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Strength training for violin??

Health: Wondering about strength training for the violin after reading books and sites like this. Seems free weights are discourged and maybe Yoga and/or pilates. Thoughts???

From mark novak
Posted March 17, 2008 at 06:05 PM

Wondering what the view is on strength training for the violin. I have read several books on playing and staying injury free and hardly ever is strength training mentioned. Maybe the strength training mentioned is Yoga, Pilates, etc., but usually (in fact never) are free weights mentioned. Hahn mentions keeping the core of your body strong, but no mention of the arms. Thoughts?????

From Danny Sheu
Posted on March 17, 2008 at 06:19 PM
It's not like playing the violin requires that much strength ;P

If anything, strength training can only add tension to your playing, although if you're good about it I know a few rather buff, yet very talented violinists who play tension free.

From Marina Fragoulis
Posted on March 17, 2008 at 06:36 PM
I disagree... I think it takes a tremendous amount of strength and endurance to play the violin corrently. It's important to keep your muscles and tendons safe, I see too many of us suffering with various injuries and it only gets worse as you get older. Strength training is important, as is improving flexibility. Vengerov keeps pretty buff and he doesn't find it a hinderance.
From Elizabeth Reed Smith
Posted on March 17, 2008 at 06:52 PM
I think strength is very important. The stronger I am, the easier, lighter, and more relaxed I am able to play.
From David Burgess
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 01:15 AM
Strength training was considered a detriment to swimmers......until Mark Spitz won 7 Olympic gold medals.

Golfers scoffed at it....before Tiger Woods.

I used to run into the associate concertmaster of a major symphony regularly at the gym.

The more I strength train (correctly), the less I suffer from overuse injuries on the job.

From Marc Bettis
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 01:35 AM
Between various forms of exercise (cycling, I also dance ballet)-it keeps me not only fit but far more aware of my body...it also keeps my metabolism way up....another side-effect is that I seldom get cold hands (even when I know I'm far from being prepared for what I am doing).

All in all fitness is a good thing...not only for healths sake but for anything you want to do. I also find it keeps me in a good state of mind to get things done (practice wise).

Any kind of exercise that you can do is good, and as a violinist any exercise that increases your awareness of your body is doubly good. I've known many a player who never knew when their body was screaming "enough is enough already" and torched their hands.

From al ku
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 12:50 PM
didn't vengerov injure himself with "weight training", to the degreee that he had to cancel concerts? what do you think, i bet he did not use a 5 lb dumbbell?

which brings up an important point, that is, it is not difficult to overexert oneself and get involved with injury, if you don't know what you are doing and chances are most do not, possibly including vengerov.

what is the purpose of "weight training" anyway?

to play better violin? no conclusive or even suggestive evidence for that.

to look buffed? sure, some are born with the genetics to respond to that and others may not be able to handle the routine.

to improve health? yes and no. really depends on if you know what you are doing and how you are doing it and why you are doing it...weight training per se is anaerobic exercise whereas conditioning/endurance training is aerobic exercise. depending on where you stand and what you believe, whose books you read, the body's response is different.

tiger woods is tiger woods. it is safe to say what he does in the gym is a guarded secret, supported by a top notch team of sports med specialists and constantly reevaled. how much his buffed physique helps his golf game is up for conjecture and whether his routine is applicable to others, in the pursuit of a better golf game, is up in the air. one thing for sure, white men with beer belly are scared of tiger woods! :) but they love to lose to him because tiger brings in the sponsors and everyone goes home with a bigger check.

one thing i do know for sure is that to be in better shape you need nothing other than learning to walk more briskly, use stairs when available. it is much more efficient to exercise the lower limb muscles than the uppers. to be honest, i find men with lobster arms and chopsticks legs very funny looking, especially if they walk with a swagger. :)

From Peter Carter
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 01:11 PM
I know after decades of playing in an orchestra that one must cross train with other physical activities.Its good to always be highly toned and develop muscular endurance,especially the upper body.I was in TaeKwonDo for thirteen years and obtained the rank of 3rd Dan Black Belt.It was the perfect exercise combining a very high level of fitness,mental alertness,and HEAVY discipline.It was standard practise to do push ups on our wrists,fingertips and knuckles.We also used a punching board to develop callouses and strengthen the bones in our hands.I sure miss it....
From Terez Mertes
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 01:48 PM
Yoga. Can't stress the benefits enough. With a good teacher, however, not some aerobics teacher looking to make a few extra bucks, or some guy who's gotten so much into his own practice that he thinks it would be a lark to teach it. Same goes for (light) weight training - find a trainer to give you tips, but I'll argue that this can be done in 2-3 sessions and then you can be self-guided for life. (Moderation is the key, tho!)

Al, as for this:
>one thing i do know for sure is that to be in better shape you need nothing other than learning to walk more briskly, use stairs when available. it is much more efficient to exercise the lower limb muscles than the uppers.

This is not necessarily true. Can't remember the exact reference in an article that I read, but middle aged women, for one, NEED some weight training, and the article recommended that if one only has time for a 30 minute workout, it is a better option to focus on weights, in favor of cardio. Strong, toned muscles are such a tremendous prevention strategy to injury, especially in one's later years.

So. In my mind, it's good to have a varied exercise routine that gives the body strength, flexibility, some cardiovascular challenge. And I agree that playing the violin requires strength. Every time my arms begin to ache, I silently thank myself for having put some time into building those muscles.

Yoga, walking, light weight lifting. Great regime. (I jog and take a kick-boxing class as well, but in truth I wouldn't recommend those workouts as ideal.) The key is for each person to listen to his/her body.

From David Burgess
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 02:52 PM
The often cited benefit of resistance training for middle-aged + women is a reduction in loss of bone density...osteoporosis.

Al, weight training isn't necessarily just anaerobic. I'd be happy to take you through an AEROBIC weight workout. :-) There are many ways to use weights depending on your goals. The stair climbing you've recommended is mild resistance exercise, using your body as the weight.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 03:36 PM
Thank you, David! I knew it was related to osteoporosis, but as I am not a science/medical person, I knew I'd blow the bit about "reduction in loss of bone density" or get it all wrong and be called on my error.

Um... what David says!

From Peter Carter
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 10:58 PM
After retiring from TaeKwonDo,I do three sessions a week at the "Y".As David hinted at,I try combining weights and endurance together along with lots of stretching(especially the spine).Rowing for 20 minutes at 35-6 strokes per minute is excellent for those "violin muscles".
From al ku
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 06:39 PM
hi terez and david,

let us clarify what we are talking about.

are we talking about strength training exercise that enhances violin playing (the original question),

or are we talking about osteoporosis prevention measures for middle aged females?

or are we talking about weight training exercises that are fitting for a violin maker's lifestyle based on his own disease management need?

we cannot assume they are the same, can we? :)

From Daniel Stevens
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 07:41 PM
As a student and young man I played only viola, which is much more physically strenuous than violin, (I play both extensively now). It caused all sorts of back problems, nothing that kept me from playing, just a lot of discomfort. I managed with with extensive weight training - I put on over 20 lbs in the first two years. Properly done, increasing muscle mass does not decrease flexibility, in fact, if good form and full range of motion is used (well designed strength training machines encourage this) flexibility can be increased. Add Yoga and you can assure this. My experience relative to playing was an increase in ability, it became easier and less strenuous to play. Also, with good weight training technique, you can actually learn to decrease tension and to relax muscles that are not being used. It helps one get 'in touch' with the physical body, which can only help.

