Friday, May 27, 2011

MUSCLE BUILDING (Circa 1924) - Chapter 3 - The Structure and Development of the Neck - By Earle E. Liederman


A short time ago I was talking on physical development to a well-known athlete. This man had broken into the game as a hammer-thrower and shot-putter during is college career, but subsequently wound up as one the best mat artists in the country.

He had a magnificent development, which I admired very much, so we got to discussing the various things that go to build up a powerful physique that is "easy to look at."

In the course of the conversation this man said to me: "you can talk as you please, but I as an athlete judge a man's development more by the size and contour of his neck than by any other way. For what a man is, and what he has done, shows up in his neck, and in the full, firm contour of these muscles just as thought he had drawn a map for you."

What my friend said is true, for the neck is one part of the body that responds very rapidly to exercise, and a well-developed neck is not only pleasing to the eye, but helps greatly to convey a better blood supply to the brain. The, too, it has its advantages in the event of a fall, for a strong neck is not as apt to break as a weak one. In order to develop the neck to pleasing proportions, a great variety of movements must be gone through, for much finer results can be accomplished by varying the movements than if the student simply performed one or two exercises.

Don't Try to Choke Yourself

The wearing of tight collars retards neck development. Collars should be worn comfortably, not too loose so as to look untidy. Soft collars are much better to wear than stiffed starched collars, for they allow greater freedom of movement. If you observe people's necks, you will see hundreds of different sizes and shapes before you have looked very far. Some are so fleshy in the back that a great many wrinkles can be seen. Others are exceedingly fleshy in front, causing one to two extra chins. Necks that are stringy and appear to have two ugly cords running towards the top of the head in the back are not uncommon. Prominent "Adam's apples" and scrawny, cordy appearances are often seen in the front of the neck.

I have always contended that there is absolutely no excuse for anyone to have a scrawny or ungainly looking neck, when a few minutes devoted every day to the care and welfare of this part of the body would not only make the pupil feel better, but would change his appearance completely. Double chins can easily be removed with properly applied exercise.

It is not necessary for anyone to develop his neck to the huge proportions of a wrestler's, unless he so desires, but if properly applied exercises are devoted especially to the trapezius muscle in the back and also to the sterno-cleido-mastoid at the sides of the neck, symmetrical lines will make their appearance in a very short space of time.

When exercising the neck, care should be taken not to apply the resistance too vigorously, for sometimes the muscles are over-strained and a kink in the neck is a very unpleasant feeling and lasts for several days. Begin all neck movements slowly.

Neck Movements Should Be Done Slowly in Order to See the Greatest Possible Benefit

Do not perform any of them in a jerky manner, and be careful to avoid strain. The resistance applied behind the head for development of the head in the back should be done in an even steady manner. The first movement should be much lighter than the second, and second movement lighter than the third, until about the fifteenth or twentieth count, when the strongest pressure should be applied. By devoting special attention to the back of the neck, you straighten the appearance of your spine and eliminate the hollows between the occipital bone in the back of the head and upper dorsal vertebrae, which gives the appearance of round shoulders.

By having the neck developed straight in the back, the appearance of the student will be greatly improved, owing to his erect, military posture. By paying attention also to the sterno-cleido-mastoid muscles, at the sides of the neck it will help square out the neck and give the straight, athletic lines so commonly noticed in anyone who does a great amount of athletic work.

Modern fashions in collars tend to hide the defects in people's necks. Therefore, the time to look at the neck critically, is when people are in bathing suits. Then the real truth comes out. For instance, a neck may look fairly pleasing to the eye with a high collar on, but when the high collar comes off, the neck will be found very defective in the lower part, owing to the poor development of the trapezius muscle. Head-circling, turning and twisting, and bending from side to side are common movements for the neck and this light work will help greatly, when combined with scientifically applied neck movements, towards a symmetrical development. Performing the wrestler's bridge is also excellent for strength purposes, and will help greatly towards further development.

