exercise class
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Musicians typically need to put in endless hours of practice to enhance their art. As a result, while everyone else it trying to get into a regular gym routine, physical fitness doesn’t seem to be much of a priority for many musicians.

However, an investigation by Melissa Dribben reveals that the music world is starting to recognize exercise as an essential part of the daily practice regimen for a musician. She shares Andrew’s story:

Like many classically trained musicians who have been honing their talents since kindergarten, Andrew Bogard never made physical fitness a priority.

“The emphasis in our education puts us in a small four-walled practice room for a majority of the time,” Bogard said.

A gifted singer, he took his body for granted. With a little help from Haagen-Dazs dulce de leche, by the time he turned 20 he had developed a respectable gut. Via Seattle Times

pull-up exercises
Image Courtesy of Instructables

At first, Andrew did not mind his weight because he believed it helped his voice projection, but when his friend challenged him to a pull-up contest, he could barely hoist himself up six times.

Andrew then decided to join the local YMCA, and combining this with a change in diet, he lost 20 pounds. But it wasn’t all good news.

But to his horror, he discovered that the bulkier muscles in his neck and the strain of lifting weights had damaged his voice.

“My teachers said, ‘Do you want to be a body builder or an opera singer?’” Bogard recalled. So he quit working out after a year. Via Seattle Times

musician exercises
Curtis Institute of Music voice student Andrew Bogard works out with exercise physiologist Tim Rossner at Zarett Rehab & Fitness on Feb. 9, 2015. (Tom Gralish/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS) 1164681

Fortunately for Andrew, a new elective course dubbed Fitness and Conditioning for Musicians offered a solution that allowed him to stay in shape and sustain the strength and clarity of his voice. The course was offered by the conservatory at the Curtis Institute of Music in partnership with Philadelphia’s Zarett Rehab & Fitness.

“When I was going to the gym on my own, I didn’t know what I was doing,” Bogard said, wiping sweat from his forehead. “The pressure from tightening the sternocleidomastoids” — long muscles on the side of the neck — “was destroying the quality of my voice. These guys teach you how to do it correctly.” Via Seattle Times

Musicians and athletes have a lot of similarities. While athletes develop cardiovascular strength, musicians develop fine motor skills. Additionally, like their gymnast and marathon counterparts, musicians suffer injuries from overuse. However, the differences between the two are seen in the way the treat their bodies.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay

While athletes generally treat their bodies like Maserati engines, musicians tend to treat theirs like baggage in the trunk. Athletes are closely attended by physical therapists and other health professionals, but musicians typically power through their pain alone.

“Athletes are told, ‘This is what you need to eat, do these exercises,’ ” said Bronwen Ackermann, a physiotherapist at the University of Sydney School of Medical Sciences in Australia. “Musicians get told, ‘Just go practice and practice some more.’” Via Seattle Times

In the past, musicians actually felt embarrassed at their injuries, assuming it revealed a failure in technique. In fact, there was some sense of pride if you could play through your pain. the good news is that this mindset is changing.

“We are finally getting musicians to realize they need to take care of their bodies,” said Clay Miller, former president of the Performing Arts Medicine Association. Miller said that only within the last two years have national guidelines for music teachers included a section on protecting students’ physical well-being. Via Seattle Times

musicians exercise
Image Courtesy of The Guardian

It may not be easy to measure the results of musician’s workouts objectively, but students that have taken the course report that their bodies feel much better, but they also succumb to injuries a lot less and are able to practice more efficiently.

Ren, a violist who had played sports during her high school years, developed tendinitis despite the fact that she was relatively fit. Never having joined a gym, she was not very optimistic about taking the course.

“I learned a lot,” Martin-Doike said. “They really work a lot on posture and preventive measures you can take to strengthen the right muscles.”

The training changed her body mechanics while playing her instrument, and also the way she sits at her desk.

“I don’t get hurt now,” she said. “I’m really vigilant and really aware.” Via Seattle Times

Featured Image: Image Credit

 Related Articles:

11 Stretching Exercises for Musicians

credoEarlier this month, we included an article on the importance of warming up before you played. Today, we submit another article from The Strad on “11 Stretching Exercises for Musicians” by Pilates instructor, John Black. The stretches submitted for your perusal emphasize the upper body and can be worked into your daily warm-up/post-rehearsal cool-down routine. If you’d like to read the article, please follow here.

Remember, two minutes of frequent stretching throughout the day can protect your body from future harm. And let us know: Which exercises did you like best? Which stretches did your body protest the most with? Via Credo Music

7 warming up and cooling down exercises for musicians

stradMuscle speed, efficiency and strength are enhanced by a rise in muscle temperature. Muscles that are not warmed up fatigue more quickly. We then try to force the muscle to do what we need to do, resulting in increased tension. A demanding task is more work on a tense muscle, so it becomes more fatigued. A vicious cycle ensues. Start away from the instrument with the following suggested warm-up stretches, or those your doctor recommends. When at the instrument, start slowly and easily. Via The Strad

Top 9 Exercises for Musicians to Stay in Performance-Ready Shape

music edA musician is much like an athlete as he or she must be fit in order to perform well. While general physical activity and exercise is good for just about everyone, musicians require a different kind of exercise and conditioning to stay in performance-ready shape. Performance-ready shape is as much about being healthy and injury free as it is about building the stamina and endurance needed to give your best every time. Via Music Ed