In the last 6 months or so, the musician’s wellness movement has seemed to explode! Whether these people have always been there or things are just now starting to catch fire I don’t know, but I can tell you I am super happy to see this FINALLY happening. When I first got injured….nay, all three times I was injured, performance injuries were not talked about and you were expected to figure out how to take care of your body in silence lest you be perceived as an inferior musician. Admit you hurt and your injury was viewed as negligence, a mistake, practically a mark on your character and with the classical music world as incredibly cut throat as it is – someone who DIDN’T have any injuries or problems (or didn’t talk about them) was more than willing to take your place.
That being said – there was little to no guidance given in the realm of physical preparation, conditioning, etc. when it comes to the musician. Somehow, you’re just supposed to know how to stay healthy, and if you get injured, well, you shouldn’t have done that – why didn’t you stick to “running” or “yoga” since those are “safe” for musicians.
WHAT??? No… WTF…..
In what other profession is this the norm? Expected to hone your craft, on a physical level, to an elite status, hours a day, decades at a time WITH NO GUIDANCE and if you mess up you’re NOT GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO?????
Does that mentality make anyone else want to pull their hair out???
Thankfully, enough of us realized the sheer lunacy of this mentality and are taking our careers and our health back, determined to be a resource.
Meet Corpsonore: Madeline Stewart and Hannah Murray, two musicians who decided to branch out from their classical roots and pair up to bring helpful healthy resources to the musical community. You can read their bios here.
They found me on Instagram and asked if I would like to not only write a guest article for them, but to be on their podcast? Of course I said yes! The article is out but the podcast might be a bit since Madeline is about to have a baby!
I remember back when I was in school for music, going to the
gym to lift wasn’t a very popular thing and to be honest, sometimes it was even
discouraged. I frequently was cautioned
against lifting because I could hurt myself, “what if you crush a finger?” was
something I heard on the regular. Most
musicians I knew just ran if they did any exercise at all or maybe an aerobics
class because those were “safer options”.
Well, there’s risk with everything, including those two activities. You
can get an overuse injury from muscle imbalances that arise with only running,
or not having enough core strength or even improper running form, never mind
twisting an ankle, or falling. Aerobics?
Well, you could always twist and ankle, fall off a step, or what if you aren’t
aerobically prepared for the intensity of the class? I think being in a car carries much more risk
and we don’t think anything about it.
Thankfully we’re coming out of the dark ages and musician’s fitness is becoming
more and more common place, but lifting programs geared directly towards
musicians are still a rarity and going to lift without a plan is a dangerous
place to be. Group fitness like CrossFit
and Orange Theory provide structure, but are they always appropriate? A structured training plan that can correct
muscle imbalances brought on by playing your instrument as well as increase
muscular endurance can actually be hugely beneficial. Still concerned? Let me address some common
concerns and misconceptions that will give you more confidence to get your lift
If I train with weights I’ll get “bulky”. If I add too much mass in
shoulder/chest area it will get in the way of being able to play
When it comes to strength training: lifting heavy does not automatically equal size. If you want to train for size, you have to
work within a certain overload principle: training at higher and higher volume,
consistently over time. There are
different muscle fibers and these need to be trained in specific ways to get
specific results. Truth: Building
strength in weak muscles can prevent injury and building overall strength can
give you better balance, overall strength and endurance. It does not
automatically mean you’ll get jacked or be the most swole person in the music
As for mass in the shoulder/chest area, that can be a valid
concern, especially with some instruments (though I have several musician
friends that are classically trained and perform on a regular basis in the
studio and with orchestras that are powerlifters – if you’ve seen these people,
they can be huge – and they train to be that way on purpose, but it can also be
a by-product of the type of lifting they’re doing. That being said, ask them,
and they’ll tell you in no way does the size of their chests/shoulders hinder
their playing. Caveat – these are brass
players, string players for sure have a different viable concern here, however
you can still train for strength and even for size (if you want) without going
for mass that will impede your playing.
You just have to train within those certain parameters to get the results
you want, AND you have to be consistent. Just like practicing, if you don’t
practice consistently, you won’t become the great musician you want to be, same
thing in the gym: if you don’t train with consistency and intent, you won’t get
any specific results. To get huge, you
have to train specifically for it.
But let’s talk about Olympic lifting and CrossFit for a
minute. Olympic lifting refers to a series of whole-body movements involving a
barbell: clean and jerk, snatch, deadlift, etc.
CrossFit does a lot of those.
