I recently started a health kick that has turned into a life-changing experience. I go to the gym 5-6 days a week (for real) and work out at home on my days off. My diet has significantly changed as well and my goal is to lose 40 pounds in 6 months. I have made the commitment to see it through. My obsessive behavior is actually paying off as it forces me to exercise even on the days that I don’t feel like it. This got me thinking about working out in relation to the drums whether it’s practicing sticking exercises or drum set patterns. According to drummerhealth.com the key factors for improving or maintaining health on the drums are: Exercise, Warm-up, Equipment, Technique, Posture, Water, Nutrition and Hearing. Here’s my take based upon their recommendations:
Exercise: Drumming requires a certain level of physicality much like playing sports. Athletes maintain their fitness with preparation, exercise and stretching. These exercises can help maintain your overall comfort and health when practicing or performing. It also can lengthen the period that you can play.
Warm-up: Most professional drummers have developed their own backstage warm-up regiments prior to performing. Warming-up affects the muscles, tendons, joints and blood flow. A warm muscle performs much more efficiently than a cold muscle. This translates into tissues which can better withstand stress. It can also mean fewer injuries from repetitive strain.
Equipment: This includes drums, cymbals, drumsticks and thrones. Use equipment that is comfortable to you. The higher quality of equipment the less likely you are of sustaining an injury. Get in the habit of checking your drums prior to rehearsals and shows. This helps to keep your gear in good condition and can alert you of potentially dangerous components.
Technique: While there are as many different stroke techniques as there are drummers, remember that a combined stroke which uses arm/forearm/wrist and fingers, spreads the work load and can increase power and speed. There should be very little tension in your grip. Relaxation is key to speed and endurance. Rebound should be used to help reset the stick for the next stroke. Don’t forget to breathe.
Posture: Many drummers develop poor posture habits early on. Slouching over the kit or reaching for your cymbals can injure your back. When you slouch dramatically you increase the gravitational load on your lumbar spine. This will prove very problematic over time. When you lessen your lower back curvature, you increase the forward weight-bearing of your head. By sitting tall on the throne you put less pressure on the back, neck and arms.
Water: This one is self-explanatory. Stay hydrated. Playing drums causes perspiration. During a gig or rehearsal your body’s demand for water increases whether you are sweating or not. Do not wait until you are thirsty before drinking water. Whenever possible, drink water during your set. Staying well hydrated will lessen fatigue, and enhance your performance.
Nutrition: Another given. Eating well prior to a show or while on a road trip can be difficult, as uncertain time schedules and poor sources of quality foods prevail. Try keeping a healthy snack or two in your bag. Eating several smaller meals, reducing your intake of simple carbohydrates while increasing your fruit and vegetable intake can be a great aid to reducing unhealthy weight gain.
Hearing: Ears are perhaps the most important tool that a musician has. While it may not always be needed, noise reduction ear plugs may be required if volume levels are high. If possible have your monitor mix as low as possible while still enabling adequate sound levels to hear everything well. Experiencing unhealthy levels of noise can create painful and long-term issues. Many of the greatest musicians of the day now suffer the challenges of hearing loss.
Here are some daily exercises posted on OnlineDrummer.com. Some things to consider when playing these warm-ups: Try following the sticking, leading with your right or your left hand. Use the exercises as short warm-ups (10 or less repetitions) or technique building exercises (more than 10 times). Consider using a metronome. (click image for full size)