No, playing an string instrument does not take a lot of strength, but the less percentage of the available strength you use, the more finesse and contol one can apply. Personal experience - don't necessarily trust a trainer, most are not well trained or are improperly trained. Read a lot of books first to get an understanding of how the body grows and how the physical body functions. To this day, I find weight training therapuetic and an enjoyable escape into the physical being for an hour or so. In fact I am in need to getting back into a regular routine, I just feel better when I am in shape.

From Peter Carter
Posted on March 18, 2008 at 08:39 PM
Good post Daniel....
From kimberlee d
Posted on March 19, 2008 at 02:58 AM
I'm a marathon runner which I think is fairly strenuous, and takes conditioning. Honestly, I find that playing the violin can be just as athletic as running and can be every bit as taxing, depending on what you are requiring of your body and how you've conditioned yourself to handle it.

Keeping myself in good running shape has been great for my violin playing. I also do a fair amount of Pilates which I think helps a great deal too. Menuhin was an advocate of yoga. I hate weight training, and I probably SHOULD do it, but I am a baby so I don't :-).

Some people advocate lifting weights to help runners develop good quadricep muscles which will help fortify their knees against injury. Others say that the best way to condition for running is by running itself (that the lifting doesn't stimulate the same muscles). I've heard it both ways. Personally, as long as it's not overdone, I've had some success with lunges, ski sit and band work with my legs to help my knees. I wonder if it works the same way with the violin.

From Drew Lecher
Posted on March 19, 2008 at 03:24 AM
Great tips above.

I have incorporated weights, stretches and fast walking (no running for me Kim — bad ankles;) for the past 3 years and in many respects feel as in shape playing as I did 25+ years ago, in some ways better as I have better balance, chore and posture all working together.

Go for it, but start out moderately and listen to your body. Stretch your fingers, hands, wrists and arms during "the rests between reps" — sure sounds like violin playing to me:-)

Drew

From T Netz
Posted on March 20, 2008 at 03:34 AM
A healthy and fit body should be of utmost importance to us all. I cringe when I see/hear the statement that strength training is bad for musicians because they'll bulk up and have tight muscles that will inhibit playing. Educate yourself on the virtues of strength training and I doubt you will find a reputable trainer who will preach the bulking myth.

It is unfortunate to see all the chicken wings on the arms of female musicians when I go to concerts. That flabby mass waving and jiggling in the breeze is the result of un-toned muscle...and stored fat too. And not to just pick on women, I doubt there are too many male musicians who are hiding six-pack abs under those crisp white shirts and black ties.

Total body fitness should be a high priority especially for musicians because they spend many hours of each day sitting or standing for practice, rehearsal, performances. It is not exercise to carry your eight pound violin case from your house to your car. Cellists and bass players have the advantage of having to wrestle with a large instrument and a twenty pound case.

Toned muscles will not inhibit playing performance. Toned muscles will support your spine and keep it properly aligned and THAT will enhance your playing performance and your playing longevity.

If you are afraid of strength training with weights then begin a simple program of body weight only exercises, i.e. push ups, pull ups, sit ups, and body weight squats. These four exercises will use every muscle you have in your body. Push ups and pull ups are the best moves for strengthening your back and upper body muscles. Squats will tighten and tone your lower half so it stops spreading onto the chair of the player next to you.

We shouldn't stop exercising just because we're no longer teenagers. Men and women alike start to lose bone mass and muscle beginning in our thirties. The only way to combat aging is to exercise regularly, including strength training, and eating properly.

This should be especially easy for musicians to do because we have to have the discipline to practice daily. So why not discipline yourself to living a healthy lifestyle incorporating exercise every day as well?

From al ku
Posted on March 20, 2008 at 12:28 PM
T, i think you have raised many great points and your suggestions are quite reasonable.

in view of your post, i will revisit my prior point, that is, is there a sensible physical routine for an average violinist...

i suggest we look at this from several angles:

1. healthy lifestyle. as you and some others have stated, it is important to stick to a healthy lifestyle with an exercise routine above and beyond being a violinist, for cardiovascular and metabolic fitness, or even an overall sense of well being. in other words, it is something you do even if one day you stop playing. therefore, this point is moot.

2. violinist-specific. to me this is what is more interesting/relevant because violinists are known to develop postural related ailments or repetitive stress syndromes. i think a better way to look at it is to address the common problems and then devise a set of exercises specific for things like carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, golfer elbow, rotator cuff syndrome, neck/back issues with 1 million possibilities, and what have you, etc. in comparison, the simple term of strength training/weight training/read- some- books/go-to-the-gym may or may not cut it. when people throw in those terms, i question: what do you really mean and do? if they cannot really elaborate something that is comprehensive, sensitive to the need of the person, or better yet, the common need of at least some violinists, it is a tough sell because it may be ineffective or even harmful, to the point that you may have to cancel your concert:)

to an average person, i don't think violin teachers here will say over the internet, read some books and follow the advice inside and you will be fine with your playing.

with physical conditioning specific to violinists whose bodies are their tools, may be, just may be we should be more cautious and thoughtful about what we say, and how it is received by the listeners.

survey: how many of you currently on a physical routine have specific exercises addressing carpal tunnel syndrome, elbow issues, shoulder issues, neck and back issues in a preventive manner? what do you do for each? to me, a discussion down this road is much more helpful than yeah or nah on strength training. may be it is my elitist attitude:), strength training sounds dorky and jocky and funky and porky.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on March 20, 2008 at 12:49 PM
>we cannot assume they are the same, can we? :)

Sure we can! : ) And that goes to show my irreverent attitude of it all; that is to say, I listen to my body, I do the exercises which support my yoga regime, most of all. Which means toning upper-body stuff; my upper body is naturally quite weak. The lowers and the back have generally taken care of themselves. (I've been a regular exerciser all my life.) I support T Netz's comments, particularly the push ups. They are so great to do at home on a daily basis - really really works the core and the upper body. (Try pausing afterwards, or mid-way, in that same "plank" position for 30 seconds, a minute, more. Now THAT is a core workout.) A simple set of 20 push ups every day and trust me, you'll feel the results in a positive way in a few weeks' time, and the long-term benefits can't be stressed enough. I challenge anyone here to say they can't find time in their busy day for that. In fact, sometimes when I'm frustrated with my violin practice, I'll step away, drop to the floor and "give myself 20". (I cheat, though. I only do 16 at a time. Something about 4 sets of 4 appeals to my sense of rhythm.)

