How to Pack Your Head for the Deadlift, Squat and Swing
Dynamic Neck Positioning: How to Pack Your Head for the Deadlift, Squat and Swing
By Chris Carlsen
In my last blog, I discussed proper static neck positioning (without moving). Now that you understand how to pack the head when you’re steady, you can progress to doing so dynamically (with movement). The neck must move in harmony with the rest of the body, or it can greatly affect how you lift. Often times, failure to maintain the proper position is a result of muscular compensation; in the case of the neck, weak scapula and core stabilizers are the usual culprits. Or more simply, you could just have poor neck positioning without a muscular imbalance, which deters you from being as strong as you can be.
When you breathe in properly, the rib cage expands and braces the lumbar spine with 360 degrees of support. Inhaling is what we do on the eccentric portion of lifts (lowering portion). When this occurs, the posterior spinal stabilizers gently pull the neck into extension.Think of the posterior spinal stabilizers as a string and the head as the balloon. When we breathe out correctly, the rib cage depresses and locks onto the pelvis. Exhaling is what we do on the concentric portion (exerting) of the lift. When this occurs, the anterior core musculature gently pulls the head into flexion. Again, think of the string and the balloon. The breath and core musculature initiate this smooth motion of the neck. You can first practice inhaling by lying on the ground and feeling the head float with inhalation and exhalation of the breath.
You will run into trouble when the neck initiates movements and fails to move in sync with the hips. If this occurs and you flip the head up into end range extension before the hips reach end range flexion, the spinal configuration will be compromised, making you weaker and jamming the vertebrae of the lower back. The other issue is keeping the head up while finishing hip extension. For perspective, imagine someone finishing a deadlifting with their head up, looking towards the ceiling. This improper positioning will pull the rib cage away from the pelvis, resulting in loss of the core’s hollow power position.
After gaining more awareness statically (part 1), and by breathing, you can progress to dynamic movements where you gaze at a spot in the horizon. This helps to consistently perform exercises with good alignment.
Below is a video wherein I perform the swing, deadlift, and squat. Notice how my neck and hips are working and moving together.