Top 9 Exercises for Musicians

Woman Playing Guitar. Getty Images

A 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.

The most used and abused part of a musician's body are generally the hands. That's why every music teacher will tell you that performing a series of finger exercises along with hand and arm stretches is an important practice before picking up your instrument to play. Of course, as with any exercise regimen, you must consult your physician first.

Below are some of the best resources for beginning and advanced musicians to help strengthen and care for the hands, throat, and back to keep the whole body healthy and injury free. 

Top 9 Exercises for Musicians Resources

  1. Hand Care for Musicians: Many life-long musicians find that they sustain chronic injuries to the muscles and tendons they use the most. While some injuries develop simply due to over-use, others can be prevented with better posture and instrument handling, certain exercises and stretches, along with an increased awareness of when tension is putting you at risk. This comprehensive article was written by a musician who suffers from chronic tendonitis. It details his injury and ongoing recovery with stories, photos, and instructions on specific exercises that helped him along the
  1. Digi-Flex Finger and Hand Exercises: This article, written by About.com’s physical therapy expert and reviewed by a board-certified physician details 6 awesome exercises for a musician’s hands and fingers that uses a Digi-Flex, an inexpensive device designed specifically for exercising the hands. The exercises are meant to improve your range of motion and overall strength for full, healthy function in your hand(s).
  1. Guitarists and Health: This article maintains that the best way to treat injury is through prevention. The article focuses on overall health of the musician, but also prevention of repetitive strain injuries, which are common among musicians. While some of these exercises, tips, and resources are geared toward guitarists’ unique risk factors, much of the content is simply good advice for any musician.  
  2. Alexander Technique for Musicians: The Alexander Technique holds that we are most often unaware of the habits that cause our bodies stress. Geared toward musicians who are experiencing strain (or those who want to avoid it) and improve coordination, this method has been recognized as a remarkably effective technique of mine-body re-education.
  3. Breathing Exercises for Wind Instrumentalists: This downloadable exercise guide is a comprehensive resource particularly for wind instrument players. The guide steps you through a series of breathing exercises from preparatory to advanced exercise that are meant to give the musician proper mastery of breathing and breath control in order to aid in tone quality, sustaining tones, intonation, volume, and flexibility.
  4. Musician's Health: This Musician’s Health article outlines a series of stretching exercise from the book Repetitive Strain Injuries: Alternative Treatments and Prevention.  Helpful photos accompany each stretching exercise for easy instruction. These daily exercises benefit the hands, fingers, and arms.
  1. Repetitive Stress and Strain Injuries: Preventive Exercises for the Musician: This scientific study, conducted and written by Dr. Gail Shafer-Crane of Michigan State University, concludes that it is imperative for musicians to learn to recognize early signs of repetitive stress and strain injuries (RSI) in order to limit damage to muscular and neural tissues.
  2. Exercise for Musicians (play fit not flat): In this brief article, physiotherapist Dr. Bronwen Ackermann outlines the importance of exercise for the musician and provides recommendations for effective exercise that includes the entire body. Ackermann also focuses on exercises that strengthen the core for overall musician health.
  3. Qi Gong Exercises for Musicians: This resource is a brief video focusing on the power of Qi Gong, a type of Chinese spiritual practice intended to align the body, breath, and mind. The video is specifically geared towards the unique needs of the musician and offers techniques to improve posture and breathing.
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    Estrella, Espie. "Top 9 Exercises for Musicians." ThoughtCo, Apr. 24, 2017, thoughtco.com/exercises-for-musicians-2455853. Estrella, Espie. (2017, April 24). Top 9 Exercises for Musicians. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/exercises-for-musicians-2455853 Estrella, Espie. "Top 9 Exercises for Musicians." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/exercises-for-musicians-2455853 (accessed October 20, 2017).