Should Football Players do Neck Exercises?

Today this question came in:

I have a question that is somewhat controversial. What is your professional opinion about doing neck exercises for football players? If so, what do you recommend for exercises, reps
volume etc...

Football players are one of the few athletic population where direct neck exercises are absolutely warranted. Football imposes demands in this area and it makes sense that athletes should train to build some resiliency there.
Here are a few guidelines and caveats:
-The reps and resistance do not need to be extreme to derive benefit. Direct neck work should be done two to (at most) three times per week. Two to three moderate intensity sets of 6 to 8 reps in all planes (front, back, side) is plenty.
-The reps should be completed in the middle of the range of motion. This means that the athlete should NOT take their head as far as it should go. Take, for example, this training video found at NFL.com.  It hurts my head to see guys cranking their cervical spine into maximum side bend, flexion and extension under load!
-Direct neck work is a great time to integrate some thoracic extension and rotation mobility drills to make sure and ingrain neutral cervical and thoracic spine posture from which to work the neck out of. Just like any other "core" exercise, one of the most beneficial things an athlete can do is take the time to achieve proper resting alignment and to understand what this feels like before they load the movements.
-Not all athletes have access to expensive neck isolation training machines and wall mounts. Using manually resisted movements (like in the video) is likely just as beneficial and encourages the athlete to work at less than maximal load - this is a good thing!
So no extra credit for 1 rep max neck personal records!

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