always interesting to me.

The next muscle of importance is the Trapezius. Although mainly a back muscle, yet it is finally attached to the occipital bone forming the major part of the breadth of the back of the neck. This muscles operates from different positions, but ordinarily it is never so powerful at the back of the neck as it is in the back itself. A defect in this muscle always shows itself in the scooped hollow so often prominent on the back of the neck. Now of these two particular pairs of muscles, the sterno-mastoid is the more frequently employed. There is hardly any daily cause for vigorous play of the trapezius, unless some one places his hands playfully upon the top of your head and pulls it down. Then in order to resist, you will have to pull backwards and this brings the trapezius into action. However, I find that they develop quite rapidly; more radidly than the sterno-mastoid.

In other chapters you may have noticed how often I have referred to the way in which vigorous muscle stimulation was caused by nerve vibration. The very life, and the volatile power of your muscles depend upon the nerve supply contained in each. The power of the generative supply of the nervous system is largely dependent upon the condition of the ncek. It is here that we find the source of our nervous activity. It continues all down the spine, from which it shoots out its branches to stimulate the whole body. Every man who is endowed with a powerful neck is possessed of great concentrated energy. This rule never fails. Look at any athlete who is vigorously strong and you will see that the tape measure gives him a much larger neck than the average. It is a fixed fact in the minds of everybody that a strong body must have a strong neck. Sculptors and artists never overlook this point, although I doubt whether all of them realize the true importance of the neck, and the part it plays in our health, and how it decides for us how much concentrated strength we each have.

One time when I was up in the highlands of Canada, around Golden Lake, I noticed a beautiful body of water flowing through the hills. It branched into many little streams, spreading its fertility wherever the streams traversed, just as the nerves fertilize the body, stimulating growth, and establishing a better order of physical life.

To allow such unsightly things as a hollow neck, pocket holes, or a billiard ball Adams's apple to exist is not being fair to yourself. By just applying yourself to a few well selected exercises these faults can be overcome. The one form of exercise to which the will not respond is free movements. Your must remember that the neck is very powerfully constructed and when fairly developed carries a great mass of muscle about it in comparison to its length. Yet you do not have to jump into a lot of vigorous exercises all at once. Take it easy, and coax your neck, rather than force it. Some commence by using the hands as a form of resistance. If your neck is very weak, it is not a bad idea to practice that for a couple of weeks. But if you want to test your neck strength, you will find that it can easily resist any pressure from the hands. In other words, the neck is stronger than the arms. Therefore, it is not logical to expect to achieve any distinct success by employing a weaker resistance. The wrestler's bridge is a favorite exercise with most body builders, but they have the wrong idea of this exercise. Seemingly, it is thought that wrestlers develop their powerful neck from bridging. True, from bridging, but not in bridging. What I mean is that their development is obtained from going up into the bridge and not in holding the bridge. Body builders generally assume the wrestler's bridge and then push a bar-bell to arms' length several times while in that position. It becomes merely an arm exercise in a support. I consider a bridge nothing else but a support. No man can lift anything like the weight he can support in the wrestler's bridge. The spines in the neck merely act as a prop, as the head is actually forced between the shoulders.

Some find the bridge very difficult to form. There is nothing to it. What happens is this. The exerciser will lie on the floor with his feet drawn up to the buttocks; then he will try to pry himself up, and find that he cannot. The reason for this is that he has not considered certain points, and the distance between his head and heels is too great, and he is unable to make the grade to the crown of his head. What he should do is to first draw the heels as close to the body as possible, then place the hands behind the head, and draw the head well under towards the shoulders. This done, thrust with the legs so that the body weight is forced towards the head.

Now the best way to obtain the right effect upon the neck muscles is to bend the neck at the shoulders when in the wrestler's bridge position, and simply lower the shoulders to the ground. Then by prying and pressing the head against the floor, raise into the bridge again. Full action is obtained from the neck muscles this way. Some make the mistake of swaying the body up on to the head. That is wrong. Let your neck do the work, and you will find the exercise considerably more vigorous. When you feel you have become too strong for this movement, just hold a light barbell at arms' length throughout the exercise, and you will get just the right kind of resistance to continue your progression.

This exercise will get the trapezius nicely, but if you want to bring the sterno-mastoids into play all you have to do is twist the head from side to side, while in the bridge position, so that each time you bridge you roll onto the temple. However, be sure and make it a neck movement and not a motion done with the sway of the body. The further you twist to the side of the face the better will these neck columns work.

A man who has a good chest, and broad shoulders, will generally find it less difficult to develop a sturdy neck. Some people have a long, slim neck that seems to cause the shoulders to slope. Invariably, we find that the man with the long, slim neck has short clavicles, which make his neck look worse than it is. Of course, we cannot stretch the clavicles. The only thing left to do is to concentrate upon widening the shoulders and building up the deltoids. Wide shoulders and a deep chest allow greater space for the neck muscles to spread. Then, on the other hand, they require a larger-sized neck to look like anything.

