Neck Training With Sonny Liston

Posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2018 by John Wood
The great boxer Sonny Liston used to strengthen his neck by doing a headstand on a table and working his body back and forth then left and right, in order to hit all four “sides” of the neck. I can say from experience that this method is simple but very effective.

This picture was taken in May of 1963 while Liston was in training to face Floyd Patterson for the second time. Liston knocked out Patterson in the first round just like he did the first time they fought. With this victory Liston retained the WBA, The Ring, and lineal heavyweight titles and won the vacant inaugural WBC heavyweight title.

The Nautilus Rotary Neck Machine

Posted on Thursday, March 24th, 2016 by John Wood

The Nautilus Rotary Neck Machine contains no weight stack, no built in source of resistance of any kind … instead, the resistance is provided by the user through the use of hand levers that enable you to exactly control the resistance during both the positive and negative parts of the exercise. There aren’t many Rotary Neck Machines around but we happen to have one in our private gym and when used correctly, it is excellent. We may do a feature on it at some point.

Farmer Burns on the Wrestler’s Bridge

Posted on Thursday, December 18th, 2014 by John Wood
“I wish to impress upon all my students the great value of physical training connected with the bridge exercise. I want you to practice bridging every day, for you can find nothing that will develop the neck and back muscles to such an extent as bridging will do.

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

Sargent’s Head Lifting Machine

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 by John Wood
The Head Lifting Machine
When Dudley Allen Sargent became the physical director of Harvard University’s famed Hemenway Gymnasium, he wanted to make sure the student body was as well-rounded as possible in their development.

Henceforth, Sargent devised several unique “machines” which could be used to fill in the gaps in areas that the conventional equipment of the day could not address (equally true today and the very same rational justification for any device which solves a problem or provides an advantage.)

One of the more interesting examples can be seen at the right, this “head lifting” machine offered a method for strengthening the neck and upper-back in a progressive and systematic manner. This was the first dedicated machine to building neck strength ever created, clearly it was under stood that this was an important area.

Neck training is, of course, down-played or ignored in many modern programs which is a real shame since it is certainly no less important today than it was back then.

Extreme Neck Strength

Posted on Friday, June 6th, 2014 by John Wood

When you build a little strength, sometimes you want to show off a bit… and that is exactly what’s going on here. Up top you’ll see my good friend Pat “The Human Vise” Povilaitis, bending a spike in his hands while John Wood provides the platform in the form of a nose-to-mat bridge. You won’t find many people that can hold a full bridge, even without a 180 pound man standing on top of him. If you aren’t practicing your “nose-to-mat” bridge, or at least working up to it, in our experience, you aren’t getting as much out of the exercise as you could…
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Author: John Wood. All contents, including images and text, copyright © 2005-2021 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc. Not to be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. We will most likely grant permission but please contact us if you would like to repost. IMPORTANT: Equipment and books, courses etc. pictured in blog posts are generally not available for sale unless specifically noted.

Dio Lewis’ Iron Crown

Posted on Saturday, May 17th, 2014 by John Wood

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:


“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.”

Neck Training

Posted on Friday, March 21st, 2014 by John Wood

Rick Redman Neck Training

To say a larger, stronger neck is important in playing the game of football would be an understatement…so it’s curious why neck training is often left out of many modern programs. At least a few people “get it” though. Here’s College Football Hall of Famer Rick Redman working on his neck development in an interesting way back in 1963 while playing for the University of Washington.