Al, this image is just hilarious:
>strength training sounds dorky and jocky and funky and porky.

It sounds like The Seven Dwarves take a trip to Gold's Gym. : )

From Terez Mertes
Posted on March 20, 2008 at 01:00 PM
>survey: how many of you currently on a physical routine have specific exercises addressing carpal tunnel syndrome, elbow issues, shoulder issues, neck and back issues in a preventive manner?

My routines don't address any specific issues. For me it's been like going to the dentist for regular teeth-cleanings so as to avoid future issues. A rather dull answer - sorry! But I will say that a good, experienced, well-educated yoga teacher can be quite helpful in knowing which yoga exercise will help which part of a body, ailing or otherwise. And yoga is really, really, really good for preventative maintenance.

From Peter Carter
Posted on March 20, 2008 at 01:55 PM
This is a great topic! I also believe for violin muscle maintenance to add swimming to the list of exercises.Its so much easier on the joints and when you only have an hour for your workout like me,its a very productive use of your time.
For a few years I went to a Shiatsu practisioner.I loved it.Has anyone else tried it?
From Nigel Keay
Posted on March 20, 2008 at 03:13 PM
i have a great book on shiatsu called Do-It-Yourself Shiatsu by Wataru Ohashi. Books on shiatsu seem to be either oversimplified or impenetrable but this one has all the detail in an understandable form. I've used the techniques on myself (and sometimes others) to dissipate muscular tension from time to time. It's great stuff! I've never been to a very experienced practitioner though.
From T Netz
Posted on March 21, 2008 at 03:06 AM
Consider professional athletes. Their bodies are also their tools. An injury can wreck their career just as well as a professional musician. The reason athletes spend so many hours a day working out is to of course enhance performance but also to prevent injury.

Taking a step back, I think non-exercising people have a skewed view of strength training in general. We see photos on muscle magazines of men and women with unnaturally large muscles/physiques and we assume if we workout with weights we will look like that too. It won't happen. Competitive body builders work very hard to achieve that look. It is a science. They have to take supplements that will specifically enhance muscle growth. They have to workout lifting very heavy weights, they have to avoid aerobic/anerobic exercise or they'll burn off the muscle they are trying so hard to build. It is a tiered regime and it takes a tremendous amount of dedication and discipline to get to the top of that sport. It is also unhealthy because of what their bodies must go through. So, what I'm trying to say here is...the average human being is not going to look like the Incredible Hulk from spending three days a week in the gym doing strength training exercises. Musicians do not need to fear 'bulking up' because it's not going to happen.

What a strength training program will do for you is tone up your muscles, increase your energy level and reduce risks of health problems.

As far as specific exercises to deal with specific body parts...that is difficult to say. Unless you've sustained an injury and you're doing rehab there really isn't a need for parts specific exercises. Our goal should be to keep all of our muscles strong so a total body program is best in most situations. You know, the leg bone is connected to the ankle bone...it all works together. :)

I approach violin practice just as I do a sport. I perform better if my muscles are warmed up so I practice after I have done a workout and that can be as simple as a brisk walk in the morning or a yoga routine or a strength training session or 20 laps in the pool...of course, I would need to have a pool first.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on March 21, 2008 at 01:03 PM
Again, I'm with everything T Netz said. Well put, to boot!
From Peter Carter
Posted on March 22, 2008 at 11:54 AM
Yes ,well written T!
From Nigel Keay
Posted on March 22, 2008 at 12:46 PM
I took up the Korean martial art of Hap Ki Do in the second year that I was studying both violin performance and composition together. I needed to be fit to handle the workload. I also took up Tae Kwon Do shortly after and trained in both styles for a while, but Hap Ki Do remained my principal style; I did this regularly over a period of eleven years obtaining the rank of 2nd Dan Black Belt. Like Peter, I found it the perfect exercise, I enjoyed the many aspects of the training; flexibility, coordination, balance, endurance etc. developing strength was really just part of the package, developing technique and speed seemed more the focus. I did the fingertip pushups too; after several years of practice I could do pushups on the index finger and thumb alone both bent convexly. I don't recommend anyone to rush off and try this! In spite of the strength required to do this my fingers haven't grown to 3cm thick (!) My arm muscles may have accumulated a little mass, but nothing particularly out of the ordinary. I've never had any repetitive strain type problems, and today can play the fast stuff on viola if I stay in form like anybody else. Not only was HKD/TKD the perfect exercise, but it was also extremely interesting, and there was also the memory training aspect that I found beneficial, from needing to retain all that information in the techniques and patterns.
From al ku
Posted on March 22, 2008 at 03:23 PM
T, again you have raised many good points and it is interesting you started off with,,,consider prof athletes...

the prof athletes that i know of professionally and personally ALL do sport-specific and need-specific routines. because of the demand of their professions, beyond the health maintenance core training, they ALL have detailed plans (which change week by week, day by day) to increase performance and minimize injury risk. i have no problem accepting your opinion (based on your own personal preference?) but i would like to point out for others that in reality, top level prof althletes have a different mindset/routine. they are much more proactive in injury prevention and to achieve that, one must seek out areas to be concerned with early.

you mentioned that until/unless there is an injury, there is no need to be part-specific. the whole idea of being scientific in this process is to identify early in individuals the strong and weak points and device a plan accordingly,,,,before injury. this is not unlike violin teaching where on your first lesson, the teacher sizes you up and cater to your need accordingly, trying to prevent bad habits from forming. for top level competitions in any sports, this attitude is essential. for that matter, imo, for violinists who are practicing hours per day, day after day, starting at a young age, it is also essential. just because it is not done routinely does not justify the status quo is the way to go for the future. those who are involved in martial arts/yoga/pilates/etc may have learnt to be more aware of their body/mind, but we cannot assume that is the case with others...simply doing "strength training".

lets randomly take one violinist problem as an example: shoulder problems. very often, because of the mechanics of bowing, rotator cuff becomes an issue. yet, until/unless someone is specifically tested for weakness/issues around the shoulder, the weakness/issues may not be apparent. the problem can be easily hidden under strong biceps, triceps, deltoid, and yet, those muscles have nothing to do with rotator cuff. in fact, it can put the rotator cuff in worse mechanical disadvantage/imbalance, setting up for bigger injury if it happens. for that matter, most people do not even know how to strength/stretch rotator cuff muscles even if the problem is identified. so, going forward, will a set of preventive rotator cuff exercise for young violinists have any impact on the incidence of rotator cuff injuries in the future? i don't know but i think it is worth thinking about.

many fine violinists end up developing shoulder issues over time, which is a fact. i don't know many violinists personally, but those i do know, some very fine and well known players, are absolutely clueless. to them, one way to rationalize it is that it is more important to make a beautiful sound than taking care of the part of the body that is responsible for making a beautiful sound. to some, not that ignorance is bliss but having chronic injury is considered acceptable, part of the whole deal of being a serious violinist. they don't have time to slow down and reflect on the fast track. they are afraid to aknowledge any potential problems that may interfere with the "dream".

you also stated: "they have to avoid aerobic/anerobic exercise or they'll burn off the muscle they are trying so hard to build." if you avoid both aerobic and anaerobic exercises, i am not sure what is left, physiologically speaking.

