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10 June 2013

Why "Your Head Is Fucking Tiny" Is The Greatest Compliment You'll Ever Receive

"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."  
- George Jowett, The Key to Might and Muscle.


As anyone who's read this blog with any regularity knows, I started lifting weights after failing to bench press 135 lbs for the strength training test for high school football.  Apparently the shame of that sort of weakness has been washed away in a tidal wave of internet white knighting, participation trophies, public displays of weakness in Youtube videos, and rising flood waters of emasculation and estrogen in which the Western world is currently drowing.  When I was in high school, however, it would probably have been less embarrassing to show up at school in drag than it was to stand before the football team as one of the "remedial kids" who couldn't bench a bar with a plate on each side.  I didn't just feel compelled to sit at the kiddie table for meals- it was pretty much akin to being sent to the kiddie table in a pink petticoat while singing "I'm A Little Teapot" in falsetto and my dick tucked between my legs.  As such, I went on a benching and dipping bender that made your modern day bench bro's workout seem positively balanced in comparison.  Throughout high school, I began adding other exercises as I discovered there was other shit to do in the gym besides bench, weighted dips, and calf raises, and I started mixing in neck work on a regular basis.

134 lbs of fury.

By the time I was a junior, people had started to comment on the size of my neck, as my work on the neck harness was compounded by the work it got in wrestling and football.  For those of you who've not participated in one or either sport, the first week of both seasons is pretty much non-stop neck soreness.  Wrestling involved a tremendous amount of your opponent pushing and pulling on your neck, in addition to a top of bridging off the back of your head, and football's basically nonstop weighted neck work from having to carry the weight of your helmet.  By the end of the first week of football two-a-day practice in the summer, your helmet feels like it weighs 40 lbs, and your neck's so sore you can't tell if you have a headache, chest pains, or you're simply experiencing muscular hypertrophy so fast and violent that your head is threatening to pop in a shower of blood and pus like it's the worst zit you've ever had.  My neck, to be honest, wasn't all that objectively big- it was only about 16.5" or 17", but I weighed 140 lbs.  As such, it looked huge.


Over time, I periodically trained neck like a maniac so that it kept pace with my physique.  There is nothing more preposterous, in my opinion, than a big dude with a little neck.  A little dude with a huge neck looks like a scrapper- you can rest assured if you see a guy with a neck bigger than his upper arms, he's a dangerous motherfucker (provided we're not talking a 12" neck and 11" arms).  If that's what you're looking at, betting that he's seen his fare share of fustigation and drunken mosh pits is reasonable.  Conversely, when you see a dude with big ass arms and a pencil neck, you can rest assured, without exception, that he is all show and no go.  If you need further proof of this, you can actually look to a woman- Gina Carano looks tough not only because if she smiled her head would explode into thousands of acid-spitting rape demons with footlong barbed penises, but because that broad's neck is probably bigger than everyone you know.

That is one thick-ass neck on a very hot chick.

Put more eloquently, from The Art Of The Neck:

"Contrary to popular belief
Your manhood is
Defined by the measurement
At your top button
No surprises for anyone
Just exposed flesh for the
Gawking."

Arco.

Before you scoff, consider the fact that a small neck on a muscular man is not only a purely modern phenomenon, but would have been considered offensive to men of a bygone era.  For instance, the diminutive turn-of-the-century bodybuilder Otto Arco had a 17" neck at 135 lbs, while his training partner Stanislaus Zbyszko had a neck that measured over 21".  Early rough-and-tumble fighter/wrestler Sir Atholl Oakely rocked a neck almost two feet around at its biggest, despite the fact that he never once lifted weights- his strength and size came entirely from beating the dogshit out of people.  Legendary lifter and wrestler George Hackenschmidt stretched his collar to 22" inches while only weighing 204 lbs.  Descriptions of "manly" men in turn of the century books and earlier almost never mentioned the size of a man's biceps or chest, but rather the size of his neck, shoulders, and back- those have been the benchmarks of strength and masculinity thoughout until feminists and liberals colluded to strip the modern male of his masculinity.  Now, it's a near certainty you'll see one thousand men with plucked or waxed eyebrows in your gym before you'll see someone throw around weight and then don a shirt with a 20" collar he can't button for fear of choking to death.

