Musicians! Are You Fit to Play?

Playing an instrument requires an extraordinary level of dexterity, sensory control, precision and endurance.

Musicians spend many hours a day performing repetitive movements in static positions which can overload their body structures and increase the risk of injury if they are not prepared for it.

If you play an instrument, you will be exposed to risk factors depending on the type of instrument you play, your posture with and without your instrument, your playing technique, the time you spend playing, a sudden increase in practise hours, difficulty of repertoire, change of teacher, physical conditioning, general health, stress’

During my physiotherapy career and having completed a music degree in flute performance, I have encountered many musicians who don’t know any specific exercises to minimise the risk of injury and help them to alleviate their particular muscle imbalances. Most of them don’t even do any physical activity outside their instrument but then spend hours and hours in a practise room demanding an incredible amount of work from their bodies without any preparation for it. So it is no wonder they come to me with aches and pains.

There are lots of things we can do to decrease the risk of injury but to start with, being fit to play is a definite gain!

Some articles compare athletes to performing artists. For me, one big difference between these two groups is that there is a general knowledge in professional athletes about exercise regimes for warming up, stretching and conditioning to prepare for their specific task. This means they can perform at 100% at all times. They are surrounded by physiotherapists, doctors, nutritionists and other health professionals who guide them during their career to prevent injuries and improve their performance. My question is: why don’t musicians have any of this???

Your instrument is not your principal instrument, your body is. Your flute, your violin, your saxophone, cello, piano’is only the intermediary between you and your music. If your body doesn’t work properly, you will find difficulties improving your sound, technique, speed and control. You could be the best pianist in the world but if you are not taking care of your body there is a chance you will get injured and won’t be able to perform at your best or in the worse scenario, at all.

Music teachers have a huge responsibility in this matter. If you want to teach music, it is important that you know the best posture with the instrument to decrease unnecessary load and tension, in order to pass this information on to someone else. It is important that you know which exercises will help you warming up your body before starting your warming up exercises with your instrument (your scales, arpeggios, studies’.). It is also important that you know which stretching exercises you should do to lengthen the overactive muscles and which conditioning exercises will help you strengthening your underactive muscles. Children start playing at a young age when their bodies are still growing. Learning the right way from the beginning will save the little musicians a lot of trouble!

Haskell WL and Ackermann suggest that musicians have their own exercise regime to improve conditioning including:

  • Cardiovascular fitness exercise: Moderate intensity 5 times per week x 30 minutes or vigorous intensity 3 per week x 20 minutes
  • Stretching: 2 times per week holding each stretch for 20 seconds
  • Resistance exercises: 2 times per week approximately 10 – 25 repetitions per muscle, using the muscle groups that are not prone to overuse already from instrument playing.
  • Proprioceptive/dexterity exercises: 1 per week, 3-5 minutes per task
  • Movement exercises as warm up: prior to playing, every time.

There are many different types of exercise, find something you like and that agrees with your individual needs.

At Life Fit Wellness we offer a wide range from 1 to 1 exercise and rehabilitation sessions, to small groups classes such as Pilates, Yoga, Core Fit, Physio Fit, Nordic Walking and more! If you would like more information see our Classes page.

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