From oliviu dorian constantinescu
Posted on March 22, 2008 at 04:31 PM
Violin playing is a lot more about well-thought coordination and focusing of energy rather than brutal strength. It's not a problem of using strength or not, but of using it corectly. And the ergonomical way of handling the violin requires surprisingly little strength.
Even the skinniest of people can draw a huge sound out of a violin when knowing how to use their hands. Furthermore, efficient use of energy or strength leads to increased resistence.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on March 22, 2008 at 07:27 PM
Yoga. It's very balanced, and done properly, you don't have to strain against anything but gravity and your own body mass. In other words, no machines to hurt yourself on, no trying to figure out how heavy the weights should be. And it not only tones the muscles, but it increases flexibility. I always feel really marvelous after a good yoga workout, and if I'm doing it several times a week, I feel the calmness and stability in my playing.
From Tara S.
Posted on March 22, 2008 at 08:49 PM
I agree with Laurie. I used to do yoga a lot, and have gotten away from it in favor of riding a bike and running, and every time I have violin aches or pains (like recently) I know that I have to get back to yoga. It helps with body awareness as well as strength and flexibility. Moving meditation.
From Michael Richwine
Posted on March 23, 2008 at 04:44 AM
I think Yoga is a good solution. I studied it for a while in tandem with Tai Chi, but now I do Tai Chi and Wing Chun, and I run. Thai Chi is a remarkable art. Like Yoga, it is a "moving meditation", but much more. It builds strength remarkably (at least in my case), keeps every thing toned and in balance, and helps a lot with focus and concentration. If I told you about some of the other benefits you'd think I was making them up, unless you experience them for yourself. My teacher never told me what to expect - just let me discover for myself.
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on March 23, 2008 at 08:16 AM
It strikes me as a more urgent question to ask is whether strength training is the right way to prevent musicians’ injuries? I don’t think we can get a simple answer for this, but what is simply known is that musicians’ injury has reached to an epidemics level: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE2DA1539F934A25753C1A96F948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

When a young (or not so young) professional violinist is telling people that certain recurring arm pain is normal, it terrifies me. It's unnecessary for me to state the obvious on the pros and cons of strength training in general. But until one has learned to properly use the self without pain, to risk further sports injury by doing strenuous physical training is simply non-commonsensical.

From Rosalind Porter
Posted on March 23, 2008 at 09:11 AM
The one thing which has really helped me in the last year or so is buying an exercise bike - I find that the cardiovascular workout it gives me is definitely aiding my violin playing. Hard to explain well, but my body feels much less tensed up and more relaxed and I think I've got a lot more support from the lower body when I play. I do do a bit of Alexander Technique and try to meditate if I am feeling really stressed.

I think Maxim injured himself by falling in the bathroom... he's certainly got a great body, that's for sure !

From al ku
Posted on March 23, 2008 at 12:24 PM
yixi, excellent read, thanks.

one factor not mentioned in the article is that musicians usually do not have the luxury of fully resting/recovering from fatigue associated with aggressive practicing/playing which imo is another reason for developing physical problems besides poor techniques. the viscious cycle piles on, leading to issues when the body is challenged with the need of repair but not given the opportunity.

the other aspect is the level of physical reserve. for instance, we may be conditioned to perform fairly well and feel fairly healthy with a 2 hr/day routine. if suddenly we are doing a 4hr/day regimen, dictated by others, very often, our bodies, though seemingly perfectly healthy, may not be conditioned enough to take on the new task for long before encountering problems. it is the body's way of telling us to stop and evaluate. often, our "better" senses override that:)

it seems that as with everything else in life, life gets more competitive earlier so young players of today probably end up playing many more cumulative hours than their counterparts one century ago. if a family has set the sight on a high level competition early on, if the teacher is not experienced with dealing with physical symptoms, if the parents' attitude is that don't-be-lazy, it will be quite something if the kid can survive the experience without long term physical and therefore emotional complications.

as a parallel, the same also applies in sports. steroid abuse is so rampant that it is not even worth the mention. i know of high school kids importing steroid meant for horse from mexico and shoot themselves with it. there are very talented 12 yo tennis players considering quitting the sport because their rotator cuff is already torn from billions of high power serves, made possible by newer equipment, the need to excel early. almost all of them eventually need surgery for tendon reattachment.

From David Burgess
Posted on March 23, 2008 at 03:50 PM
From Yixi Zhang:

"It strikes me as a more urgent question to ask is whether strength training is the right way to prevent musicians’ injuries?"

------------------------

Not many formal studies have been done on the role of resistance training in injury prevention for musicians. It's well accepted in sports. What is clear though is that this type of training (properly done) produces physiological adaptations to bone, connective tissue, muscle, and attachment points which are associated with enhanced protection against injury, because these areas become stronger.

Resistance work is also a part of most injury recovery and rehab programs.

Yes, it's possible to mess yourself up with weight training, as with any physical activity. It's wise to start out with some good coaching whether you're running, lifting weights, or playing the violin.

From Ray Randall
Posted on March 23, 2008 at 04:39 PM
I see nothing wrong with intelligent weight training and cardio work. If you're smart and use weights and resistance bands to help muscle tone and endurance then go for it, it can only help prevent injuries. Using very heavy weights to gain major muscle definition doesn't sound smart for a string player. Exercises to help strengthen the lower back sound especially like a good idea for us.
From T Netz
Posted on March 24, 2008 at 05:05 PM
All of us who are physically able, should be doing some form of exercise every day for the reasons we've already discussed. That could be strength training three days a week and doing cardio exercise the other four. Some activities combine both.

Al, I understand your thinking with parts-specific exercise but the problem with such a program is that by focusing on one particular muscle, you'll neglect others. For instance, bicep curls are a very popular move. Thats fine for the bicep muscle but a person needs to use other muscles besides the bicep to pick up an object or push away from an attacker. That's why exercises such as the push up and pull up are better because you strengthen all the upper body muscles that work together. It's folly to focus on bicep curls when the same person can't perform one push up or one pull up. These are very taxing exercises and they will build strength and endurance.

Kids are driven much harder these days to excel in sports, music, whatever...and all of that repetitive motion from a young age compounded by years, eventually takes a toll somewhere in the human body; physically or mentally. Many of the musically 'gifted' children are not allowed to participate in organized sport for fear they'll injure themselves and ruin a virtuoso career. That is very sad for the child who never learns the importance of physical fitness. Let's face it, sitting in a room for hours every day practicing is not healthy.

