Hello… once again-took one issue off but I am back and raring to go.
I am often asked about working out, strengthening and exercising. Players want to stay in shape but don’t want to hurt themselves especially when it comes to their hands, i.e. their livelihoods. Here are some tips for good hand health.
Working out in general will make you less prone to injury. Keeping the body conditioned and the muscles strong and flexible will make you less likely to be hurt than if you have weak muscles. Properly conditioned muscles of the shoulder and back will reduce strain on forearm and hand muscles.
Simple wrist rotations, turning the wrists loosely in a complete circle before playing and throughout the day will help keep wrists and their associated muscles and tendons loose. Motion is generally good for prevention of these types of injuries because with motion there is blood flow resulting in more oxygen going to the muscles. There is also variety from different movements such as tightening and relaxing which helps to flush out built up waste products. Holding the same position constantly tires a muscle out and the end result is a lack of circulation, which can cause muscle cramping.
Some feel that trying to strengthen the hands by clenching and unclenching a rubber ball, using similar devices which provide a pumping motion of the fingers, or even by adding weights on to the fingers can help to develop speed and stamina. This is entirely up to the individual. If you are looking for this kind of thing and feel it gives you some kind of edge, try it out, however many players will tell you that the best kind of strengthening exercises are those that involved simply playing. Wrist strengthening with rubber bands around the fingers will provide resistance by opening and closing the fingers and improve circulation. This resistance in extension is preferable to balls or similar devices in which flexion is the dominant motion and can cause tightness and overuse. In some cases such as rehabilitation for a specific injury, these devices may be prescribed as part of the rehab protocol. In these cases it is important to follow your physician or therapist’s instructions. Always keep in mind that common sense must prevail and if it hurts, discontinue. ‘No pain no gain’ does not apply to musicians.
It is always better to use machine weights instead of free weights for a musician due to less need to grip or grasp, which may cause strain or overuse. Exercises that are isometric in nature, meaning exercises in which muscles contract or tighten with no movement occurring are better for our purposes than those for strengthening. These isometric exercises are good for the bassist because these are the actions we are performing with our right and left hands, activating muscles as an isometric contraction at a specific joint angle. Preferable to lifting weights are strap on weights, which can be attached to the wrist and upper arm and can help to strengthen the shoulders and arms in a less stressful fashion.
As always feel free to contact me with any questions or comments in care of the magazine.
About Dr. Randall Kertz
Randall Kertz is a chiropractic physician, acupuncturist, educator, author, and bass player in private practice in suburban Chicago, IL.