Drummer exercise is not such a popular topic but it’s an important one. As I get older, it is clearer to me just how important my fitness positively and negatively affects my drumming.
In this article, I’m going to share with you 5 things you can do that will strengthen and maintain your drumming physique.
Drummer exercise is essential
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I was reading about drummer Phil Collins the other day. He had some major back issues that have severely restricted his ability to play drums. I believe his issues are related to years of poor drumming posture.
Let’s face the music. Drums are a physically demanding instrument to play. We also have to carry, transport and set up our drums before we can even play them.
Years of doing all of this can really take a toll on our physical health. As we get older, it’s also easier to pull muscles and even break bones.
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Having a regular exercise routine that gives you stretching, cardio and muscle strengthening is essential for your drumming.
My exercise routine
From a young age, I adopted a regular routine for exercise that includes Yoga stretching, cardio and strength training. I will be honest though, I can’t always follow it consistently.
Some days, it’s difficult to carve out the time. Still, I make an effort to get it done 3-4 days a week.
Now I want to share some the 5 things I do to help me stay strong and fit for playing drums. I am in my early 50’s so this is not a routine to build 6-pack abs, it’s about keeping what I’ve got so I feel strong on the gig.
After 40, no false moves
Sure, when I was young, I stayed fit because
- I had tons of time and
- I wanted to look good for the ladies.
Fast forward 20 something years and it’s only about keeping my muscles strong and my blood flowing! If I don’t exercise for even a few days, I feel more tired when I start my exercise routine. After I’m done though, I usually get a super charge of energy.
I was in the Honolulu Jazz Quartet for almost 14 years with my good friend and great saxophonist Tim Tsukiyama. When I turned 40 he said, “After 40, no false moves!” When he said that, I chuckled but I soon came to realize what he meant.
There’s a physical shift that happens at 40. I started getting aches and pains, I never had before. I’d pull my muscles more easily and I even developed sciatica and had to quit running. I sound like an old man saying all of this but it was true.
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Carrying and sitting playing drums for long periods of time started to be a chore. I slowly but surely began to know what it felt like to get older. I’ll tell you one thing. I don’t like it.
Young drummers pay attention
If you’re a young drummer reading this article, you probably don’t think too much about drummer exercise. Maybe all of this ‘aging’ stuff seems so far away. I will tell you from experience that as you get older, life goes faster and the aches and pains will come.
My after 40 drummer exercise routine
If you’re my age or older, then you’ve probably already experienced some of the same aches and pains. I have developed an exercise routine for drummers that I feel keeps me fit and strong.
It won’t strain your muscles and isn’t focused on speed and endurance. I’m not recommending any specific kind of exercise routine here. I just want to share mine to maybe inspire you to get in better shape with me and create your own routine.
Use mine or find some of your own exercises that keep you strong for playing drums in the years to come. I tend to do my routine in the morning every other day. That seems to work best for my schedule.
1 – Start with morning Yoga stretches
Since I was 22, I have used the same stretching routine at night before I sleep and in the morning before I exercise. All of the stretches are from BKS Iyengar’s book The Illustrated Light On Yoga. I like Iyengar Yoga because it’s all about gradually increasing flexibility and maintaining it.
2 – Going for a walk
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I am fortunate to live in a very hilly area. Getting a good warm-up walk and cardio is easy. By the time I return home 30 minutes later, I am all warmed up from head-to-toe and ready for the other parts of my routine.
The walk is critical for me not to strain muscles in my other exercises. When I was young, warming up was an afterthought. It’s now always present at the beginning of each workout.
Part of my walk involves walking up and down stairs or hills. For me it’s not about speed. It’s about cardio and maintaining mobility. I take my time.
I also bring water with me especially in the hot months. Summers here in Japan are no joke. They call them “mushi atsui” or hot and humid.
At home the workout continues
When I get home from my walk, I get straight into the rest of my routine. The next thing I do is work on the big muscles first (learned that in high-school weight training class). I usually do sets of pushups and then sets of crunches.
3 – Pushups
My pushups have been on my knees for a while due to a shoulder injury I sustained (not from drumming). I do them very slowly. If I go too quickly, I will certainly strain my shoulder or another muscle. Probably a muscle I didn’t even know I have!
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For my drummer fitness routine, I am very careful not to injure myself or my drumming muscles!
4 – Crunches
The next thing I focus on are my abdominal muscles. These are really important for playing bass drum and hi-hat. Our abs help keep us stay balanced when using our bass drum and hi-hat.
5 – Jumping rope
The last thing I do is jump rope in sets of 100. Be sure to always relax when you skip rope. That way you won’t strain your knees, ankles or feet while jumping.
After all of that, I walk around the house a bit and cool down. I do walk around the house to let my heart rate decrease gradually. Then I hit the shower.
So that’s my drummer exercise routine. It feels great and I don’t have any pain. It stretches and strengthens the most important muscles for drumming and living for that matter.
Whether you’re over 50 like me or in your 20’s, I think you’ll find this drummer exercise routine will support your overall physical health. If you don’t like some parts of my routine, find something that fits you better.
In the end it’s just about doing something consistently that supports your physical health and drumming. Everybody and every body is different so listen to yours. “No pain, no gain” is for 20 somethings. After 40, it’s just pain without the gain so please be careful.
Always wishing you the best in your drumming health. KEEP ON DRUMMIN’!
What exercises do you use to stay strong for drumming?
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