Difference? Intent. CrossFit focuses on volume, people who usually do Olympic
lifts, either as part of a regularly scheduled strength training program, or as
a power lifter, do so at lower repetitions. I can talk all day about training
variations, and you don’t want me to go down that rabbit hole, so just let me
stress again: a certain modality, be it Oly lifting, strength training, just
doing some deadlifts or bench presses, etc. does not inherently equal size/mass.
They are tools to be utilized within a program that fits YOUR needs. They can
be utilized for size building (hypertrophy/bodybuilding/powerlifting) or strength/fat
loss ((not synonymously related btw) (CrossFit, within a traditional strength
training program, etc.). The key is 1)
how you train 2) What your training goals are and the big one 3) consistency. You can train for anything but without
consistency you won’t get there. Whether you want to be a world class runner, a
bodybuilder or just be able to play your instrument without pain for decades,
you HAVE to have consistency in your training.
To that end, remember, when it comes to your body and how you use it,
there is no maintenance: you are either going forward or backwards, you’re
never still. Are you getting better every day or slowly declining? Are you building
strength and endurance or on a path towards an overuse injury?
Sorry, rabbit hole folks. There’s a LOT that goes into programming a proper
strength training workout depending on your goals and the other half of that
depends on you and what you do with it.
Suffice it to say, just because you pick up something heavy, even on a
regular basis, doesn’t mean you’re going to get swole and huge.
If I focus on my grip strength, I’ll lose dexterity in my fingers
There are two types of muscle fibers in the body: fast twitch and slow
twitch. They work together but if you
train one more frequently you won’t automatically lose strength, mobility,
dexterity, etc. in the other. Additionally, focusing on one doesn’t automatically
cancel out the other. If you’re continually
practicing, you’re reinforcing those fine motor skills. When you work on grip
strength, you actually could be reinforcing joint health/strength, especially elbow/shoulder
areas which are HUGE areas of concern for musicians. The key is to do both and if you’re really
concerned about it, use lifting hooks.
If I pick up heavy things in the weight room, I might develop calluses that
can interfere with my playing
That seems like a valid concern, especially for string
players. Some calluses come in handy
(ever seen the end of a harpists fingers?) but think about how you hold your
instrument – you usually don’t grip it.
Most instruments are held with the fingers with the palm of the hand not
coming into direct contact with the instrument. The calluses you may develop
would be at the base of the fingers/top of palm, they form from the friction of
where you grip the weight/implement, and not at the end of your fingers. However, if you’re still concerned, you can
always wear weightlifting gloves – I have many clients who wear them
specifically because they don’t want to develop calluses or because they want
to protect their hands.
Lifting weights is dangerous, what if I crush my fingers or drop a weight
on my toe?
There is danger in every situation – driving a car, chopping
vegetables and mowing the lawn are all dangerous skills but because you have
practiced them you become more comfortable. The real danger lies in two
Not knowing correct weight lifting form
Becoming too complacent
This can really be applied to any are in life – anything that is unfamiliar is
scary, and of course when it comes to your body, your FIRST instrument, you
want to take care of it more than most. The chances of you having the above
accidents are way higher if you’re 1) not sure what you’re doing 2) are too
caught up in how you look in the mirror and to those around you to focus on
good form or your surroundings (watch out for those errant dumbbells folks! I
just plowed my foot last week into a 25 pounder that should have been racked….trainers
are guilty of leaving their toys around too #rackyourweights) or 3) are picking
up something too heavy either because you want to look like you know what you’re
doing and impress someone or because you don’t have a spotter.
The thing is, you go to the gym to train your body, not your
ego. Yes, looking better is a byproduct,
but NEVER at the expense of good form. Sadly,
there are a LOT of bad trainers out there, which gives those of us who care and
who pay good money to continually educate ourselves and are the ones constantly
coaching you without a phone in sight…. a bad name. Please, don’t lump us all together. Find someone who really cares, who can answer
your question of “why are we doing this? Why do I need this?” with an actual
answer, and if they can’t, be very, very wary. Pick a trainer not necessarily only on how
they look but can they tell you what continuing education credits they have?
How are they continually bettering themselves, continuing to learn? Tell them
you are a musician and these are your concerns….do they give you a movement
assessment or just walk you around from machine to machine with a clipboard
counting reps? Just like you need to demand
more from your doctors (if it hurts just stop playing…. not an answer) you need
to demand more from your trainers. Interview them like you would an instrument
I found David on Instagram and knew instantly he would be an amazing resource. He’s a musician, ACSM certified personal trainer AND getting his doctorate in physical therapy because he wants to be a personal trainer for musicians. I’m happy to have him as a brand ambassador for Music Strong and really wish he lived closer so we could cross refer (strength training and PT go REALLY well together!). He started a podcast recently where he interviews all kinds of musicians who are also in the health field, including a body building opera singer, an MMA fighting/weightlifting multi-instrumentalist, and Crossfitting/Yoga teacher flutist (Practice Room Yoga if you haven’t seen her yet!)
