From deborah mitchell
Posted March 24, 2006 at 06:35 AM
I'm *still* recovering from my broken shoulder, but have made enough progress to give the violin another shot. Please give me advice on exercises to do away from the violin to improve the strength and flexibility of my fingers, hands, wrists and arms.
As I'm a rank beginner, no exercise is too rudimentary for me. And none too silly or child-like, either.
Silly 'R Us.
The Australian Commonwealth games hammer team actually do this as violas here are cheaper than hammers.
"Perfect pitch: thowing a viola into a dumpster without hitting the rim."
Really, I just Googled 'shoulder rehab exercises' (no quotes)
Hope this helps...
A serious dollop of encouragement for you: go to any toy shop, drug store, sports place, etc., and buy a supple, tennis-size rubber ball....but NOT a tennis ball, as it won't provide you with as much elasticity as you are looking for. NOW, holding this very 'squeezable' ball palm up, make a fist and slowly begin squeezing and releasing it 5 times, -then STOP for a moment. Do another 5 squeezes (what becomes your FIRST 'REP'(repetition) -then STOP. Do another 5 squeezes, -then STOP, which now constitutes your second 'rep.' Wait a moment, do 5 squeezes again, -then STOP- you have just done your third 'rep' of 5 squeezes. And so it goes.
Do perhaps 3 'reps' of 5 squeezes for your initial attempt. If you are as weak as I surmise, you will become quite fatigued very easily, so then, STOP all together.
Move along (perhaps every other day for starters) with these exercises, increasing your squeezes (5 to 8, 8 to 13, etc.) and your number of 'reps' per session. You will feel your muscles beginning to scream while they are 'going to work' and 'heating up' from your fingertips, thru your hand, wrist, forearm and ending at your elbow. As with any and all "new" body exercises, please START SLOW,........then continue to build, methodically. STOP IMMEDIATELY when you feel even slightly strained. As time goes by, you can begin to push yourself a bit as you will experience more and more strength in your hands and forearms enabling you to do so. You, of course, will judge as to when you are definitely "on the road to recovery."
I have used this simple, ancient squeeze technique with many of my students over the years (including the figure skaters). Moreover, I find it incredulous as to how many 'violiners' sincerely believe that they do NOT need various degrees of brute strength and power to control and master this beast we call a violin! In fact, I support and promote all forms of sports activities for 'violiners,"---the more strenuous, the better! However, these 'violiners' had better know what they're doing and ultimately going up against before deciding to line up across from Mr. Dick Butkus,....or they may be going home looking for more than just a rubber ball.
If you proceed with the 'squeezes,'Deborah, kindly let me know how the project progresses.....if you wish. Any questions, just ask.
Best of luck and anticipated success as I am,
Vincent P. Skowronski
Skowronski: Classical Recordings
Thanks, William, for finding those links for me. I'll look through them and see if I can find suggestions for exercises I'm not already doing.
I am doing weight training and calisthenics, but what I'm finding is that my bow arm tires very quickly. There must be some muscles in my right arm that I'm not exercising during training. If anyone has any suggestions for something to exercise the muscles involved in bowing, I'd very much like to hear them.
The hand exercises with the rubber ball sound like just the ticket. My husband bought me a set of weight-lifters hand exercise squeeze thingies, sort of springs with handles that you squeeze like pruners. But they required too much strength. I happen to have a rubber ball of the sort you mention, Vincent, so I'll start this evening. And I'll let you know how it goes.
Use two small unopened tomato paste cans, one in each hand. Hold your hands up palms facing each other, about chest height parallel to the ground and away from your body. Swing them horizontally together and then apart. You can also use them to do curl ups or any other moves used with weights. The lightness of the cans will enable you to several sets of reps.
An exercise for wrists as well as hands & arms is to tie a two foot string securely around a small can then tie it to a stick that's comfortable to hold in both hands at the same time. Suspend the can from the stick and with palms up roll the can up the string to the stick. You can also do this with the palms down which will give other arm muscles a workout. As you get stronger you can graduate to bottles of water.
Shoulders, Chest and arms: Sitting on a chair, lean forward with your light weights in each hand and row. Pretend you're rowing with oars along a lovely river. :-)
Be sure to take it very slow, don't overdo and don't rush the process.
Well, my prime hand-strengthening practise is actually just playing piano. You get a lot of finger strength from that. If you're trying to make yourself looser, lots of hand stretches, here's what I do:
Grab your thumb, pull it back really slowly until you can feel the stretch. Let go slowly. Grab your index, pull it back slowly until it feels really stretchy, let go. Do it on all your fingers. Instead of grabbing them you can press them on a desk, too. When you're done hold your arms out, grab your hand and pull it back so you stretch your arm, then push it down so you stretch the top of your arm. And by the time you're done, your hand is floppy and you're so relaxed you can't hold a pencil... Just kidding, but it feels good.
I was walking down a sidewalk in Hong Kong, and tripped on some rough pavement. Instead of falling down instantly, I tried to regain my balance. All I gained was a lot of momentum, and about 20 feet from where I tripped I fell, hard. I had on new shoes and I think it was them, because normally I'm pretty nimble. My upper humerus smashed into 8 pieces and my rotator cuff tore a bit. I have a plate and ten screws in it right now. The plate's so wide that I can't move my arm too far in certain directions or it rubs against nerves or muscle tissue.
If I can bow, then I'll probably leave the plate in. If I can't, then I'll probably have it out.
Thanks for the suggestions!
I know you're right. Maybe I'm too impatient. The thing is, I can only practice for 2 sessions a day, 5 to 8 minutes each; that's all my shoulder will tolerate. But I thought perhaps there were things I could do in other areas to compensate for my inability to practice for a longer period of time.
For instance, my pinkie on my left hand is much weaker than the other fingers, and I can't move it without moving my ring finger. I'd like to find an exercise(s) that would help me strengthen it and make it more independent, just when I'm hanging around watching wrestling, that sort of thing.
I tried your suggestions during one of my practices, not the martele part, because I don't know what it is and am sure I couldn't do it yet if I did know. (I'm still at the Three Blind Mice stage.) But the substitute exercise you offered was very interesting. I did just as you suggested, to the best of my ability, and I can see that it will have a powerful and positive effect over time.
Thanks for your advice; if you have any ideas about making pinkies more independent, I'd love to hear them.
Just an update. I'm experimenting with everyone's suggestions with good success. All of them are helpful. I have also added an extra light Gripmaster to strengthen my little fingers. And I've moved from tomato paste cans to one pound weights.
I keep the weights by my livingroom chair and use them every day. And I faithfully do Buri's bowing exercises. The ball is great, because I keep it in my purse and can use it anywhere.
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!