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Exercises to prevent Shermar's neck

Old 06-10-20, 12:41 PM
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tomgdaly
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Exercises to prevent Shermar's neck

Has anybody got a sources for conditioning or exercises to prevent prevent Shermar's neck specifically?
There is quite a bit online about devices to hold the head up mechanically, and also general stuff on 'neck pain' (the usual - 'get a bike fit' etc). But I can't find anything specifically targeted at preventing it from the 'conditioning' point of view.
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Old 06-10-20, 03:04 PM
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it's a matter of core strength. Shermer's neck is the result of fatigued muscles, so if the muscles are stronger, no issue. I don't think you will find anything about it in literature or even in the conditioning community because it's something that only happens to long distance cyclists.

On PBP, my left arm got really weak on the 3rd day. I was worried the other arm would give out. Should have done more pushups
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Old 06-10-20, 05:12 PM
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I read a report by a sufferer who solved his problem with weight work. As unterhausen comments, it's a matter of strength, but in this case strength of the neck and surrounding muscles. He did dumbbell work but IIRC didn't say exactly what. I use dumbbell raises, side, front, rear, supersetting them, 3 sets of 12, and then seated dumbbell presses, similar. Same weight for all the raises to make it simple. For sure he did some head work, putting a strap on his head attached to a weight and doing "head lifts." He said doing this work fixed the problem.

Here's a video of stuff one can do with only a ball and a band:
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Old 06-11-20, 07:29 AM
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I've a thick neck and strong muscles, I suspect it comes from wearing a welding helmet and hard hat at work for hours a day. I've never done any specific neck training, though there are things like neck harnesses that are basically a bunch of straps that you put on like a helmet and hook weight to, then lift it with your neck muscles... I think boxers and other fighters train their necks this way, maybe for taking punches? I thought about getting one but never did spend the 20$... I do some general purpose weight training along with a physical job and that seems to be enough to get me through all the long rides.
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Old 06-11-20, 07:54 AM
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I think push ups go a long way to combat neck problems. But I mostly do them because I have trouble with my right elbow. I have had problems with a sore upper back, but never really neck problems.

In 2011 after PBP, I saw one recumbent rider with reverse shermer's neck from holding his neck forward. He looked awful. Fortunately, recovery doesn't take that long for most people.
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Old 07-10-20, 10:08 AM
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Although this is not exactly exercises, for several months before Paris-Brest-Paris I had lead fishing weights attached under the helmet visor. (I sealed the lead in heat-shrink tubing first). I rode all the qualifying brevets that way, and did the same in 2015. Just before the big event, I removed the weights. Also, I removed front and rear lights from the helmet, and re-attached only the front one, each night during PBP. Did this help? Not sure. I had no problems holding my head up, but it's unknown if these weights were the reason why. During very brief naps in PBP, I lie flat on my back, which might have helped give the neck muscles a break. I saw some very contorted sleeping postures in the control venues. One thing I suggest, and which I did, was to have a mitigation plan if Shermer's Neck does strike in the middle of an event. Practice at home,...a neck brace, a strap from saddle to back of helmet...something to keep you safely looking ahead. Maybe consult a doctor to have some plan of what you will do.
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Old 07-20-20, 03:54 PM
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I like the suggestion above of training with a heavier helmet. I think weighted shrug exercises along with pilates/yoga help in strengthening the core and neck muscles. The exact muscles to be strengthened are your sternocleidomastoids (SCM). I don't believe there is any exercise regime that has been created to tackle this condition. A sports physician might have better ideas.

During PBP 2015, I came down with Shermer's Neck around the 1,000 Km mark. I didn't have a neck brace and the few available at checkpoints were already gone. I just had to suck it up and ride the next 230 Km (mostly at night) to the finish line with my head drooping and mainly relying on my peripheral vision. I had left some wiggle room in my fork tube, so I was able to raise my handlebar by about one inch which helped a lot. I remember the last 80 Km or so seemed like an eternity. Luckily, Shermer's Neck doesn't hurt. Your SCM’s simply lose all strength to keep your head straight. The position used for road cycling (even striving for good form) is not a natural position for the human body and there is a limit to how long it can be sustained which varies from person to person.

It took me about a couple of days to recover about 80% of my neck strength without a neck brace and two more days to feel 100%. I have read that some people need to wear a neck brace for weeks to fully recover.

In spite of this physical grievance, I finished PBP before the 90-hour time limit.
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Old 07-27-20, 08:00 PM
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The usual way to strengthen a muscle is to do strength training. Making a muscle stronger also increases its endurance. The most effective strength training is to do reps and sets in the usual fashion with enough weight to exhaust the muscle(s) in question. The muscle grows stronger as a result, first recruiting more of its fibers, then gradually increasing the strength of those fibers. For the SCM, one uses a head harness connected to a plate or kettleball. Google "head harness" - ignore the more, well, elaborate harnesses one sees. Then use it:

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