F1 neck training: Why do drivers have thick necks?
F1 is an extremely physical sport where drivers are required to be in the best physical shape throughout their careers. These pilots suffer enormous G-forces as they drive the car around high-speed corners and immensely physically demanding circuits around the world.
The sport is physical and strenuous to the point where drivers even lose kilos in the form of water weight during almost every race. These pilots are ideally required to train their whole body to withstand any kind of pressure, injury, and G-forces. It's almost mandatory for any F1 driver to have strong legs, arms, and, most importantly, a sturdy neck.
The neck is arguably any F1 driver's most vulnerable part of their body as they drive around the track. This is an area that is prominently exposed to the outside and supports the head and helmet while also withstanding high G-forces. Beyond a doubt, every F1 driver practices safety and trains their neck intensively, which is essential for their well-being. In fact, no driver can arguably even drive in F1 without having a strong and thick neck.
What is the role of a strong and thick neck in F1?
During any Formula One race, every driver on the circuit consistently battles through tight turns which consist of pounds of force pulling the pilot's head to the side. Shockingly, these drivers face up to 2Gs during acceleration, 5Gs while braking, and 4 to 6 Gs while cornering. Notably, a 5G force basically means that the driver can experience a force equal to five times his body weight.
While experiencing such an enormous amount of force (an average human experiences only 1G of force vertically), the driver's body suffers, increases their heart rate, and makes it harder for them to breathe.
Under these conditions, a delicate neck will not be able to withstand sudden braking, crashing, or even normal racing. So, to hold the neck against inertia throughout all corners and turns during a two-hour race and for 50-plus laps, every F1 driver needs to have a strong and thick neck.
How is the neck trained?
F1 drivers, like other sportsmen, follow a strict regime to keep their bodies fit. They go to the gym, train their full body, and have personalized routines that suit their lifestyle. It is safe to say that these sessions are brutal for pilots and focus on their endurance, strength, and core. Further, a special training session for the upper body, arms, and neck is a must for each of them.
There are several methods used to train the neck and target it from all angles. Some trainers use drivers' helmets, which are attached to a pulley that pulls on the drivers' necks. Exercises with rubber bands, where the head is turned and pulled, are pretty common for all of them. Weights may also be used to further strengthen the neck.
These sessions are supervised and consistently monitor the driver's capabilities. The neck is a sensitive and delicate body part, which can even detach from the driver's body if handled inappropriately.
What are F1 drivers' necks like?
The average size of a man’s neck is 15 inches. An F1 driver's neck size, however, can be more than that. In fact, a thick neck is one of their most noticeable physical features and varies from driver to driver.
It is believed that throughout years of training, the neck is only expected to get bigger and stronger. For example, a Mercedes official reported that Lewis Hamilton had a collar size of 14 inches in 2007, which has now increased by up to 18 inches. The neck can get even stronger and wider to the point where two-time world champion Fernando Alonso's neck measures up to 17.7 inches. The Spaniard can even break a walnut with his neck.
Having a neck that wide is reported to be a physical hazard, however, that can potentially cause trouble with breathing and sleeping. Regardless, these are usually the extremes drivers are willing to push to for their neck strengthening.
As we know by now, neck training is clearly an essential part of any driver's life and work. It is vital for their safety, well-being, and utmostly, survival. Over the years, so many lives have been saved in Formula 1 owing to adequate training and coaching.