You already realize the importance of a very strong neck and it is entirely up to you to have a wonderful neck or not, depending entirely on the amount of study, and time of practice that you give the subject. A strong, well-developed neck is not only valuable to health and your personal athletic appearance, but important in wrestling as well.”
~ Farmer Burns, 1912
You’ll find some pretty interesting ideas when you venture into the “forgotten lore” of physical training. Here’s a good example from the great physical culture pioneer Dio Lewis, introduced way back in 1864:
THE IRON CROWN
“Bearing burdens on the head, results in an erect spine and an elastic gait. Observing persons, who have visited Switzerland, Italy, or the Gulf States, have observed a thousand verifications of this physiological law.
Cognizant of the value of this feature of gymnastic training, I have employed, for this purpose, within the last twelve years, various sorts of weights, but have recently invented an iron crown, which I think completely satisfactory. The accompanying cut gives a good idea of its general form. I have crowns made to weigh from three to one hundred pounds.
The crown is so padded within, it rests pleasantly on the entire top of the head, and yet so arranged that it requires skill to balance it. It is beautifully painted, and otherwise ornamented.
The Following Suggestions are deemed important in wearing the crown: Wear it five to fifteen minutes morning and evening. Hold the body erect, hips and shoulders thrown far back, and the crown rather on the front of the head, as shown in the cut.
Walking up and down stairs while wearing the crown, is good, if the lower extremities are not too much fatigued by it. When walking through the hall or parlors, turn the toes, first, inward as far as possible; second, outward; third, walk on the tips of the toes; fourth, on the heels; fifth, on the right heel and left toe; sixth, on the left heel and right toe; seventh, walk without bending the knees; eighth, bend the knees, so that you are nearly sitting on the heels while walking, ninth, walk with the right leg bent at the knee, rising at each step on the straight left leg; tenth, walk with the left leg bent, rising at each step on the straight right leg.
With these ten different modes of walking, the various muscles of the back will receive the most invigorating exercise.
All persons of both sexes, and of every age, who have round shoulders or weak backs, are rapidly improved by the regular use of the Iron Crown.”
He continued this neck program in college, which was especially important while playing football. It paid off… When he graduated from Baylor University in 1966, at a body weight of 215 pounds, Ell sported a genuine 18-inch neck.
Unsurprisingly, neck training was always a part of Darden’s training books and courses. You’ll find many good neck training training ideas in this book, which was especially written with football preparation in mind.