The bottom line is, no matter what we do for a living or hobby, we need to keep our bodies in shape. My concern is that many musicians have bought into this 'bulking' myth and as a result they do not exercise and keep themselves fit. And that this situation puts them at a greater risk of injury than the player sitting next to them who is exercising regularly.

Also, don't think of strength training as being 'how much can you lift'? We'll leave that type of strength to the power lifters. We're concerned with keeping our muscles fit and strong so we can perform daily tasks easier, and play our instruments with correct posture and form. And hopefully get rid of those chicken wings. ; )

From Peter Carter
Posted on March 25, 2008 at 02:01 AM
Well written T........
From al ku
Posted on March 25, 2008 at 04:32 PM
Well written T.....considering the amount of misinformation weaved in your post.

"Al, I understand your thinking with parts-specific exercise but the problem with such a program is that by focusing on one particular muscle, you'll neglect others. For instance, bicep curls are a very popular move. Thats fine for the bicep muscle but a person needs to use other muscles besides the bicep to pick up an object or push away from an attacker. That's why exercises such as the push up and pull up are better because you strengthen all the upper body muscles that work together. It's folly to focus on bicep curls when the same person can't perform one push up or one pull up. These are very taxing exercises and they will build strength and endurance."

-----part-specific does not mean working on one particular muscle only while neglecting others. it means assessing and paying attention to the function of a group of muscle in question in order to maintain a healthier balance as a whole. some physicians in Rehab Inst of Chicago (i take you are from chicago) are of council to one of my companies . if you are interested and open-minded enough, i can help arrange a visit so that you can take a look what profs do to profs and folks from all walks of life to improve function and performance.

as i said earlier, this concept should be quite easily understood if you are being taught by a good violin teacher, that is, in every lesson, there should be a focus on one or two problems, out of hundreds of problems you may have. in such case, we don't go through a "general" routine to try to catch them all; we need part specific or function specific guidance and exercises in order to improve efficiently.

you used biceps curl as an example of something we should not do exclusively, which is obviously true but which has not much bearing on the main point of the discussion. i don't know of any violinists, ignorant or not, trying to bulk up biceps only, do you? in the same vein, i don't know of any violinists trying to bulk up, period. what they are looking for is the best way to get fitter and stronger and healthier for violin playing. the discussion focuses on which way is the preferred or recommended.

you advocate pull-ups at the same time when you discourage biceps curl. the muscle group mostly responsible for the pull-up action is actually biceps. to be realistic, putting aside the risks and benefits of pull-ups for a second, how many people on v.com are fit enough to do even one complete, good-formed pull-up? for a person with an average weight of say, 160lbs (ladies, ok, 125?), that is more or less 80lb (60) resistance to each biceptal action. for someone out of a violin studio to attempt that with full effort, without any prior preparation, without any knowledge on how to get from point A to B, we may be asking for trouble instead of providing help.

in addition, as i pointed out to you earlier, rotator cuff problem seems to be a much bigger issue to violinists for centuries and thus i used that as an example of relevance. pull-ups and push-ups, something you stated that is all the upper body needs, do not adequately address the cuff. imo, the Achilles Heel of our upper body is the tendon of the rotator cuff.

listen, this post of mine may seem rather blunt. i have developed a weird sensation on v.com that if you are not agreeable or say things that others whole-hearted accept, you are just,,,fill in the blank. well, i lets others worry about that:) but my post means no malice, only an academic response. i enjoy reading your posts like others and once in a while would like to offer some facts, when available, for our opinions to bounce off.

cheers.

From T Netz
Posted on March 25, 2008 at 06:15 PM
"how many people on v.com are fit enough to do even one complete, good-formed pull-up?"

That is why we are having this discussion. :)

The fact that a person cannot do a proper pull up or push up indicates they have weak upper body muscles. Barring a physical limitation, there is no reason why any person of any age cannot gain the strength to do these exercises. It only takes effort and persistance...much like learning to play an instrument.

From al ku
Posted on March 25, 2008 at 07:01 PM
T, agree that things like pull-up and push-up are good indicators of upper body fitness and i have no doubt that a routine regimen incorporating those are very beneficial, without the need for any equipment. simple but very effective.

the other 2 things i would like to mention, which you probably agree, are the role of rest (sleep) and proper nutrition as part of the lifestyle change. often, in the very beginning stage of a physical program, because of poor conditioning and poor peripheral oxygen utilization, people tend to get very tired easily and need to rest/sleep more to recover. often, some quit the routine thinking it is too hard on the body or their schedule. however, once people go through this period of conditioning, they tend to become more energized and actually require less sleep (in fact, may be the quality of the sleep improves). soon, it become addictive:)

nutrition is another huge bag of worms that i hesitate to pop open because there are just so many different directions. suffice to say, one needs to be more conscious of the composition of the food items in terms of protein, fat, carb, etc to at least understand the basics and apply accordingly.

From Larry Brandt
Posted on March 25, 2008 at 09:08 PM
I'd just like to comment re the fear that young violinists doing any kind of sport could ruin their hands:

Sure, you should be careful with some sports, like karate or judo, which are likely to hurt your hands/arms at some stage. But I think that being physically active and strengthening your muscles actually helps PREVENT injury, as it also increases bone density.

Swimming, for instance, is an excellent low-impact muscle-toning sport which is great for violinists. I must add that stretching before and after is very important so that you release the lactic acid build-up and don't feel so stiff the day after that you can't play violin!

And re pull-ups, I can do two or three using proper technique, I always could. I know other violinists who can do as many as 10. Violinists tend to be stronger in the arms than regular people, I've found.

From Peter Carter
Posted on March 25, 2008 at 10:38 PM
The "Y" I go to has upgraded its equipment once again.They now have the "Precor AMT (Adaptive Motion Trainer).Your legs and arms can work together or independently.Using this equipment is like trying to cross country ski through deep snowdrifts.Its fantastic exercise!! Has anyone else used the Precore AMT?
From David Burgess
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 12:16 AM
From al ku;
"the muscle group mostly responsible for the pull-up action is actually biceps."
--------------------------
Wouldn't it be more correct to say that the muscle group mostly responsible for pullups is the Latissimus Dorsi?
Aided by Pectorals, rear Deltoids and a few other stabilizing muscles?
Bicep involvement is discretionary. ;)
From al ku
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 01:22 AM
david, yes, that will be the case if your knowledge base is ceiling-ed by wikipedia via google:)

without the action of elbow flexors, ie, biceps, no matter how developed the latts are, you hang on the bar like a monkey, figuratively and literally speaking.

on the contrary, if the latts are nerve-blocked, strong biceps can still manage to pull-up.