Before we move forward, I suppose it would stand to reason we delineate small from large necks.  Thus, I turn to Steve Helmicki, former champion powerlifter and former proud owner of a massive 23" neck at 5'4" (from the vids I've seen of him recently, he seems to have slacked off on his training).  The dude loves neck training so much that he's written poems about necks and makes his dogs train neck, so it's safe to say that he's psychotic enough to make a completely impartial judge of your neck size.  Thus, here is his condemnation of the bit of meat holding up your head:

Steve Helmieki's Neck Size Chart:
14”: Girl
15.5”: Puny
16.5”: Average
17.5”: XL
18.5”: XXL
19”: XXXL (Pre-Massive)
20”: XXXXL (Huge Status)
21”: XXXXL (Enormity)
22”: Awe 
23”: Freak

25": Veroninized (Which I assume refers to powerlifter Jim Veronin)
26": Cartoonish

(I'm aware 24" was skipped.  I've no idea why that is.)

A large, strong neck does more than just look cool, however- a strong neck makes what is a weak link in most lifters' proverbial chains strong.  It will improve your bench by allowing you to press your head harder into the bench, thereby strengthening your arch.  It will improve your deadlift by stabilizing your spine.  It can help your squat if you're failing lifts from being unable to hold your head in a neutral position due to a heavy load on your spine.  It will enable you to give better head, longer, to whomever you're going down on.  It will keep you from dying if you, say, flip your Mazdaspeed 3 end over end while driving at high speeds while not wearing your seatbelt.  It will make you a better fighter, leaving you less susceptible to chokes and less prone to being knocked out.
A thick neck and murderous rage kept Tyson off the canvas for quite some time.

All of the aforementioned lifters' necks, and much of my own neck size, came from the liberal application of isometric neck work and high reps.  This seems, then, to be the one muscle group that responds incredibly well to those two training methods.  Early on in my neck building extravaganza, I relied almost primarily on isometrics for neck work, with the exception of the occasional day of neck-work insanity on my high school's ancient Nautilus 4-way neck machine.  Due to the constant battering my neck got on the football field and in wrestling practice, it grew like John Holmes's cock on the set of an orgy porn starring naught but broads with DD tits and 24" waists.  In grad school I picked up the gauntlet again in an effort to get my neck up to 19", inspired by a combination of boredom and a desire to experiment with localized hypertrophy.  As such, I started doing high-volume, high-rep, high frequency neck training with relatively low weights, and enjoyed a reasonable amount of success.  Training neck for at least three sets of 20 in each direction (four, if you're having trouble with counting today) for 6-7 days in a row, with at least double that volume on Tuesdays and Thursdays brought my neck from 16.5 to just about 18" in 4 months, during which time I leaned out and saw my bodyweight drop from around 175 to around 165.

My neck was literally bigger than that Bulgarian's legs at 170 lbs.

The only thing that held me back from reaching my lofty goal was cramping.  During my neck training rampage I never once got a massage until it was too late, which was a critical mistake.  My dad popped over the lake to visit me and we immediately hopped a train to Salzburg.  At some point I made the grave error of turning my head to the left to look out the window, and promptly passed out face first onto the floor from the immense and immediate pain of the entirety of my neck cramping in unison.  Only the liberal application of professional massage, massive quantities of muscle relaxers, and sleep were able to resolve the issue, and I was markedly less aggressive in my neck training thereafter.  Thus, while daily training of the neck is possible and will result in immediate and rather explosive neck growth, doing so without the proper rehab work may well result in you shitting your pants from taking too many muscle relaxers.

It's much hotter when chicks do it.

