Strength and conditioning

Neck Strength – Preparing for the Collision

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The football team is finding new ways to train a unique muscle group

The larger the players get on the field, the more NDSU has to focus in the weight room. But it’s not always about the size of the chest, arms and legs. It’s the neck where the NDSU football team wants to out-lift its opponents.


Manual Neck #1
Step 1
– Lay back on the bench with partner and coach pressing a towel against your head.


Manual Neck #2
Step 2
– Lift chin to chest with partner applying mild pressure on your head.

Manual Neck #3
Step 3
– Slowly resist against partner’s towel as you bend your head back to starting position. Do this for 10 reps.

Manual Neck #4
Step 4
– Flip on your side and repeat on all four side of your neck cylinder.

*Tip – Partner should be careful not to apply too much pressure to neck to avoid a strain of any kind.

Exercise: DAHL NECK

Dahl Neck
Step 1
– Stand with a 25-pound plate in your hand and your other hand over your head.

Dahl Neck
Step 2
– Shrug shoulder while applying pressure to your head, stretching it away from shrugging shoulder, resist for a count of three seconds.

*Tip – Give your neck a good stretch while performing lifts to avoid any neck stiffness that can lead to further injury.


One-Arm Shrug
Step 1
– Sit on the bench with a plate in one hand.

One-Arm Shrug
Step 2
– Shrug your shoulder upward like you would for a regular shrug rep.

*Tip – Try stabilizing the other side of your body during this exercise so you’re isolating the neck muscles you’re trying to work.

Nick DeLuca
(Photo by Darren Gibbins) Nick DeLuca's head goes into the backside of an Illinois State ball carrier during the 2015 FCS Championship game.

Building a Foundation for Injury Prevention

Halfway through the fourth quarter, it was third-and-goal from the NDSU 8-yard line with the Bison nursing an eight-point lead in Macomb, Illinois. Western Illinois quarterback Sean McGuire dumped a short pass to wide receiver Lance Lenoir who was gliding his way into the end zone after the reception before he hit a wall made up of grit, strength and fearlessness. Senior linebacker M.J. Stumpf dropped Lenoir just before he crossed the goal line and the Leathernecks failed to find the end zone.

It was a vicious hit. Stumpf had no choice but to lead with his head to stop the first team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference receiver. They both lied on the turf for a moment following the collision, each finding their bearings after the necessary violence only football could produce.

It’s harsh, it’s brutal—it’s football, and in this era of concussion awareness and hot button topics like CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), strength and conditioning staffs around the country are attempting to implement preventive methods in the weight room. Of course, concussions are unavoidable in some instances, but one way NDSU is addressing the issue is strengthening the base where the head sits—the neck.

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“In every sport, there’s a concussion risk,” assistant strength and conditioning coordinator Ryan Napoli said. “So every sport does some sort of neck and trap training to train those qualities.”

According to Napoli, there are 30 to 40 muscles in your neck that allow you to chew, rotate and stabilize your head. The latter is why the emphasis on neck strength is in full bloom at NDSU.

During the winter workouts, where the Bison football players’ main focus is adding muscle mass and strength, they’ll train their necks three times a week, in various different exercises like the manual neck, one-arm shrug and Dahl neck.

During the season, lifting continues on a much lighter basis to two times a week, but the emphasis on making sure your melon is perched concretely on your shoulders is never forgotten.

Stumpf stayed in the game after his collision at the goal line. In fact, he didn’t miss a snap for the rest of the game. Was it the one-arm shrugs he did in the offseason? Maybe. But at the end of the day, there’s never been a more important muscle group to strengthen than the neck region.

Neck Strength – Preparing for the Collision
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