From Rosalind Porter
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 02:24 AM
I definitely agree about violinists having strong arms. When I was in really good playing shape in my student days, I remember carrying 2 suitcases full of orchestral music for Mahler 8 to a rehearsal, weighing 50kg each... Still find I can carry much heavier shopping bags than "normal" people.
Swimming is great, but I'd stay away from badminton - I loved it as a teenager and was quite good, until the day I went for a high smash shot and completely tore the muscles in my shoulder. My violin teacher was distraught, I couldn't play for 3 months.
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 04:46 AM
That reminds me back when I was in high school. One winter morning shortly after we had started rehearsal, my accompanist (an avid badminton player) suggested that we warm ourselves up by playing a little bit badminton in his backyard. We played for 20 minutes or so but my bow arm was shaking like crazy the rest of the day and the next day that I had to perform on stage! Well, that ended any curiosity to that game once for all.

Yes, I also enjoy swimming. Walking and yoga/tai chi are the next sensible activities on my list, all should be done in accordance with something like the principles of Alexander Technique, as I don’t believe strong muscles without a tension free neck or avoiding misuse of our body will help with violin playing or avoiding injury in a long run.

From David Burgess
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 10:47 AM
From al ku;

"david, yes, that will be the case if your knowledge base is ceiling-ed by wikipedia via google:)

without the action of elbow flexors, ie, biceps, no matter how developed the latts are, you hang on the bar like a monkey, figuratively and literally speaking.

on the contrary, if the latts are nerve-blocked, strong biceps can still manage to pull-up."
------------------------
Now you're being silly!
My information didn't come from wikipedia, but from 30 years of regular contact with specialists in exercise physiology. ;)

On a pullup, biceps without latts will only get you part of the way up, even at the upper limits of human strength. Latts without biceps will get you all the way up. Most people use them in combination because it's natural and requires less latt strength. You can check this with a mechanical model with joints which can be individually actuated, or with electromyography on a person trained to isolate muscle groups.

I'll wager that the person who can get their chin over the pullup bar primarily with biceps, and without significant latt involvement doesn't exist.
Or are we defining a pullup as merely some small amount of upward movement?
No fair using a person with no legs. ;)

If you're ever out this way, I own a surface EMG and we can do some experiments.

From al ku
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 12:59 PM
haha david, if i ever do drop by, i may have to smash your surface EMG and replace it with a needle EMG, to update you from the 60's:) did you pick that up from a garage sale? :):)

hey listen, appreciate your input here considering you have a waiting list for your violins. in reference to the biceps curl/pull- up, i had in mind something that is in common for both: elbow flexion, without which one cannot complete a pull-up imo. from your post, it sounds like you can picture a pull-up without any elbow flexion, like doing a cross on the rings. that was not what i had in mind.

thank you for joining the vast crowd for calling me silly:) i plea guilty!

From David Burgess
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 03:09 PM
No, don't smash my surface EMG! They're still widely used when one doesn't want to insert an array of needles, and useful when one doesn't need to target a specific nerve. I bought it from a store that sells medical rehab supplies.

No, I wasn't describing of a pullup with elbows straight. You paint an amusing picture, but you're being silly again! ;)
Elbows can flex without contracting the attached muscles due to forces transfered from other joints.

Science project:
Grasp a towel rack with your hand, and move your body toward and away from the rack using only the muscles in your legs. Did your elbow flex?

From al ku
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 04:49 PM
david, the merit of surface EMG is that it is non-invasive, but i hope you are aware not only of its convenience, but also humbled by its limitations. it is like me running to Home Depot paint section to get violin varnish. yeah, it may do. well, kinda of. there are many things in this world that are may-do and kinda-of, yet we do not need to give our stamp of approval:)

to assess if a muscle is moving or not, simply exert and put your fingers on the part of interest. what good does a surface EMG do if the result is not quantifiable, since charges are impeded by skin, soft tissue, or interfered by neighboring/overlying/underlying muscles, etc? whether the muscle is firing or not does not take a machine to record. the interest is the DEGREE of recruitment, not reliably produced by surface EMG. i understand you are involved with violin testings, modern vs old. at certain level, there is a parallel, that is, violin testing can be limited by many factors that you cannot control. yet, surface EMG, in our discussion, is a factor you CAN control. how? don't use it:)

your suggestion of moving a joint passively next to the towel rack has zero bearing on our previous discussion in which we were talking above actively recruiting the elbow flexors AGAINST GRAVITY. here:
http://www.geocities.com/patrasclimbing/arisgallery/Aris-Cliffhanger.jpg

a joint ACTIVELY moves when the muscle across the joint voluntarily shortens or lengthens. muscles working on the shoulder joint (latts) do not play any role in elbow flexion (biceps).

ps, ok, you've got a point with not smashing it. we will list it on Ebay:)

From David Burgess
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 05:00 PM
Indeed, the towel rack experiment does have bearing, because a pullup can be done with essentially only passive movement in the elbow.
Ironically, I checked this earlier today using your recommended method...putting my fingers on the part of interest.

If you don't understand how this is possible, I think we can rule out mechanical engineering as your profession. ;)

From al ku
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 05:04 PM
the point i am making is this,,,

IF you are in an against-gravity situation and if your elbow is in flexion at that moment, your elbow flexors MUST do active work (actively firing) in order to remain in that posture.

otherwise, as i said in my earlier post, we hang like monkeys on a bar because the force of gravity would have pulled the elbow joint into full extension.

by saying "passively" you could mean that you do not actively use your mind to contract the biceps. i understand that. however, as i explained above, when working against gravity, the entire upper limb may engage accordingly even out of volitional control...for fear of falling:)

here is a science project for you dave:

putting the surface lead of the EMG on your biceps and attempt a pull-up and tell me if the biceps fire or not. if yes, try to make it not fire at all, by making them "passive" as you suggested. i don't think you can do it. in fact no one can. that is my theory and you prove me wrong:) and we will publish it in Strads or Physiology Today.

From David Burgess
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 05:59 PM
I acknowledge that your belief is held with conviction, and that words may not alter this conviction.
I'd be happy to demonstrate.

This isn't to say that there will be NO firing in the bicep (some electrical activity is always present), only that the electrical activity won't be indicative of a major contraction.

From al ku
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 06:26 PM
"This isn't to say that there will be NO firing in the bicep (some electrical activity is always present), only that the electrical activity won't rise to the level of a major contraction."

fair and it depends...

if the hands are more laterally placed on the bar, latts should do more work than biceps which are put into mechanical disadvantage.

conversely, if the hands are more centrally placed, biceps will bear more load.

another example will be a one-hand pull-up where you need among other muscles, such as those responsible for a major facial grimace, latt to pull down the arm and biceps to finish the pull-up.

From David Burgess
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 06:28 PM
With either style grip, a pullup CAN be done without significant contribution from the biceps. This is not true of the latts.

But this has gone far beyond what might be interesting or useful to musicians, so I'll bow out.