By way of variation, here are a few more exercises that you may like better, and which I can guarantee will give you the best results, although it is wise to practice them all. You commence by making a sling, with a hook attached, which will fit on the head and fasten below the chin. Take up your position with the hands upon the knees and the body bent well forwards from the waist. Then hook a kettle-bell to the sling and exercise the neck by bending the head forward so that the chin touches the chest. From that angle raise the head backward as far as possible. For the next exercise, turn the head from side to side. The first will get the trapezius, and the second exercise will catch the sterno-mastoids. Another good exercise is performed by lying on the back on a couch, with the head and neck protruding past the end. Allow the sling to rest upon the forehead with the kettle-bell hanging under the head. Now lower the head backward towards the floor as far as you can, without having sling slip off the forehead. Then concentrate strongly and raise the head by bringing the chin towards the chest.

If you want a really vigorous exercise, you will find the following movement sufficient for your needs. It is a great favorite of mine. In the first place, you should secure a good cushion or pillow for this exercise and the same should be used when bridging.

Load a barbell pretty heavily, and place it at the back of the head. Throw yours hands over and grasp the bar and see that the cushion is placed under the head. You will be lying full length upon the floor. Now draw your legs up quickly, pulling the knees to the chest, and like lightning shoot the legs upwards, and at the same time pry with the neck muscles and pull on the bar. If you do this properly you will be standing on your head at the conclusion of the movement, with your hands holding to the bar for support and to steady your balance. As you lower yourself back to the original position, just bend the neck and roll down into the shoulders and back. This can be done slowly if you pull sufficiently on the bar, with fine results. As you become more proficient at this exercise you can even go up slowly. I often do this when in bed, using the bed rail in place of the barbell. The exercise helped to make my neck so strong that I was able to perform the following stunt, which I have rarely seen duplicated. When it was duplicated, only a man who had a very powerful neck did the feat. It goes something like this. I sit on the floor with the arms folded, then quickly roll backwards, and as the head touches the floor, I press vigorously and thrust my legs upwards. The force, or throw of the neck, is so great that my body-weight is thrown into the air and I land on my feet in the same manner as though I had performed a back somersault. It is a very spectacular stunt, and one which I use to include in my exhibitions with great success.

I used to get a great workout with a little practice I included always in my wrestling training. I have advocated it a lot to many neck builders, who find difficulty in making the neck grow. The replies have all been very enthusiastic and I believe you will enjoy it. You need a partner, which may be a slight drawback, but one I believe you can easily overcome. Allow your friend to take a front head lock on you. To do this you both stand facing each other. You bend forward, and your partner wraps his right around your head, locking his hands to increase the resistance. Now do not get the idea in your head that all you have to do is break away. Nothing like that. Instead, pull, push and twist, hauling your partner all over with the movements. You will get such neck power that with very little training it will enable you to swing your partner off his feet. It has an exhilarating effect upon the spine. You can actually feel your nervous vitality increase. Wrestlers always have good necks. This is the reason they last so long in athletics. No matter how severe the neck play, there is never any danger of blood congestion, as some try to make believe. If there was such a danger wrestlers would be the first to show the effects. As a matter of fact, wrestlers can rest while in the bridge formation. I have seen wrestlers, when in the bridge formation, picked up and crashed down time after time, but with no results. Standing on their heads in crotch holds they are capable of head spinning and resisting all their opponent's downward pressure.

For a boxer to resist a knockout punch the stronger the neck is formed the better off he will be. In the less-cultured days of the boxing ring less clever boxers made a practice of catching blows on the side of the head. Such boxers always displayed a strong neck. These are extreme examples, but they go to show the extreme limits to which the neck muscles are capable of resisting without any detrimental effects.

In many of the European coast fishing towns the fisher people use their heads for carrying their baskets of fish, as coal heavers carry coal on their backs. The finest examples are found among the Bretons of France, and among the people of the east coast of England. I remember on first seeing these people how impressed I was with the fine carriage of the women. I was later amazed to see these same women balancing on their heads a basket loaded with fish, and walking along as though the load was nothing. The had beautifully shaped necks, which were undoubtedly the reason for the wonderful development of their bodies. Short skirts, with bare feet, and very short sleeves in their shirt waists, with the throat, shoulders and bosom partly exposed, made up their costume. Never since have I seen such magnificent specimens of womanhood. In my mind they stand out as the finest members of the other sex that can be found.

Neck strength is a wonderful asset. It is always evinced by a beautiful shapeliness that never fails to please the eye. It is something to strive for and to be proud to won. Exercise will make such a possession easily attainable. All the greatest men I have ever known, who displayed great concentrated energy, carried a columnar neck and a perfect bodily poise. George Hackenschmidt had one of the most imposing necks I ever saw. Every part was perfectly moulded. Nordquest, Travis, Steinborn, Cadine, Dandurand, Fournier, Klein and Coulter, among a few that I can immediately call to mind, all own beautifully formed necks, which are pillars of power, and their wonderful general physique and remarkable strength is positive proof of how a columnar neck can invigorate the whole body with its creative nerve force.
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Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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