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Resist, Resist and You Will Be Strong
By Dagmar Morgan - 10/22/2002 - 02:06 PM EDT

Resistance Training (R.T. as I will call it in the rest of the article) is simply applying pressure, tension or resistance through exercise to the body to enhance the muscular system. Does the phrase “Strong like bull” mean anything to you?

The definition is simple but the topic of R.T. for vocalists is not so simple. Should vocalists perform R.T.? The question is a hot one. In this instalment I’ll look at the basics of R.T., the benefits to vocalists and humans alike, myths and what kinds of R.T. if any, vocalists should perform.

Every time you move your body, you use the Muscular System. Muscles produce force by contracting and relaxing based on signals sent to and from our brains. Muscles respond really well to stimuli so with training, the muscular system becomes stronger and you move with greater ease. Your muscles get smaller and weaker if you don’t use them. The Phrase “Use it or lose it “ applies here. Even to maintain what you have, you need to do R.T.

The benefits associated with R.T. are numerous. When you ask your muscles to do more than they usually do (loading the muscle) muscles get stronger. This boost in strength comes from increased muscle fiber size (Mr. Universe size biceps), increased muscle contractile strength (can lift heavier weight), increased tendon and ligament contractile strength (these hold bones and muscles in place and work along with the muscle during contraction) and increased bone density (prevent osteoporosis).

Myths abound regarding Resistance Training and I am here to dispel them. The first myth is that cardio is the key to weight loss. R.T. not only unlocks the door to weight loss but it takes you through the other side. The results you gain from R.T. last and last. Muscle eats more energy than fat so when you stop your workout your metabolism keeps going. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn at rest. Cardio will burn calories but when it stops, so does the calorie burning. With R.T. you can go two weeks without a workout before you start to lose muscle but with cardio, the window is much smaller than that.

It is never too late to start. Begin R.T. as soon as you hear of it. Don’t wait! I saw the story of a woman who started R.T. when she was 40 and before that had never worked out before in her life. As she told her story I thought she looks about 60 years old, wow, that means she has been working out for 15-20 years. She then went on to say that she was actually 75 years old. This woman who had only started working out later in life was functioning at a level 15 years younger. She should be the poster person for R.T. at any age.

Resistance training means weight lifting. The answer is absolutely, totally and completely no. Put me on the highest mountain with the world’s largest megaphone so I can tell the world! Vocalists are not recommended to lift weights. Lifting weights can cause excessive tension in your neck, shoulders and jaw area. This area of the body needs to be relaxed when you are singing. But don’t panic there are other forms of R.T. that will not only help your body, but improve your singing as well.

The key word in Resistance Training is resistance. You need something to push against or pull on to create tension that will make your muscle work harder than normal. Ever try walking under water? Aqua-fitness can be a great solution to those seeking alternative methods of R.T. Swimming is a great all around sport. Cardio, R.T. and technique are enhanced when swimming. Aqua-aerobics are great classes for helping with R.T. and they are pretty tough.

Yoga is next on my list of suggestions. Yoga has been enjoying new exposure in the media. A lot of stars and artists are revealing their love for the ancient Indian practice. You can do yoga as a fitness workout or you can incorporate the spiritual side if you wish. Health clubs have the less spiritual side and a yoga studio will offer classes that bring the spirit in. Yoga definitely uses the muscular system and it also leaves you feeling relaxed and stretched out. There is a lot of focus on breath so for vocalists it is perfect. Being relaxed and stretched out and being in tune with your breath leaves you ready for practice or the stage. The core stabilizer muscles are used and enhanced so all the muscles you use as a singer will be in place and strong. One caution for beginners: take it slow. This may not appear to be as intense as other exercise but know that it is and in some ways much more difficult.

Pilates was invented by Joseph Pilate’s as an exercise for dancers and performers. Today it is used for much more. The focus of the exercises is again the core stabilizers and breathing. Pilate’s can be on a mat or you can go to a studio where they have machines that help you perform exercises. With this school of exercise you must engage your muscles as you do the exercises. It is possible to do a whole Pilate’s exercise program and not really workout. Technique is everything if you want results.

Stability Ball is relatively new and some people are still weary of it. It was originally used for rehabilitation. But now has been brought into wide use in the fitness field. There are beginner level exercises but I would recommend that you have a base level of fitness before you attempt this one. It is also wise to do your research and know the exercises well or get/speak to a Personal Trainer before you start this. Basically you use your body weight to lift or execute the resistance. A lot of the movements are small and require you to balance yourself as well as the exercise. The balance factor allows your large muscles to hold you in place (along with some small ones) and then perform an exercise that will work all the small ones. It almost works you from the inside out. It is not impossible to do as a beginner, just look before you leap.

Here are a few tips before you start. If you are getting a book or video for your workout, get one for your level in this new discipline. You may be advanced at other forms of exercise but these are a whole new ball game and you will need to work your way up. My first yoga class gave me a whooping’. Make sure the book, video or instructor makes modifications for injuries, health conditions and pregnancy. Yoga should have options for beginner, intermediate and advanced, injuries and what to do and not do if pregnant and these tips are usually given with every exercise in class. If you are unsure, ask the teacher after class. Trust me - the teachers want to know if you are confused or need further guidance. They want you to keep coming and get the benefits you should.

Resistance Training should not completely replace cardio. Both have their benefits and their place in fitness especially for vocalists. Being informed is the best way to be proactive and ensure a long career, hobby or life. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me on the message boards. Until next time - enjoy your workouts!

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