The Size of the Head Is an Important Factor

The size and shape of the head is an important factor in neck development, as I have said before. A person with a narrow face and a long, narrow head cannot and must not expect to obtain the same size neck as a person whose features are of a bull-dog type; that is, square or round. However, such people need not be discouraged, for their necks can be developed from 15 1/2 to 16 1/2 inches, depending, of course, upon the height of the individual. A person who has a large head and large features naturally requires a much larger neck to harmonize with the rest of his body than his narrow-type friend. Such individuals can acquire necks from 16 1/2 to 18 1/2 inches, depending again upon the height of the individual.

I have always been thankful that I have developed a strong, muscular neck, for I remember once while bathing in a swimming pool at Long Beach, California, I took a high dive, without any thought as to the depth of the water, and hit the bottom with such force that my arm was thrown against my shoulder and my head hit the bottom so hard and at such an angle, that not only did I have a lump on top of my head the size of a small apple, but my neck and shoulder pained me for many days thereafter. I am positive that if my neck had been weak at this time, it would have snapped. In fact, as every reader of these pages knows, it is not at all uncommon to hear of divers breaking their necks when hitting bottom.

Don't Stock Up Too Heavily on Collars and Shirts

To a person who is desirous of increasing the size of the neck, I suggest that he do not stock up too freely with shirts and collars, for you will find that every week or two you will have to get larger sizes. However, there is no need to fear developing your neck to enormous or ungainly proportions. For when your neck is large enough to suit yourself, all you have to do is stop development work, and just do light work, such as twisting or turning the neck. This will keep the neck in shape and it will not get any larger.

One of the first places which will tell the condition of an athlete is the back of his neck. When an athlete starts slipping backwards it is usually accompanied by the thinning out ot the posterior part of the neck.

One of the largest necks I have ever seen on any well-trained athlete was that of George Hackenschmidt, the former world's champion wrestler. Hackenschmidt weighed about 215 pounds, stripped, at the time, with an exceptionally large frame and head. His neck measured 22 1/2 inches. Stanislaus Zbyszko, the noted wrestler, also has a neck that measures well over 20 inches.

However, one of the most remarkable tests of strength I have ever seen put to the neck was when Joseph Vitole, a small, 150-pound athlete, lifted from the floor 550 pounds with his teeth alone. Think of the remarkable bull-dog grip this miniature Hercules possessed at he time of this lift. I particularly noticed the great strain and the manner in which the muscles of the neck bulged outward at the time I saw him make this world's record-breaking lift. Vitole has a neck measuring about 17 inches, but the muscles are of exceptionally fine quality.

Don't Let Your Hair Grow Too Far Down on Your Neck

Now, here's a little secret. If you want to add to the appearance of your neck, do not permit the hair to grow too far down the back, but always keep the hair neatly trimmed. This will not only give you a cleaner appearance from the rear, but it will enable your neck muscles to present their best appearance.

I also want to tell you that by properly applied exercises to the front of the neck, a prominent "Adam's apple" can be made to appear smaller, and all excess flesh under the chin can be eliminated. To my mind nothing is more pleasing to the eye than to see a well-set jaw and chin, backed up by a well-developed neck. You surely know that the way you carry your head makes a wonderful difference in your posture and in your personality. So do not allow your head to drop forward, but endeavor to keep it erect at all times. Remember, that constantly forcing the chin downward will cause wrinkles in the front of the neck, whereas, on the contrary, by constantly holding the chin high in the air, you will have a tendency to cause wrinkles in the back of the neck. My best advice is to study yourself in the mirror, not for the sake of vanity, but for the purpose of looking for improvement and benefiting your appearance.

I may say right here that one reason most singers develop two or more chins is that they are constantly exercising the neck muscles with the lower jaw abnormally relaxed. It's difficult for them to avoid this, for they really have to relax these jaw muscles, while at the same time they are putting a certain amount of tension on the neck muscles.

However, you or any other athlete can avoid this, if you will only bear the following instructions in mind.

