My Thoughts on Neck Packing

Theres been a bit of talk lately on packing the neck.  I will get to what neck packing is, but first the reason people say neck packing is important is to increase safety, by putting your entire posterior chain into a better position.  There are some very smart people who will only let clients do exercises with a packed neck.  Other coaches don’t care, other powerlifter and olympic lifters (to some degree) do pack the neck, and others don’t.  Anyways, let’s go on.

 

Neck packing is simply keeping the neck in a neutral position.  If you stand up straight, and extend your neck you are in the “traditional” heads up squat/deadlift powerlifting neck position.  Pretty much nobody has their neck completely flexed while lifting (which would be looking down with your head as much as possible.  A neutral neck, is sort of in the middle of these two positions.  I would say a neutral neck is a little be balanced towards the flexed side, but isn’t all the way flexed.  Here is a simple way to get your neck into a packed position: bring your chin (with teeth touching eachother) down to your chest and make a double chin, now keep that double chin and tilt your neck back.  That’s the packed position.

 

It’s been argued that this particular position has performance benefits.  It is said that lifting a load with an extended neck position causes neural inhibition to the core and all the way down to the glutes.  My observational opinion is that it does not matter at all.  I have gone through the motions of teaching it to my clients and have noticed no performance benefit.  I have even paid attention to it myself during my training and haven’t noticed any performance benefit.  I have looked at people who are much stronger than me, and although a select few do have a packed neck, many, many, many more do not have that position.  Let’s look at some examples.

 

I’m by far not the best deadlifter or squatter around though, so maybe my opinion matters not, but how about elite level weightlifters and powerlifters?  Let’s first look at the neck position in some of the strongest squatters in the world:

This is packed neck if I ever saw one by Stan Efferding.
This is packed neck if I ever saw one.
Sam Byrd with non-fully extended neck
Sam Byrd with non-fully extended neck
Here is Andrey Melanichev with his neck pretty much full extended.
Here is Andrey Melanichev with his neck pretty much full extended.

So for squatting you get the full gamut of neck position from world record holders at different weight classes using different supportive gear.  No one really has a flexed neck position. How about the deadlift?

The best deadlifter of all time with a slight extension of the neck.
The best deadlifter of all time with a slight extension of the neck.
Lamar Gant, the owner of the highest relative deadlift of all-time has a full extended neck during the entire exercise.
Lamar Gant, the owner of the highest relative deadlift of all-time has a full extended neck during the entire exercise.

I actually looked for anyone with a reasonable deadlift who lifts with a neutral neck and literally couldn’t find anything.  Sure I could put up a picture of some hack, deadlifting with 135 pounds while demonstrating a packed position, but when the shit hits the fan, they will extend their neck.  Guaranteed.

 

See for yourself if any of these ladies and gentleman have  a packed neck:

 

How about olympic lifters:

Dimas with a pretty extended neck during the Snatch.
Dimas with a pretty extended neck during the Snatch.
Klokov with a fully extended neck during the beginning of his clean.
Klokov with a fully extended neck during the beginning of his clean.

I will say that I have seen some pretty high level olympic lifters with neutral neck position for the first pull of both lifts.  When they get under the weight however, they pretty much always have an extended neck.

 

So to conclude I feel the whole neck-packing issue is just another minute detail that doesn’t really matter in the long run.  If having a neutral neck added 100 pounds to whatever important lift you needed to do, then everyone would be doing it.  If you feel comfortable with a packed neck, then by all means keep doing it.  If you are just looking out for your health, and using lifting to help get you there, then I would probably stay away from a fully extended neck, because peoples necks are extended as is.  A small amount of extension is ok, especially if your relaxed neck position is reasonably neutral.  Again I’m not ragging on the extended neck position if you own the ability to keep it neutral when relaxed.

 

Later.

 

Putting That Hardgainer Bull#%& To Rest

Flex Photos 001
Me @ 18, after a few months of hard training.

