Interrogative: What should fitness trainers teach clients about head and neck position during the squat?
Evidence: The NSCA Essentials of Strength Training & Conditioning, the NSCA Basics of Strength and Conditioning, the NSCA official Website, and the NSCA Position Paper: The Squat Exercise in Athletic Conditioning, all offer different instruction to trainers on teaching correct head and neck position in the squat. To wit;
Instruction 1 – Keep the neck and head in line with the torso
Instruction 2 – Look up slightly
Instruction 3 – Looking up is a fault
Instruction 4 – Extend the neck to about 60o
Instruction 5 – Looking down is a fault
Analysis: Instruction 1 indicates that the cervical vertebrae should be held in normal extension throughout the squat. Instruction 2 contradicts instruction 3 as it required the cervical vertebrae to actively extend away from normal extension. The term “slightly” has no prescribed meaning and as it is subjective, and be interpreted quite differently among individual instructors. Instruction 4 is derived from the NSCA website video demonstration of the squat where the demonstrator significantly extends the neck to the posterior and contradicts instructions 1, 2, and 3. Instruction 5 can be construed as contradictory to instruction 1 as when the hip is flexed during squat descent, a normally extended neck position will result in the face being oriented towards the floor.
Summary: NSCA publications referencing head and neck position during the squat are sufficiently incomplete, contradicting, and confounding to a point suggesting that any knee position may be acceptable.
Commentary: The self-proclaimed world authoritative materials promulgated by the NSCA are inconsistent in recommendation, incomplete in scientific support, lacking definition, inadequate in anatomical description, and impractical in application. The said publications and recommendations create an environment where education of professionals on head and neck position in the squat is inconsistent.
The authorship, editorial, or graphical issues present may ultimately have negative effects on individual fitness results and the safety of the public, as correct technique cannot be reliably determined from the published position statements, texts, and videos.
About the Author
Professor Lon Kilgore graduated from Lincoln University with a bachelor of science in biology and earned a Ph.D. in anatomy and physiology from Kansas State University. He has competed in weightlifting to the national level since 1972 and coached his first athletes to national-championship event medals in 1974. He has worked in the trenches, as a coach or scientific consultant, with athletes from rank novices to professionals and the Olympic elite, and as a collegiate strength coach. He has been a certifying instructor for USA Weightlifting for more than a decade and a frequent lecturer at events at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. His illustration, authorship, and co-authorship efforts include the best-selling books “Starting Strength” (first and second editions) and “Practical Programming for Strength Training” (first and second editions), recent releases “Anatomy Without a Scalpel” and “FIT,” magazine columns, textbook chapters, and numerous research journal publications. He is presently engaged in the most difficult task of his career: recreating the educational track to becoming a professional fitness practitioner. The second stage of this effort is the creation of a one-year university qualification in fitness practice at the University of the West of Scotland.