Part 3: Bass Drum and Lower Body
In my opinion, bass drum warm-ups are the most beneficial exercises you can do. I’ve received many emails asking about hip flexors and other aches and pains in the thighs resulting from playing the bass drum. The better you can prepare these body parts for the work they’re about to do, the better you can avoid pain.
Warm-Ups to Protect Your Back
Playing the bass drum intensely for extended periods of time results in high-level fatigue, which is when your muscles lose the ability to perform efficiently. When muscles can’t function optimally, we also experience a limited range of motion. In other words, your flexibility temporarily decreases as your muscles become fatigued.
When you lose range of motion at the hip but continue to play or practice, your spine and midsection muscles will become activated in helping pick up your legs. Over time, this can lead to back pain. Similarly, excessive motion on one side of your body can cause a lateral flexing of the spine, which can lead to very uncomfortable sensations that are commonly diagnosed as SI (sacroiliac) joint back pain.
The Internal Components
While all the joints below the waist are involved in playing the bass drum, we’re going to focus on two areas. The hip flexors around the coxofemoral joint are responsible for lifting your leg up to help perform more powerful bass drum strokes, and the plantar flexors and dorsiflexors around the ankle joint are responsible for the up/ down (talocrural sagittal) motion of the foot.
There are some basic rules that we’ve been following each month of this series, and that bear repeating. First off, always stay within your active range of motion. Don’t extend any motions into a position that causes pain, and avoid fatiguing your muscles. Focus your attention on the muscles being used in each exercise, and contract those muscles like a bodybuilder when they’re being used.
Isometric Exercise for Hip Flexion
From a seated position on your throne, lift one leg as high as you can without moving your back. Focus on contracting the front of your hip (hip flexors). Repeat with the other leg.
Isometric Exercise for Dorsiflexion
I suggest placing your feet just off to the side of your pedals, although you can perform this movement with the feet on your pedals. Lift your toes towards your shins as high as you can, contracting the muscles on the front of your shins.
Isometric Exercise for Plantar Flexion
From the same position as above, plant your toes on the ground, and lift your heels as high as you can, contracting your calves. If you find that your calves start to cramp when doing this exercise from a seated position, try it while standing. If cramping still occurs, try to perform the motion in a squatting position. Experiment until you can contract your calf muscles without any cramping.
Pre-Gig/Practice Session Routine
Here’s how you can perform these exercises before a gig or practice session. Sit behind your drumset, and perform the isometric exercises in succession. Then, if possible, play some bass drum and hi-hat strokes. After thirty seconds, repeat the isometrics, and play the pedals some more. Altogether, this routine should only take a minute or two to get your lower body efficiently warmed up for performance.
Next month we’ll discuss posture and midsection exercises to help protect your back. See you then!
Muscle and exercise specialist Brandon Green is the founder of Strata Internal Performance Center, and is the owner of the drummer-centric biomechanics and fitness website drum-mechanics.com.