I was honored to be interviewed on his podcast the other day and I talk about how I got started in music and also how Music Strong was born. Give him a follow on IG and subscribe to his podcast if you haven’t yet!
Are you into podcasts? Are you into music? What about business? If you like to digest your information on the go, audibly, like a lot of us, this is for you.
I was recently honored to have been interviewed by “The Business Side of Music” Podcast and we had a fabulous time talking all about what Music Strong is to the lay person:
what is fitness training for musicians?
how did I get into it?
how are musicians different?
what fun new things are coming down the pike
and a few more, but you’ll have to listen to see! You can find it on every podcast platform there is. Love to hear your thoughts and questions and please share with any musicians you think might need a listen.
So, we know we need more calories out than in to achieve fat loss, correct? But how many is that? It’s really not a secret and not exactly a magic formula, but here is how you figure out what you need.
(I hate math and I can do this, so bear with me, it’s a little backwards.)
Once you have your numbers, great! But then what do you do with it? Well, I’d encourage you all to try to stick to it as much as possible for a few days. How? Be PLAIN. 4 oz cooked chicken breast is 120 calories, 0-1g fat and 24g protein. If you add spices, it doesn’t change. If you add oil, say 1 tsp, that’s 40 calories, 4.5g fat. Add in your vegetable, say broccoli. If you steam it, you can get a cup for 30 calories. Add butter, just 1 TB, now you’ve got 9g fat, 120 extra calories. Add cheese, you get another 140 calories 9-13f fat, and that’s just in 1/4 cup. So, steam your broccoli and add paprika, salt, pepper, garlic salt, etc, and you’ve added no calories. See where I”m going with that? Casseroles can have healthy ingredients but it’s hard to track when you add it all together.
Here’s the math:
Take your bodyweight and multiply it by 10. That’s the number of calories a day to lose. Seem too low? Try this way, Bodyweight x12, then subtract 500-600 calories. That gives you the amount of calories you need in a day to lose. 500 calorie deficit per day x 7 days = 3500 calories and 1 lb of fat. So you have you calories, now you have to break it down into macronutrients (macros).
Convert your bodyweight (bw) to Kilograms (kg). Multiply that number by 1.4. That’s how many grams of protein you need. Now, multiply that number by 4 (there are 4 calories per gram of protein) and that will give you the calories from protein per day you need.
Take your total calories (bwx12) , that number x 20% (or.2) that will give you a calorie number. There are 9 calories per gram of fat so take your new number and divide by 9, that’s how many grams of fat you need per day.
Now take your two calorie numbers and add them together.
Then subtract that from your total calories (the 12xbw – 500-600 cal). That is how many calories from carbohydrates you need. There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate, so divide your final number by 4 and you get how many grams of carbs you need to lose weight.
Example onn a 160 lb. person:
BW x 12 = 1920 calories to maintain weight. 1320-1420 calories to lose weight 1.4g protein x kg bw (72.5kg) = 101.5 grams protein x 4g/cal = 406 calories 1920 x 20% = 384 calories divided by 9g/cal = 43g fat 406 + 384 = 790 calories. 1420-790 = 630 calories left. Divided by 4g/cal = 157.5 grams carbs Total macros per day to lose fat: 101.5g protein, 43g fat, 157.5g carb
Clear as mud? That’s why people pay me to do it 🙂
Now, these are baseline numbers. Give them a try for a week or so, you should be able to tell right away how you feel. Some people feel better on more carbs, less fat (especially if you’re into endurance athlete training like running, cycling, hiking, etc.) some feel better on more fat and less carbs (those with PCOS, higher insulin resistance, diabetic and/or obese) but those are not hard and fast rules. The only way to know for sure is to get a genetic test. That will tell you what you REALLY need, how to eat not just for weight loss, but for better skin, energy, lower inflammation, less pain, more endurance, longer life, etc. Will also tell you how to eat to combat stress, etc.
Now through the end of the year you can use this link to get 30% off any plan – after that it’s regular price. So while you’re buying presents for everyone, why not treat yourself to knowledge on how to best take care of you??