Playing the drums involves the whole body – hands, arms and shoulders, the legs and core all need to have good strength and mobility to ensure they don't impede our creativity.
All too often players reach a physical ceiling before they reach a creative one – this is where our focus on technique in practice steps in, and good range of motion and mobility in our muscles and joints is critical. Here James Hester, session drummer, Head of Drums at BIMM Bristol and triathlete gives his advice on preparing physically for a practice session.
"Warming up before we play raises the heart rate ready for work, focuses the mind and allows us to hit the ground running. Taking some time to warm up will prepare the muscles by bringing them up to temperature and increasing blood flow and nutrients to the muscles – this will help prevent injury and will also psychologically help you get 'in touch' with your body.
"Which of these stretches you choose to do is dependant on the intensity of your planned session and what's required of your body, but do them after spending some time using a snare and bass drum pad doing rudiments and simple co-ordination exercises to warm up.
"Start slow and with low velocity and build up tempo and volume. Once your heart rate is up and your mind focused, perform these stretches."
1. Shoulder Blade Squeeze
Sit or stand with a straight back and pinch your shoulder blades together. Imagine you have a £50 note between your shoulder blades and don't want to drop it. This is a great stretch for aligning the back and opening the chest area. This is one you can do a few times a day without needing to warm up.
2. Fist Stretch
Make a fist with your thumb over your fingers and grip fairly tightly – then open your hand out as far as it will go – do this four or five times with each hand. This not only works the hands but also the forearms too.
3. Rotator Cuff 1
Put your arms out at 45° in front of you, palms down – then roll your shoulders so your palms are upwards – do this as many times as you like to increase the circulation. You can move your arms upwards so your hands are at the same height as your shoulders and also try beginning with your arms 45° to your side and do the same thing.
4. Rotator cuff 2
Arms out to the side parallel to the floor and elbows bent at 45° – as if you're holding something above your head. Rotate from the shoulder until your palms and forearms are horizontal, parallel to the floor. You can also start with your arms pointing downwards and rotate them upwards.
5. Seated Hip Flexor
In a seated position, lift one leg up and place the outside of the ankle on the opposite knee and sit up straight. This will stretch your hip flexors but you can get a deeper stretch by gently pressing down on the knee of the raised leg. Do this on both sides.
Plus, try yoga…
A more holistic approach may be to investigate the art of Yoga for strengthening your body, increase your suppleness and give you time to focus your mind.
Radiohead/Portishead's Clive Deamer tells us, "I started practising Ashtanga Yoga around 2005. If done regularly it provides many physical and deeper psychological and spiritual benefits. In the context of drumming, the most obvious being a strong back and a daily gradual increase in bodily strength awareness and flexibility.
"Yoga also develops your ability to relax. This feeds into good playing and practising technique, you notice the difference between excessive muscular tension compared to focused and engaged work."