 

Quick disclaimer.  This is meant only for people looking to gain weight at all costs.  If that isn’t your goal, you won’t get much out of this.  Also, this is pretty much a rant. Enjoy.

 

I was thinking about this the other day and decided I’d may as well put my two cents into what I feel about ‘hardgainers.’  For those of you who don’t know what a hardgainer is, it’s an individual who apparently can’t gain weight even though they eat like a sumo wrestler.  It’s complete and utter nonsense propagated by skinny boys who need something to blame for the fact that their girlfriends are more jacked than they are despite the fact they’ve been busting their asses in the gym for the past three years.

 

That’s me on the left from 2004.  Looking incredibly small after a few months of hard training and pounding food.  I’d made a pretty good amount of progress, but I was still ridiculously small.  I was smaller than this to begin with, which is saying something… Mainly that I was your pretty typical “hardgainer.”  I looked like the small kid in your gym who can never seem to grow and only does bicep curls and bench press 3 times per week.

Me today.
Me today.

Fast forward to today, 9 years later and all my work has paid off.  Training is obviously a huge reason for my transformation, but this article will deal with the nutrition side of thing.  Believe me, if I still ate like I did before I started training, I would look nothing like I do now.

 

The old saying is true “you can’t out train a shitty diet.”  Which basically means you can have the most incredible training regime known to man, but if you are eating 1500 calories a day, you probably aren’t going to reap the benefits from the training.  Conversely, if you pounded back 4-5000 calories a day and had a sub-par training program you found in the latest Muscle & Fitness, you’d make some pretty decent progress.

 

Many self-proclaimed hardgainers are usually teenage boys and young guys.  I find it funny how they label themselves a hardgainer after a lack of results.  Here is a little known fact: everyone you see who is big, at some point had the same muscularity as you (some may have appeared larger, because they had some more bodyfat).  No one comes out of the womb looking like Ronnie Coleman.  EVERYONE is un-muscular at some point in their life.  Just because you added a scoop of protein to your diet of a sandwich and an apple 2x/day doesn’t mean you are going to turn a genetic anomaly.

 

My best friend and I were shopping the other day and this young man came up to us and asked us how we got so big.  We asked him about his diet and he said he has a scoop of protein everyday.  Guys, a scoop of protein is literally ~ 150 calories.  This won’t do anything to help you if you are 150 pounds.  I told him to take 2-3 scoops, with milk, olive oil, and peanut butter.  Depending on your serving size of each, you can easily make this shake over 1000 calories.  Hopefully I’ll see him down the line and he’ll be bigger and not claiming that suffers the dreaded hardgainer disease.

 

I honestly don’t consider myself by any means to be that big.  However, when you compare me to how I looked when I started lifting at 18, I have definitely put on some size.  I would say I looked like a hardgainer when I was 18.  I put in that work and gained a lot of weight.  I ate 6 meals per day religiously.  If you are 150 pounds now and think you are eating enough, you aren’t.  Plain and simple.  Try doubling what you currently eat and tell me that you can’t gain any weight.  It won’t happen.

 

If you really want to gain size and have had trouble in the past you need to do two things.  First, keep doing what you’re doing in the gym, because it’s not your training that is causing you to stay the same weight. Two, eat disgusting quantities of food.  You can do this in innumerable ways:

 

  •  Eat a cup or two of trail mix everyday
  • Get in 1-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight everyday
  • Add a few table spoons of olive oil to every meal and shake you consume
  • Increase feeding frequency drastically
  • Eat a few tablespoons of peanut butter at every meal
  • Eat all you can eat and don’t leave until you could not put another piece of food in your mouth if your life depended on it

 

These are just a few things I’ve done to help me and other people I’ve helped gain weight.  Believe me when I say you are not a hardgainer.  You just need to eat more food.  Some people may appear to gain easier than you because they have their diet in check, and you’re still eating a cold cut sandwich and a pear for lunch and dinner everyday.