From Ian Burkard
Posted on March 26, 2008 at 06:36 PM
I make my violin do 20 push-ups every morning.
From Adam Dawdy
Posted on March 27, 2008 at 04:38 AM
While I only dabble in musical matters, I do have a degree in exercise physiology. A few small points:
1. Lactic acid is not nearly as big a culprit as we once thought. It's not even really a waste; it's a high-energy molecule capable of being put back through the Krebs cycle (after some processing). While it does contribute to the immediate effects of exercise fatigue and soreness, bodily lactate levels typically fall no normal levels within (at most) a few hours of even intense exercise. DOMS (delayed-onset muscular soreness) is more attributable to microscopic muscular damage (sarcomere disruption). Hence, if you're sore, back off til you aren't!
2. A "pull-up" is done with your hands facing away from you, and causes less bicep involvement and more lat recruitment than does a "chin-up", which is done with hands facing toward you. Doing a pull up is more like doing a lat pull. And, finally...
3. Most of the early (first 4-6 weeks) of strength gains from weight/resistance training is from neurological development, not muscle hypertrophy. This is how you can, and should, gain significant strength in even the first week. it's much harder, and takes much longer, to cause hypertrophy. Exercises in which your control your own body's weight as it moves through space tend to generate a greater neurological adaptation. These are dips, lunges, squats, push-ups, and pull-ups, to name a few. So, these are generally recommended for beginners. Additionally, these are multiple-dimension exercises, which means they stimulate more than one muscle at a time (As opposed to a biceps curl...which is supposed to isolate the biceps).
4. The major muscles that control the hands and fingers are not actually found in the hands. They originate either in the forearm or medially, just above the elbow. Thus, even if you made your forearm muscles huge, there's absolutely no reason your hands should get clumsy. The belly of the muscle will probably enlarge, but the tendon itself will not (significantly).
This is all really just to dissuade people from thinking that lifting weights has to be about gaining muscle mass, and that having big muscles matters even an ounce in playing the violin. If anything, you can enhance you motor coordination, and done properly, perhaps your longevity and facility on the instrument. Of course, for some people it may not be appropriate. And, like anything else, you can hurt yourself if you're an idiot or improperly advised. In fact, I would sooner argue against yoga than weight training. To myself, and several physical therapists I know, nothing is worse for your back than contorting out of the neutral position at the same time as placing heavy torques and other loads on the spine. But, of course, maybe it's all just about knowing how much is enough, and what's too much.
From Peter Carter
Posted on March 27, 2008 at 12:22 PM
Adam,although this is getting off topic,could you explain the difference between slow and fast twitch muscles?
From al ku
Posted on March 27, 2008 at 01:11 PM
adam, thank you,,you have made many good points on physiology.

here are couple comments, in the theme of applied physiology in the clinical setting...

1. i would like to reiterate the specific question of concern here: is there a role of a "strengthening" program for violinists? if so, what will that be?

the 2 angles will be: a better violinist vs a healthier violinist. imo, we cannot assume they are one and the same.

historically, i do not believe the giants in the field necessarily had a structured strengthening program per se. (in other words, they probably derived more strength from wine and dine and women than from dumbbells:) imo, back then they did not know better and simply spent more time on the violin. combined with talent, a few lucky ones turned out to be darn good if not great. the idolized players of today,,,i don't know them personally, but from my reading/understanding, i do not get the impression that they can single out a "strengthening" program to which they will credit their excellent playing to. so, from that angle, whether a strengthening program will enhance violin playing is, at least, debatable and probably varies story to story.

2. your statements on the forearm muscle strengthening/hypertrophy are factual. i think a more interesting question will be: does forearm muscle conditioning improve FINE motor control/sensitivity of the hand/fingers...for high level violin playing? i don't know and i would like to know more about it. again, i am sure there are stories out there pro or con. take badminton for example since it has been mentioned...some may indeed benefit from it IF the program is individually tailored and level-appropriate, others may overdo it just once to shy away from it. heifetz plays ping pong,,,,for years, so that conditioning exercise for his arm apparently works for him, instead of against him. yet, ping pong for an intensive 2 hrs for someone who has not touched a paddle for some time will cause muscle fatigue and shaking. and it can ruin a concert next day.

3. with the available data on the link between exercise and health benefit, violinists of today have so many resources to improve their overal health. i think that is a good start, with programs like yoga, pilates, swimming, walking, cardio, etc. and i hesitate to advocate other things simply because i have no idea who is reading it. as discussed earlier, imo, pull-ups are extremely demanding to MOST people. because so many muscles are involved, the benefit is that you can hit them all in one shot; the risk, however, is that for someone not conditioned, so many things can strain.

imo, life is about damage control:) or learning how to damage control, after you be all you can be:):)

From Madeleine von Heyl
Posted on March 27, 2008 at 01:56 PM
i heard that hilary hahn does yoga, oaring and (as some of us may have seen) hula-hoop.
i think sports and muscle training is never wrong, as long as it isn`t too much so that one gets muscle tensions.
From Adam Dawdy
Posted on March 27, 2008 at 07:16 PM
The difference between fast and slow-twitch fibers is just that they are specialized to the tasks their names imply. There are a lot of differences, but basically Type I (slow-twitch) are more adapted to aerobic metabolism and are smaller in diameter. Type II are more suited to anaerobic metabolism. There are also intermediate tyoes, which can be cross-trained to some degree. Each muscle in your body has a mix of these, and but they vary from person-to-person, and between muscles of the body.

Al: Yeah, most people can't do more than a few full-weight pull-ups, but there are assistive machines that decrease the load. Or, one can work up to it with lat pulls and bicep curls, etc.

From Peter Carter
Posted on March 28, 2008 at 02:28 AM
Thanks Adam!
From al ku
Posted on March 28, 2008 at 01:13 PM
here is someone discussing this issue, even mentioning the debatable switch between the 2.
http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=234022

so, when violinists do trills, do they use fast twitch?:):):)

From Adam Dawdy
Posted on March 28, 2008 at 06:14 PM
Essentially, to answer the original question of whether to strength train for the violin, I would invoke the principle of training specificity and suggest that the best way to train for the violin is to do something like playing the violin...like playing the violin. There really isn't such a thing as "muscle memory." It's really training you motor cortex by performing the same action many, many times. And, it has nothing to do with muscular strength. This being said, I would suggest (from my own experience) that (aside from its general health benefits) weight training for the violinist would be beneficial for core stabilization and for warding off injuries to the shoulders and back. It would be beneficial for almost anyone to at least maintain their rotator cuff muscles, and this takes very little effort. It is common for people, as they age, to experience degradation of these muscles and tendons, which serve to stabilize the shouler and aid in movements of the arm. I find that regular exercise, both aerobic and weight training, helps keep my back from becoming tight when I play. For me, this is primarily in my rhomboids (which pull your shoulder blades toward your spine). We all have our own trigger points, and this is mine. So, different people benefit from different exercises. In addition, I feel that my bow arm is in better control when I am in shape. This could just be psychosomatic, but even a placebo effect counts for something.

