Body exercises vs flexible hands

February 17, 2019, 11:11 PM · Could there be any effect of regular exercises (push ups, stretching and other Gym exercises)on our hands, when it comes to playing violin? I mean, all violin players must keep their hands and wrists flexible - but do body exercises, like as mentioned earlier, hamper that?

Replies (10)

February 18, 2019, 1:25 AM · Likely not. I did pretty intense weight lifting for awhile (currently on a break due to injury) and did not notice a loss of flexibility.

We tend to lose flexibility when we don't use a specific range of motion (ROM) for an extended period of time. If you are practicing at least semi-regularly resistance or bodyweight training should not affect violin-related flexibility, as each time you practice you are using that ROM and stretching the muscles in that manner.

This is similar to how stretching can increase ROM - by doing the stretch consistently and frequently the muscles stretch out and your ROM on that plane of movement increases. If you stop doing that stretch or using the ROM, the ROM decreases. The changes that occur in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments from any type of training are fairly slow, so even if it did affect your ROM it wouldn't happen overnight.

With physical exercise involving the hands and shoulders the greater risk is injury - for example I have both injured wrists and an injured rotor cuff - both from poor bench press form at one point in my training. Now, I periodically get very sensitive wrists and often have to be especially careful about my form in regards to my left arm - if I move it in just such a way it becomes quite uncomfortable and if my position is off then I can't hold the viola at the correct angle.

February 18, 2019, 2:09 AM · Thanks for the inputs, Michael! I had something similar idea, but wasn't particularly sure!
February 18, 2019, 2:19 AM · No problem Koustav - I'm happy to be able to help.

February 20, 2019, 11:26 PM · Does anyone on the panel know who first said; "musicians are the athletes of the small muscles" Musicians can learn something from the modern professional sports trainers and MD's. Those push-ups will severely bend the wrists and put a lot of weight on them. Volleyball and basketball are risky to the fingers, serious violinists should avoid those sports. A lot of violinists do tennis.
Heavy weight training puts a lot of stress on the joints; muscles develop a lot faster than bones, tendons, ligaments and the soft tissue of joints. Definitely do stretches and warm-ups at the beginning of a practice session. Ideally we should alternate heavy and light practice days, giving stressed muscles a chance to recover.
Edited: February 21, 2019, 1:31 PM · There are many ways to do weight training.

Long ago, before I was a violist, I competed in soccer at a fairly high level. Soccer is a sport that puts a premium on both endurance and agility, which means too much muscle mass can be a disadvantage. What I was taught at the time was that weight training for soccer should be done with lower weights than other sports (rarely more than 60% of max, and below 50% most of the time) and more reps. I think that's relevant to musicians. Probably best to do only light weight training.

February 21, 2019, 5:26 AM · I can't think of a harder exercise or strongest hand that someone who walks with crutches all his life.

Itzhak Perlman's hand looks like it can crack bowling balls like they were walnuts but his sound can't be sweeter and his technique can't be more exquisite.

February 21, 2019, 5:51 AM · I came across this yesterday:

In the article the interesting exercise relevant to Carlos's comment is
"Group 4: Handgrip exercises", and the final paragraph at the end of the results section comparing the various get-fit methods.

In my youth I did cycle racing for 25 years and competitive weightlifting (Olympic style), and these together must surely have helped with hand development.

February 21, 2019, 6:11 AM · I stay away from overly intense work in the arms because, combined with so much practise, the muscles there may take weeks to fully heal after a workout.

As for fingers, I've been pulling and stretching them since I was a kid and can bend them 100° backwards at the knuckle. Completely useless, but I can do it.

February 21, 2019, 1:20 PM · I've mostly been able to deadlift without affecting violin much, in that I could deadlift in the morning and still have a lesson later in the day without feeling soreness. However, I try not to train stuff with too much grip all at once (deadlifts, pullups, other back stuff) or I will feel it the next day or the day after, so after heavier and heavier deadlifting started tearing my hands up too much, I switched to lifting straps, and though it doesn't improve my grip strength, it allows me to deadlift heavy without having any issues with my hands.

As far as finger strength and dexterity, I think it's unlikely that there is a lot of stuff in the gym that will be directly helpful, although maybe grip training that focuses on the extensors in the hand might, might, maybe might be helpful (opening your hand in a bucket of sand kind of stuff). Your best bet is to find your weaknesses on the violin and work carefully on them, and never too much.

However, I am a believer in exercises if they help your posture and your cardiovascular system. Contrary to a lot of popular belief, lifting weights with a full range of motion will not make you tight or musclebound, but can actually extend your range of motion. Weightlifters can be surprisingly flexible and agile even if they don't look it. Anything that helps your cardio should also help better deal with the stress of performing.

Reading what Michael wrote, I agree. I would stay away from bench press as a violinist - It tends to be unfriendly to the rotator cuff, especially without compensatory pulling exercises to specifically strengthen the rotator cuff. I have some rotator cuff issues and I find that doing facepulls and other rotator cuff specific exercises at very light weights helps. I don't do any bench press, and do very little overhead pressing.

Yoga is pretty good, but it's possible to hurt yourself in any exercise, so it's important to be careful and go slowly.

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