Drum Aerobics: Go Ahead, Skip A Beat

andy ziker

It’s common knowledge that the drum set is one of the most physically demanding musical instruments. In just about every magazine interview done of high-profile drummers, the value of endurance training always seems to be mentioned. In my book, Drum Aerobics (Hal Leonard), I broach the topic of staying in shape – either on or away from the kit – by detailing activities such as a yoga routine designed for drummers, drum throne crunches, and a cardiovascular workout on the drums. (The meat of the book actually contains 365 days of drum set workouts.)

In the same vein, the following is an aerobic workout that I started using in my late teens as part of a training regime for competitive tennis. Because I was also playing drums at the time, it led to a unique morphing of exercise and rhythm: jumping rope along with music, while tapping out simple rudiments with your feet.

Unless you already do intense cardio exercise, you may want to start slowly (one or two minutes and gradually work your way up to 10—12 minutes or longer) while following these instructions:

Jump the following list of rudiments (and simple patterns) as quarter-notes at 130—155 bpm (or eighth-notes at 65—78 bpm), eight measures per rudiment.

Singles (RLRL)
Doubles (RRLL)
Single Paradiddles (RLRR LRLL)
Paraddidles with a rope cross-over on last double (RLRR LRLL)

Load your mp3 player with a song list of your favorite music, each song staying within the prescribed tempo range.

Clear some space (being careful to not destroy flooring or furniture) drink some water, do some drum yoga, and begin jumping!

If/when you hit the rope with your feet – grinding the workout to a halt – don’t get frustrated. Instead, immediately start where you left off. These unforeseen stops will gradually disappear as you gain skill.

If you’re not sure about “jumping” right into this kind of workout, consider its many advantages:
• Jumping rope is one of the best cardio exercises in improving endurance and burning calories. An average-size male could use up to 200 (or more) calories in just 12 minutes.
• It provides an ideal total-body workout. Because the motions involve your legs/feet along with your wrists/arms, it closely simulates drumming performance. This activity will enhance your hand-eye and foot-eye coordination, hand and foot speed, and agility.
• Drum Aerobics is an inexpensive workout that can be done indoors or outdoors and takes up very little space. Plus, you take the rope with you while on tour (or vacation).
• By varying the speed (tempo) of the play-along songs, you will get the extra benefit of a timekeeping workout.