Part 5: Drumset Applications
We’re going to conclude this series with some warm-up strategies you can employ with drumsticks in your hands. As with the exercises from the previous articles, I want you to focus on feeling the muscles that you’re recruiting to play the drums. When you can feel the muscles engage, you’ll have a better connection with them.
Pad or Kit?
Shortly after publishing the first article in this series, I was asked, “Should I warm up on a pad or a drumset?” The answer is yes to both. Just make sure to avoid exercising to the point of pain or fatigue, and always stay within your active range of motion. If you follow those basic guidelines, any warm-up exercises you do will be beneficial.
Potentiation and Dynamics: Greater Force Exposure Equals Greater Results
If you’ve done any research on the post-activation potentiation phenomenon, you may have read that the greater the force you can expose your muscles to without causing fatigue, the better your muscles will operate.
One of the simplest ways to experiment with this concept is to practice rudiments with a metronome. Pick a simple rudiment, like singles, doubles, or paradiddles, and assign them to a basic subdivision, like 8th notes. Begin by performing the rudiment on the snare. When you feel comfortable, start to move the rudiment around the kit. Keep your dynamics low at first, and try to maintain an even volume as you change to different instruments. Focus on feeling the muscles being used while also engaging your ears. Pay attention to the sounds you’re creating as your body orchestrates the notes.
As you shift your focus to the quality of sounds you’re creating, you’ll naturally prepare—or potentiate—your joints for increased mobility around the drumset.
While continuing to orchestrate the rudiment around the kit, keep your technique in check and gradually crescendo the strokes until you’re hitting as hard as you comfortably can. Pay attention to how much more your hands and forearm muscles have to work to accommodate the greater intensity. Are you feeling fatigued? If you are, dial back the dynamics a bit.
Now use the same low-to-high dynamic shape while transitioning smoothly through different subdivisions. Start slowly with quarters or 8th notes, and then increase the subdivision to triplets, 16th notes, and so on.
What About the Feet?
I like to perform the exercises outlined previously while playing quarter notes or 8ths with my left foot on the hi-hat. You can also begin to incorporate the bass drum by interjecting the right foot within the rudiment being played with the hands. For instance, if you’re playing singles with the hands, you could play two bass drum notes after each pair of singles (RLKK). This gets a bit more challenging, especially when you start changing the dynamics and shifting between them, but it’s a great way to make sure all your limbs are equally warmed up. It can help you develop better control of subdivisions with either limb and at different dynamics.
I’ve been involved in numerous conversations about how to best practice mobility around the drumset. News flash: There’s no secret code. Anything that helps you get better at moving from one side of the drumset to the other is going to improve your mobility.
One of the things that I do is orchestrate single strokes as three-note groupings between two instruments that are placed at extreme locations of the drumkit. I have floor toms set to my far left and right, so I’ll often use those. Following the same procedures as before, practice transitioning between those instruments using progressively faster subdivisions (8th notes, triplets, 16ths, 16th-note triplets, etc.).
Customize Your Own Routine
The exercises included here are just a few tried-and-true options. But don’t be afraid to change things up to find practical movements that work best for you. Just keep in mind that the goal with any warm-up routine should be to stimulate your body, not to exhaust it.
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.