Google exercises for singers and you will find many lists that include yoga, pilates, walking and swimming, while cautioning against weight training, extreme sports and sometimes dancing. In a world where what the human body can do is constantly being challenged and new ideas are evolving in sports medicine this is a very traditional and limiting view.
There was a time only a few decades ago that women were discouraged from running for fear that their ovaries would fall out. Now nearly half the field at the Boston Marathon is women; 61% of half-marathon finishers are women. If attitudes to women and exercise are changing so dramatically, then why are many sources for singers still behind the times? Luckily there are many singers that are pushing the frontiers of fitness and singing. There are singers who are marathon runners, triathletes (including me), and more. Some of these singers are very successful in the world of opera, too, an art form that is steeped in tradition. In the next few months I will be doing some interviews with these singers, so stay tuned.
But back to the original question: What makes a good exercise program for singers? Well, since presumably singers are humans, we require the same elements as anyone else. These elements will help prevent disease, improve body composition, help prevent injuries and make everyday activities easier to perform. The three primary components are cardiorespiratory training, resistance training and flexibility training.
Cardiorespiratory training improves lung capacity and strengthens the heart, increasing stroke volume so more blood is pumped through with each contraction of the heart, which means more oxygen is delivered to the cells and used at the cellular level to create energy. Read more in my previous article Why Cardiorespiratory Training is Important for Singers: How Hip Hop Changed My Life.
Resistance training (also called strength or weight training) improves muscle endurance and muscular strength, increases basal metabolic rate, improves joint strength and overall posture.
Flexibility training, by increasing range of motion, decreases the risk of injury, improves bodily movement and improves posture.
I’m sure as a singer you see the benefit of it all. For all singers posture is important for freedom of sound. Making sure any muscle imbalances are corrected through resistance and flexibility training will help with posture in an efficient manner. Energy and muscular endurance are important for performance when we have to deal with moving in heavy costumes, dancing, lifting props and any other stage craft needed to make it through a whole show sounding fresh right to the end. Even choral singers have physical demands placed on them to stand through a performance holding music.
So we need the three primary components of fitness, what else? The secondary components of fitness are comprised of balance, coordination, agility, reaction time, speed, power and mental capacity. All of these, even when exercised on larger muscle groups, will prime your brain to carry these components into singing, as well.
Now we know all the components to fitness, but how do we build a program from that? Ideally, you should have an assessment and work with a personal trainer who will design a customized program for your particular needs. We are all unique in our goals. We all have areas of weakness or muscular imbalance that a trained professional can help you with on an individual basis. They will also help you find something that you will enjoy doing so that you are successful at reaching your goals.
For many singers the cost of working with a trainer can be prohibitive or if you are traveling just not possible. The Fit Singer offers programs that can help you that are cost efficient and available to do from anywhere. For more information check out The Fit Singer Boot Camp.
If you already are doing some physical activity that’s wonderful! Just make sure you are including all the components of exercise. I would love to hear about what you do for your singer fitness. Let me know by commenting or send me a message at The Fit Singer.