I would just like to add that, regardless of whether you strength train, you really must do your cardio. The two stress your heart in two entirely different ways. While running or cycling or whichever aerobic exercise you choose, your heart is strained by preload. As your heart pumps harder, more blood is returned. This stretches the heart, which causes a more forceful contraction (Frank-Starling mechanism). The myocardial response to this stretching is to add sarcomeres (muscular units) in series, allowing for a greater filling capacity (i.e. stroke volume). Weight training places afterload on the heart. This just means your heart has to pump harder, because it is trying to pump through increased localized blood pressures. When muscles contract, they tend to cut off the arteries that feed them. The myocardial response to this is to add sarcomeres in parallel. the heart does not get bigger in internal volume, it gets thicker. This all gets important when get a little older. Our maximal heart rates decrease, so the heart wants to compensate by filling more. If you've done your cardio, you're probably covered. If not, your heart will pump harder, which costs itelf more of its oxygen supply than simply filling more as it rests. Add this together with shoveling some fresh, wet snow...and you're set-up for a heart attack or stroke. The benefit of having done both weights and cardio is that your muscles would be more efficient in performing the task.

From al ku
Posted on March 29, 2008 at 02:40 AM
adam, thanks for the outstanding summary!
From Peter Carter
Posted on March 29, 2008 at 11:58 AM
I second that!
From Owen Sutter
Posted on March 29, 2008 at 10:11 PM
I do both running and weight training, and in fact my body feels much healthier and looser when i'm doing weight training as opposed to when i stop out of time constraints. As long as you stretch, i've never found any negative aspects of having muscle in regards to violin playing.
From Aasheeta Dimick
Posted on April 6, 2008 at 02:22 AM
Well, I am not an expert on this matter, but I definitely play a lot of violin (try to practice about 5 hours a day, have a studio, and play in an orchestra concert almost every weekend), and I started strength training my upper body about a year ago. When I started, I used 5 pound dumbbells and could barely do one real push up. Now I'm up to 15-pound weights and can do 30 push ups! (And I am a petite, small-framed person.) I feel great, and don't think it's been a hinderence to my playing in any way. I've been very careful about using proper form (my husband weight trains seriously and has done research, so he helps me) and about going up with the weights gradually. The strength-training (along with cardio and stretching) only serve to make you an overall more fit and healthy person, which can only help your violin playing. You probably will be sore after your first two or three workouts, and may not want to play as much violin those few days, but that will pass once you start working out regularly.
From Alison S
Posted on June 7, 2009 at 12:27 PM

I have recently rediscovered the benefits of circuit training which has improved an ongoing shoulder problem and strengthened my back. The class consists of a circuit of ten or more exercises such as press ups, weights, tricep dips, rowing, crunches and lots of other things that I would never do without someone standing over me and shouting at me. All exercises are performed for a set period of time then it's on to the next station so that you can wear out a different part of your body. As each participant is working on their own station there is no peer pressure except when the time on each circuit station is defined by one participant, e.g  the rower completes 150 metres or runs 10 laps round the cones. (At this stage I'm grateful that the teacher applies a unspoken handicap of 80% for me, meaning that I only have to do 120 m and 8 laps. I bet my classmates are thankful for that concession).  

If we were the first people spotted during a Martian invasion of planet earth they would have serious concerns about the sanity of the human race. But I keep going back because it works. It has done more to alleviate my shoulder problems than pilates, yoga, chiropractic or physiotherapy.  Even massage which sounded good in theory only made matters worse.

I've often seen it mentioned on this site that a violinist only have to be able to lift the weight of a violin. However I believe that playing for a long time requires enough strength and stamina to maintain the arms in a lifted position.  

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on June 7, 2009 at 02:24 PM

Hi, any non dangerous (for fingers) exercise can help for the violin (IMHO) Forcing the violin is bad but it requires much endurance and the use of gravity so surely that this wouldn't be bad...

Anne-Marie

Only my two cents...

From Ann Marie Cordial
Posted on June 26, 2009 at 02:35 PM

I hired a personal trainer for my daughter when she played viola in her school symphony.  The results were telling.  At times, the instructor would hold the students an hour later than normal to 'get it right' and she was one of the few folks in the symphony who had the stamina and endurance to handle it.

I'd say physical conditioning definitely has a benefit to playing - no matter what instrument you play.

---Ann Marie

From Dimitri Adamou
Posted on June 26, 2009 at 02:58 PM

Alot of problems could of been avoided if a good work out was ensured :)

I infact stoped working out thinking it will help me with my violin playing (and i felt like getting lazy!), i lost muscle mass gained a bit of weight (thank god only a little!) and scored tendonitist [after stretching properly for several months, its gone atleast - i still need to build up my strength though]. Back to working out!! Haha

6am intense training!

From William Wolcott
Posted on June 27, 2009 at 07:03 PM

 Yep. Physical conditioning is very helpful.  I've always been quite interested in consulting a personal trainer specifically for the violin - to find out which muscles are being used in what way, and formulate a plan that benefits violin playing the most. 

Golfers to it for golf and tennis players for tennis. Why not musicians?

 

 

From Tess Z
Posted on June 28, 2009 at 12:33 AM

Why not indeed.  It is very important to maintain muscle integrity, especially as we age (and I mean at 40 not 80).  Toned muscle is what keeps our bones in their proper places and our spine in correct alignment.  Neglect your muscles and you will suffer various ailments and issues, tendonitis and bursitis especially.

Yoga is terrific for keeping us flexible, reducing tension and muscle tightness, but it's not a substitute for strength training with free weights.  We need strength training for muscle tone.  Hiring a *qualified* personal trainer is a great idea but I would recommend seeking a recommendation from a sport physical therapist.  They usually know of the trainer's in your area who are knowledgeable and experienced in *preventing* injuries by designing a total body workout program for you on an individual basis.  Your trainer can also help you to keep moving forward by redesigning your workouts every few weeks so your body stays challenged and you don't grow bored with your routine.

I like the Turbulence Training website run by Craig Ballantine.  He also has workouts on YouTube.   I do yoga every day and strength train three days a week.  Three days a week I do HIIT (high intensity interval training).  You have to make exercise a part of daily living as much as practicing your instrument.

www.turbulencetraining.com

Hmmm, you used to be able to access the TT website for a free trial but I see now you need to pay $4.95 for that.  It's still worth the price so you can check it out and then decide if it's for you and then pay for the use of the site on a yearly basis.

A terrific book to read on this subject is "Younger Next Year".

www.amazon.com/dp/076114773X/

 

From Louise Pallet
Posted on June 28, 2009 at 08:53 AM

Apart from doing yoga regularly, I've been swimming my whole life wchich has kept me supple, stretched, weightfree and so far without injuries to any parts of my body. Just nice long stroking for a(few) kiometers) two to three times   a week. Afterwards I feel rejuvenated and can play forever.

From William Wolcott
Posted on June 29, 2009 at 02:36 AM

 Tess-

A big proponent of physical conditioning myself, I couldn't agree more with your words. Thank you! :)

 


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