A Drummer’s Upper-Body Workout

A Drummer’s Upper-Body Workout

Increase Your Power & Endurance

Drums are one of the most physically demanding of all musical instruments. By playing them, we use the body’s muscle groups to deliver power, speed, endurance, and coordination over long periods of time. If your muscles become fatigued during a show or session, it can cause your drumming to be inconsistent or your groove to sound forced or uptight. Nobody wants that. We’re here to help.

The burning feeling you get when your muscles are fatigued is known as lactic-acid build up. Lactic acid is a byproduct discarded by overworked muscles when they burn simple sugars called glycogen. This burning sensation occurs when the bloodstream cannot carry the lactic acid away fast enough. By combining weight training and running or cycling, you can increase the workload and condition of your muscles and get rid of lactic acid more rapidly.

This is a good thing, but it comes at a price. Weight training builds muscle by tearing the muscle fibers on a microscopic level, which is why you need to have a proper diet and rest when engaging in this activity. The body needs time to repair, and it needs protein to rebuild muscle. This is how muscles grow.

A myth has long surrounded weight training that stops most musicians dead in their tracks: “If you lift weights you will become tight and lose speed and flexibility.” This is not necessarily true. Strength training and bodybuilding are two very different things. By combining a general weight and cardio training program (I run two to three times a week, an average of five to six miles), I was able to increase my level of power and endurance, giving me the competitive edge to play harder and faster for longer periods of time without feeling fatigued.

This article outlines a basic weight-training program customized to help drummers remain relaxed and be strong while playing. Let’s start by covering a few basic rules.

Free Weights Vs. Machines

There’s a big difference between training with free weights and working out with machines. Free weights are harder to control and have more impact on the muscle that is targeted for training. When you’re working out with free weights, it’s important to use the mirrors in the gym so that you can visually monitor your range of motion and technique in order to focus on the muscle being trained. Some movements aren’t as easy as they look and require a bit of practice. If you use improper technique and add on too much weight, you can work the wrong muscle, or worse, you can injure the muscle, tendons, or joints. Newcomers to weight training should perform all exercises on machines at first. They keep your arms moving in a strict and safe plane, and it’s a good way to develop the feel and technique of the movements. After you gain more confidence and strength, you can begin to perform the same exercises and movements with free weights.

Warm Up

It’s very important to warm up before working out. Do basic stretching exercises involving arms, back, and shoulders. Then ride a stationary bike for 10 to 15 minuets at low intensity in order to raise your core body temperature. Low-intensity cardio workouts like cycling or brisk walking also help to burn fat.

Lifting Technique

It is very important to work the muscle over a full range of motion. The movement must be performed smoothly and at a constant rate of speed — not too fast or too slow. Avoid using any other muscles to move the weight except the one targeted for training. Avoid jerking movements — this causes the loss of tension on the muscle and can lead to an injury, especially when using heavier resistance.

Proper Weight

Pick a weight that you can handle for each exercise. Some muscles are bigger than others, so they’re naturally stronger and can handle more weight. For example, when you work your chest, you can use heavier weight than when you work your shoulder muscles. Make sure that you can perform at least 8 to 12 repetitions with strict form. Good form allows you to put all the tension on the muscle that you are trying to train. It is not how much weight you lift. It is how hard you train the muscle.

Breathe Normally

Never hold your breath. Inhale on the positive lift of the weight and gradually exhale on the negative portion of the lifting cycle. This will keep you from getting dizzy, especially with heavier resistance.

Between Sets

Don’t rest more than 30 second between each set of 8 to 12 reps. Keep moving through your workout to avoid getting cold. Cold muscles have a better chance of being injured.

Train To Failure

Save the high-intensity set for last. High intensity means training to failure so that your muscles are completely exhausted and you can’t perform the same movement again with good form unless you lower the weight resistance. Training to failure is uncomfortable, but it builds power and speed. By training correctly and intelligently, you will prevent injury rather than promote it.

Talk To Your Doctor

If you haven’t trained for ten years or more, you should consult with your doctor to confirm that you are fit enough to take on a strenuous activity. It’s also a good idea to speak with a professional trainer. Most fitness centers will not let you train until they have given you a tour and some basic instruction on how to use the machines. If you are not sure about how something works, just ask the trainer. That’s their job. Believe me, if you aren’t careful and aware of what you are doing, it can lead to an injury.

Listen To Your Body

If you feel pain in a muscle or joint during any exercise, stop immediately. This is a sign of a problem. Either you are lifting too much weight, using bad technique, or irritating an old injury. Never train a sore muscle. Training should make you feel better, not worse.


Proper sleep, diet, and a healthy lifestyle are important if you want to see the desired result from training. If you have questions about diet or any other things mentioned in this article, you can run a search for this information on the Internet. I recommend checking out exrx.net/Exercise.html. It’s a great web site loaded with an abundance of excellent information.


Becoming a good drummer takes time, practice, and patience. The same goes for weight training, so relax and enjoy the process. Our bodies are complex machines. If you don’t maintain the machine, you cannot function to the best of your abilities. I wish you good luck and much success with your training and drumming.

Glossary Of Terms
1. Repetitions: The number of times a weight is moved to and from its original starting point.
2. Set: A group of repetitions. Each exercise on this program should be performed using three sets. Each set should contain 8 to 12 reps.
3. Spot/Spotter: This is a term used often in the gym. It refers to asking for help, especially with the bench press exercise. Beginners should never use the free weight version of the bench press alone. Always ask someone for help.

Next page: Bench press
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