Exercises for the Neck

l. Clasp your hands behind the head while sitting or standing erect. Now pull the head forward, strongly resisting at the same time with the muscles of the neck. Make as complete a movement as possible, beginning from an erect posture, and pull the head forward as far as the muscles will allow it to go. This will strengthen and develop the trapezius muscle and give straightness to the back of the neck. Variations on this exercise can be made by first holding the chin in, and again sticking the chin out while performing the movement.

2. Place your right hand on the right side of head, and push the head as far as you can to the left, resisting meanwhile with the muscles of the neck. This exercise will develop the sterno-cleido-mastoid muscle and give the neck a square appearance when viewed from the front. Do the same with left hand and push the head to the right.

Neither of the two above exercises should be performed less than fifteen counts nor more than twenty-five counts. If the pressure is applied too vigorously, and the muscles become tired in less than fifteen repetitions, there may be a tendency to strain some part of the muscle and cause a very unpleasant kink in the neck. If such a kink is ever experienced, massage the part thoroughly and give the muscle a rest for a few days.

Twisting the head from side to side, bending it forward and backward, bending it from right to left, are excellent movements for limbering up the muscles of the neck, before applying the resistance work mentioned. The neck is one part of the body that is very susceptible to exercise, and if the student is desirous of enlarging this part of the body, with the proper application of resistance, there is no reason why he should not be able to gain an inch or more around the neck in thirty days.

The wrestler's bridge, as I said before, is also of great benefit for strengthening the neck in general. This exercise consists of resting your entire weight on the head and feet alone while the back makes an arch. By raising and lowering the hips while in this position, and by walking a few inches towards the head and back again, the neck will experience quite a variation of movements. A few minutes' daily work in this bridging will greatly help the further progress of neck development.

I want to emphasize again that the neck presents a very interesting subject to the student of anatomy. The most ungainly looking necks are those lacking in development of the trapezius muscle in the back, causing two hideous cords to run upwards into the hair. This is more prominent in thin people when they bend the heads slightly forward. Such cords can be entirely eliminated with proper application to the back of the neck.

You will frequently find individuals with two or three chins, which can easily be removed by proper application of exercise to the front part of the neck. You will also find prominent "Adam's apple," which can be reduced considerably by developing the muscles of the neck. The person who has never exercised the neck does not have a pleasing contour, especially when without a collar, or when in a bathing or gymnasium costume. Instead of having well-formed, straight, pleasing contour to the muscles, the sterno-cleido-mastoid, and the trapezius seem to grow inward at the bottom of the neck, causing the neck to have a smaller appearance at he bottom than at the top, when on the contrary the neck should be larger at the bottom than at the top.

Professional wrestler's necks, although oftentimes over-developed, have excellent contour, and no matter which way their heads are turned, or carried, they present a pleasing appearance. Yet anyone can obtain the same contour in the neck which professional wrestlers have, without the over-development which gives the bull-like appearance. A well-developed neck means an increased blood supply to the brain.

This gives the owner a clearer thinking capacity, owning to the enlargement of the veins and arteries inside of the neck.

All neck exercises, as I said before, should be performed from fifteen to twenty-five counts. Any work that is more vigorous and tires the muscles with a less number of repetitions than this, will be apt to strain the ligaments and muscles, so that painful results might follow. You must not force the development of the neck as vigorously as you would the arms. Such strenuous measures, however, are unnecessary; for, as I have previously stated, the neck responds rapidly to properly applied activity. At about the twentieth count, the amount of resistance to the neck should cause the muscles to begin to ache, so that by the twenty-fifth repetition, the aching point should cause the student to naturally discontinue.

I wish to make it very clear that I consider the development of the neck of very great importance. So do not get the idea into your head that you should or specialize in the development of your arms, shoulders, and chest. In all my work I aim at a perfect, symmetrical development, and, in my opinion, there is nothing of greater importance in physical development than the development of the muscles of your neck.

Iron Nation
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Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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