Talk to any professional drummer who travels on a regular basis, and he or she will testify to the benefits of staying healthy on the road. Many touring musicians understand the value of getting enough sleep, drinking a lot of water, and trying to maintain a healthy diet, and they likely know the importance of properly warming up before a show.
My friend Rich Redmond, Jason Aldean’s drummer, was telling me that he likes to warm up on a practice pad for an hour before each concert. You can tell it pays off, as Rich hits the stage ready to give 110 percent every night. In addition to warming up on a pad, many drummers also perform various stretches to loosen their arms and wrists. Both of those activities are very important in preparing to perform at your full potential night after night, but far too often the rest of the body is neglected during the crucial moments when you’re getting ready to go on stage.
Those who do stretch out their entire body usually employ mostly static stretches, in which you elongate the muscles while the body is in a resting state, before any activity is done. (You’re basically making a “cold” muscle stretch to capacity.) Research is finding, however, that static stretches may be more beneficial to do after a workout or activity. Imagine a rubber band that’s been in a freezer for an hour. If you were to take it out and pull it tight, it would probably break before reaching its maximum stretching distance. The same idea applies to your muscles. If you’re sitting dormant and haven’t warmed up properly, you would likely be risking early muscle fatigue or even injury if you were to jump on stage and start playing at full intensity. Dynamic stretching is now viewed among trainers and scholars as being the new model for effectively warming up muscles.
I’ve seen a noticeable difference in drummers who do a whole-body warm-up with dynamic stretches before performing or practicing and then end with traditional static stretches. What follows are several dynamic stretches that will loosen up the entire body, prepare you for more complex stretches, and allow you to build greater endurance in your playing. These stretches can be done in your home, in a gym, or out on your driveway on a nice day.
Before doing any stretching, I like to warm up with a few minutes of a simple cardio exercise.
PRE-STRETCH 1: Light Jog or Jump Rope (2–5 minutes)
To warm up the entire body, try jogging in place or up and down your driveway or street. This short, low-speed warm-up will get the blood flowing. You can also jump rope using single skips or run in place as you skip.
PRE-STRETCH 2: Half Jack (25–30 reps)
These are the same as regular jumping jacks, but your arms come only halfway up.
DYNAMIC STRETCH 1: Leg Swings (15–20 reps per leg)
Swing your right leg out in front of you and then back behind you, as high as is comfortable.
DYNAMIC STRETCH 2: Body Weight Squats (10–15 reps)
Lower your body until your legs are parallel to the floor. You can opt to hold the squat at the bottom of the movement for two or three seconds, or just press back up to a standing position while driving through your heels. Increase the difficulty by doing a modified version where at the bottom of the squat you press your hands together in a praying position while pushing your elbows into your knees to stretch the legs farther apart. You can also add a jump at the top of the squat.
Grab your right leg at the knee and pull it above your waistline to your chest, as high as you can. Repeat with the left leg.
DYNAMIC STRETCH 4: Walkouts (5–10 reps)
Bend at the waist and put your fingers on the floor in front of your toes. Now use your hands to walk yourself out and down, with your feet planted, until you’re in a push-up position. Then reverse the movement until you’re standing up again. Increase the difficulty by adding a full push-up to the move.
Raise your left leg with your knee bent. While holding balance on your right leg, do ten large circles, and then reverse the motion for ten more. Repeat with the right leg.
Billy Cuthrell owns and operates the Progressive Music Center and is a fitness trainer for musicians in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area. You can contact him directly at [email protected].