It’s football time in the USA………and of course that means it is also marching band season! Marching band can be a physically challenging activity and requires a lot of time, preparation, and drills. Not just musical rehearsals- but also physical conditioning and strengthening exercises (which I’m sure most of you in marching band would agree with after going through band camp!).
As a member of a marching band, you must deal with the physical elements of the weather and coordinate playing music all while moving around in synchronized formations…not to mention, instruments are heavy- even a flute gets quite heavy when you’re holding it up for long periods of time! While juggling all these different tasks, you also have to remember to breathe- especially if you play a wind instrument!
The aim of this article is to provide some basic but effective exercises and stretches you can do to improve your marching performance stamina.
Before engaging in any type of exercise activity, it is important to warm up with movement and dynamic stretching to prevent injuries. Don’t do any intense static stretching at this stage, save that for the end of your workout when your muscles are warm and pliable. Some good warm up exercises to start with are arm circles (start small and make them continually wider- this will start to loosen your shoulders up), neck and shoulder rolls, moving hamstring curls, grapevine, high knees, etc.
Running is a great cardio workout for marching band students. Not a big fan of running? That’s ok! Try a brisk jog/walk session instead, or incorporate jumping jacks, jump squats, and other types of moving exercises you can do in tandem with your strength training to get your cardio in. Cycling, swimming, and dancing are also great cardio workouts that are low impact on joints. You know your body best- choose what works for it and do cardio that you enjoy!
First and foremost, a strong core is key for marching band students.
Abdominal muscles help with breath control and can help protect your back when you’re carrying around a heavy instrument (especially important for drummers!). Sit ups, crunches, planks, pilates, and yoga are all excellent exercises for core strength.
For legs, try a combination of squats, lunges, leg lifts, etc. Strong arms are very important for musicians. Fortunately, simply practicing and holding your instrument for extended periods of time can help develop the specific muscles needed for your particular instrument.
Weight lifting (your weights don’t have to be heavy- isolated holds or tiny, isometric movements can also be effective and are less likely to cause injury).
Stretching after a workout is very important! The more flexible your ligaments and tendons are, the less likely you are to pull a muscle or experience cramps out on the field. Do both standing sitting stretches to engage each muscle group that you have just exercised. Concentrate on your breath here as well- mental clarity is key when moving in formation at the same time as playing an instrument!
Everyone’s body is different, and there are so many different variations of workouts you can do to better your physical stamina and improve your performance on the marching band field. Make it more fun by getting your section together to tailor workouts to target muscle groups used most for the instrument you play! Below are a few resources you can use to help you plan out your next exercise routine.
From Lancaster City Schools Instrumental Music Department - Getting in Shape for Marching Band
From Halftime Magazine - Ten Exercises for Improvisational Marching
From BandDirector.com- A Director’s Thoughts on Conditioning and Marching FUN-damentals
Have a happy, healthy marching season!