Should you wish to embark upon a high rep neck programs, Steve Helmicki makes a recommendation with which I agree- start with neck bridges and gradually work your way upward in volume.  Wrestlers traditionally have some of the biggest necks on Earth, and their preferred method for building them is the wrestler's bridge.  The following is Steve's recommendation for doing so, as my programming recommendation would likely be something along the lines of "just do a fucking neck bridge":
"For trainees just beginning neck work it is recommended the volume be gradual. Start with five reps on the forehead and five reps on the back of the head. Add a repetition or two.  When you achieve twenty reps split into a twice daily routine.
Complete upon rising and prior to going to bed. Stretch post training and throughout the day. We have experienced trainees gaining two inches in six weeks. Stretch thoroughly/ice" (Helmicki, 22).
For those of you who have never done a neck bridge, they're just about the most simple exercise of all time- wrestlers have been doing them for millennia to strengthen their necks and have suffered no injuries, no matter what the idiots on your favorite message boards might have to say otherwise.  Training the bridge is simple, and there are plenty of tutorials online if you need help figuring out how to lay on your back, arch it, and then push yourself up onto the back of your head using leg drive.  I'm not saying you're retarded if you can't figure it out without Youtube tutorials... I'm just saying you should be sterilized and placed into a home for the mentally disabled so the rest of the world doesn't have to deal with your idiocy.  Here's how wrestlers do bridge drills, by and large (from iSport.com)
"Bridge-ups
A great way to improve your neck strength and to practice bridging is to perform bridge-ups. This is a very simple exercise and it’s extremely beneficial for intermediate wrestlers. This is how they are done:
1.  Start lying on your back with the palms of your hands resting on your stomach.
2.  Get into your neck bridge. Make sure your feet are flat on the mat and you are supporting your weight on the back of your head. (Your back should not be touching the mat.)
3.  Use your feet to push off the mat and arch up. As you do this, “roll” on your head so that the very top of your head is touching the mat. Arch up as high as you can — try to touch your forehead or nose to the mat.
4.  As you arch up, extend your arms along the mat next to your head. The backs of your hands should touch the mat when you are fully arched.
5.  Lower your body and return to your original position. Move your arms down towards your legs and rest them on your stomach. Don’t let your back fall to the mat, support yourself!
6.  Repeat this motion for 20-25 repetitions. 
Hot Tip: Bridge Your Partner
If you want a bit more of a challenge when doing bridge-ups, have a partner straddle your midsection while facing you as you perform them. Make sure your partner keeps good posture with his head above his hips so he can keep his balance. This will help you increase your neck and back strength, and it will also simulate the action of bridging an opponent off of you" (Neck Bridge Drills).

Another easy way to get your neck into condition for some hardcore neck training would be to do isometrics, which is how we conditioned our necks in football.  Most of what you see online is nonsense wherein a person is training against their own hands, which is stupid and pointless.  Isometrics should be done with a partner, as you'll get far more resistance and neck training will be come competitive.  For lateral  training, for instance, you will be on all fours, and will push the side of your head against your partner's leg as hard as possible for a twenty count.  At that point, you'll be trying to knock him over with the strength of your neck, and he'll be trying to keep from moving.  Also on all fours, you'll train vertical strength- to train flexion, you'll have your partner make a basket with their fingers into which you'll press, and for extension they'll push the top of your head with their pals, both while standing over you bent at the waist.  This will also become rapidly competitive, with each partner trying to pin the other's chin into their chest from the top, and actually pulling their partner off the ground when training flexion.  Bret Contreras posted some interesting variations on these if you're interested, which you can check out here.


Should you question the efficacy of training that doesn't involve weights, consider this- Corey Taylor of Slipknot/Stone Sour might weigh 150 and has an 18" neck, and Corey Taylor has an 18" neck, and George Fisher of Cannibal Corpse stretches the tape to over 20" around his neck.  Their secret?  Headbanging during shows.  No bullshit:
"In the October 2012 issue of U.K.'s Metal Hammer magazine, vocalist George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher (pictured below) of Florida death metallers CANNIBAL CORPSE was asked to explain his "gigantic neck." "Well, it's just from headbanging and lifting weights when I was younger," he said. "My dad had a business where he did painting, roofing and everything, so I'd work with him all day long. After that, we'd go to fishing spots to catch and eat all these fish. Then I'd jog over to my friend's house, who lived about a mile away, and we'd lift weights. If you compare old pictures from when I was in VILE to now, it's obviously grown and the only thing I've really done since is headbanging, which must be fairly similar to weightlifting."
Asked if he has ever had his neck measured, like if he had to get a tuxedo to go to a wedding or something, Fisher said, "Maybe when I got married in '98, but I don't remember and it's bigger now. If you really look at it, it's bigger than the base of my head or where my ears are. A friend of mine once said, 'You don't have a head, you're a neck with lips.' A lot of security guys will come up to me and complain about working out, but having skinny necks, and ask how I do it. I tell them to listen to [SLAYER's] 'Reign In Blood' and headbang the whole way through after working out."(Blabbermouth)

Up next, more exercises for training your neck, possibly more poetry, and some training routines to turn your toothpick into a tree trunk.

Sources:
Blabbermouth.  Cannibal Corpse Frontman Explains ''Gigantic Neck'.  Blabbermouth.net.  28 Nov 2012.  Web.  12 May 2013.  http://www.blabbermouth.net/news.aspx?mode=Article&newsitemID=182885

Helmicki, Steven.  Art of the Neck.  Vol. 1.  2008.  PDF.

Neck Bridge Drills for Wrestling.  Wrestling.isport.com.  Web.  10 Jun 2013.  http://wrestling.isport.com/wrestling-guides/neck-bridge-drills-for-wrestling  

35 comments :

  1. You were a strong looking 134 lber. What was your wrestling record like in highschool and college?

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    Replies
    1. Not great. I started wrestling my junior year. I was .500 in college.

