Protect your NECK.
Exercises by Petrus Du Plessis
Petrus du Plessis is a professional rugby player for the Glasgow Warriors and qualified physiotherapist. A three time Premiership winner and two time European Cup winner, Petrus has played for Saracens and London Irish. A specialist in neck training, the GS Harness is an essential neck training tool for Petrus. See his videos below.
These exercises are copyrighted © by Petrus Du Plessis and Gatherer Systems
Caution - Advanced neck strengthening exercises. Not to be done until completing basic neck training. See GS Online for neck training.
Neck Isometric holds with dumbells and neck sled pulls.
Neck flexion resistance with front raises and lunges.
Harness attached to resistance machine - in flexion and extension. Can also do side flexion.
Neck Isometric holds - 20 seconds in flexion and extension.
Neck extension/flexion/side flexion.
Scrum Positioning with Neck Training
Neck side flexion with core strengthening. Mimicking the "bind" process of the scrum.
Right side flexion under tension with forward and backward walks. Neck side flexion with isometric scrum holds. Harness attached to a fixed point (solo training)
Right side flexion isometric hold. Training partner generating tension.
Right side flexion under tension with forward walks with training partner generating tension.
Front row training - Positional training for tighthead, loosehead and hooker scrum position.
Why is it important?
Over the years, we have seen a dramatic increases in body mass, strength and power has resulted in larger magnitude impact forces in the contact phases of the game. This has perhaps been driven by the strong association seen between teams containing the largest players and success in the professional game. Perhaps unsurprisingly, rugby union carries a comparatively high risk injury when compared with other sports. Tackle based sports such as rugby exposes the cervical spine to potentially injurious forces, which are absorbed by the musculoskeletal tissues. While the relatively few catastrophic cervical injuries garner the most research and media interest, it has been suggested that the cumulative effects of these continuous shear and compression forces can have great impact on range of motion and muscle function of the cervical spine. This may impair the spinal reflexes that act to stabilise and protect this vulnerable region, perhaps predisposing to further injury. Head and neck injuries account for around 30% of all rugby injuries. Strengthening of the neck is a sensible method of mitigating neck injury, while post-injury muscle strengthening is an effective rehabilitative tool, and is a primary treatment for neck pain.
Rugby players need strong necks. As such, vigorous training with high weights are required. It is essential this is done safety, as otherwise it can lead to injury. To the left: Force equalisation system which ensures that forces are evenly distributed between the straps. This prevents the forces shearing away from the mid line and towards the passive structures e.g. ligaments/facet joints which can cause injury. To the right: The harness is designed to detach if forces are not kept at right angles. This prevents "Axial Loading" or compression of the head onto the neck which can also lead to injury.
The neck and the Scrum
Why do we train the muscles of the neck? In the context of the scrum, when engaged, its important that the player maintains their position as a great amount of force is being transmitted head down (axial loading). There are no muscles to train in this "head down" position as it is purely your vertebrae and inter-vertebral discs. However, you can training your neck stabilisers - the flexors, extensors and side-flexors so that you stay in this position (15 degree of neck flexion). As the opposition scrum forces against you, they will try to disrupt your position. If your neck is forced into a rotated position, you are 25% weaker at the neck in this position. If you are forced into full neck flexion, with all those forces, that can cause severe injury as well as compromising the scrum. Consider the player as chain, and weakness in the chain will compromise the whole function of the individual and of the scrum.