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  2. I had no idea your nipples were pierced....

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  3. I wonder how many of us measured our necks after reading this...

    I've been getting my neck work indirectly by putting a smaller sandbag on my neck and shoulders when I want to do weighted pushups.

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    Replies
    1. lol, I measured shortly after. I never thought to do it before.

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  4. He's dead right about the neck and its role in deterring potential physical attackers,ive worked as a Bouncer in bars etc for decades and I know for a fact that when trouble looks imminent and some drunken bum is squaring up to me,its my 20 inch neck that makes them think twice,as i'm just a short arse myself (5ft 7ins)....its the biggest buzz you can get when you psyche out some 6ft 2inch lump who can "sense your latent nerve force" by the intimidating aura of an Assirati sized neck! LOL

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    Replies
    1. I've had random broads in public tell me I needed to pull in my "oppressive" aura, but have never had anyone tell me they could sense my "latent nerve force". I suppose I need a bigger neck.

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    2. The only problem with having a large neck as far as Females go is that,in England anyway,Women in general are so utterly clueless about all things physical that they sometimes actually believe i'm sort of suffering from a mild form of Downs syndrome (we all know this isn't possible,your either Downs your not but don't forget English Women are shit thick mostly),due to the thickness of my neck.Yes,its true,some folks's idea of physical strength/health and masculinity are so muted that they see a strong columnular neck as some sort of disability.

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  5. Also,who's the freak in the first photo?...is that real or photo-shopped?

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    Replies
    1. That's Joel Waldman, some guy in his 40s or so these days who won a best neck competition. Don't think any other pictures of him are online.

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  6. Question--are those 5 reps enough twice daily according to Helmicki? Your other source recommended 20-25 (which Helmicki said to work up to) but is that for just one set?

    Thanks, and very cool post.

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  7. Just waiting for Glen to chip in and bore us all to death with details of his neck workouts. He'll probably start it with "When i was a kid, everyone had a 26'' neck", or something like that, and link it to a youtube video of him gurning with a neck harness on.

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    Replies
    1. Actually i do! Tell us another, but included details about the lack of food in your house as a kid. Not much to do today, plenty of time to read.

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  8. Some folks here may get a kick out of this...

    My mate set up a garage gym and we brain stormed names for it, little did I realise the fucker was intending to have a sign professionally made to bolt to the side of his house;

    http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/police-called-ex-marines-home-gym-1942834

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  9. Replies
    1. Jesus!....I just clicked on that link above and now i'm thinking about wiping my hard drive...LOL

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  10. This is great timing! I pulled my neck this morning on the bench press and realised I must have a pencil neck. So I'm going to start working on it!
    Ps- hope your planning in doing a piece on the new man of steel film 'so and so got jacked' ..... I know your not a massive superman fan.

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  11. On the Helmicki quote " five reps on the forehead and five reps on the back of the head", does that mean do a back bridge and then a front bridge thereafter? Or, just increase the back bridges expansion? Excuse the ignorance.

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  12. Would you reccomend a head harness for neck training? they're pretty cheap.

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    Replies
    1. I've ripped two head straps. Don't buy a cheap one.

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    2. leather one then? still not to pricey.

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  13. I think Jeff King is worth mentioning.
    http://www.bodybuildingpro.com/jeffking5.jpg
    Also, his god damn legs.

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  14. Holy fuck your nipples are pierced! Did it improve your bench?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're not anymore, and no. That pic was taken in 2007.

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  15. Hey Jamie, What do you think about using jump stretch bands to strengthen your neck?

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  16. I decided to rate this post as "shitty", but it brings up good points. Every red-blooded "natural athlete" or "hardman" grows a neck wider than their head before they reach 20.
    As far as beginner exercises go, I like Farmer Burns' neck rolls.

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  17. How could you leave out Henry Rollins?

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  18. Dear Jamie,

    I wanted to share this story with you...

    When I read this post a few days back, I thought to myself that it was BS. I'm a guy with a thick neck and finding shirts that fit correctly has been a pain in my ass since I hit puberty.

    Yesterday, my wife gave birth to our second son. This morning, I was taking the dog outside, and being exhausted because I had only slept 4 hours during a 2.5 day period, I slipped and fell down a flight of eleven stairs. At the bottom, I landed on my forehead.

    I got up and made sure the dog was okay. Then I thought to myself, "Damn, Jamie was right! Thick necks are useful! I should probably be paralyzed from a broken neck right now."

    That's all.

    ReplyDelete