Vocal Arts and Exercise for an Enhanced Performance (Part 1 of 2)
by Nikki Rouillard,
The vocal industry is overflowing with weight control issues and health concerns are becoming astronomical. Making matters worse, there is widespread misinformation in the vocal arena regarding exercise, particularly, as it relates to weight training. This belief has been formulated and perpetuated through faulty perceptions, various media outlets and poor training tactics by individual implementation and unqualified ‘trainers and coaches’ alike. There are side effects of too much exercise and lack of exercise that needs deeper clarification to bring about a better understanding for the singer and the total body.
The discussion regarding respiratory muscles and core muscles is critical for the vocalist. The lack of proper “strength”, poor muscle recruitment, muscle imbalances along with over and under muscle activation in both areas can and will affect vocal performance.
With regard to weight training and the vocal artist- use of the respiratory muscles can put a lot of strain on the muscles of the cervical vertebra region, causing a shift in the recruitment of respiratory muscles in the breathing technique alone. However, a shift to the other end of the spectrum with a sedentary, inactive, over-weight or obese lifestyle can bring about the same dysfunction but with more harmful effects. The dilemma can be a double-edged sword. Both can lead to a less than optimal vocal performance. Therefore, the goal is to find balance between the two.
Identification of the entire ‘core’ region, which extends from the shoulder down to the lower hip level, is also a matter of importance because a dysfunctional core can lead to a series neck issues. Misuse of the core muscles occur through poor recruitment patterns and inactive muscles from both improper exercise technique and again, from a sedentary lifestyle. Improper exercise techniques like squatting, poor weight distribution from obesity or weight gain can cause back, hip and knee degeneration. This can lead to poor diaphragmatic activation (crucial for vocal power), leading to less than optimal use of the primary respiratory and accessory respiratory muscles. Equally troubling, these issues often lead to a forward migration of the cervical vertebral region causing tension in the neck musculature, sabotaging the entire performance.
I’ve worked with several vocal artists and most have little to no control of their core for reasons varying from pregnancy, weight issues, visceral dysfunction (gut inflammation), hormonal dysfunction, and so on… Little known is that many of these issues are inter-related and affect our musculature system. Additionally, they also divert to our skeletal system. All of these tie into and develop postural deviations.
Postural deviations appear from lack of exercise for example: forward head posture, forward and rounded shoulders, anterior pelvic tilt, posterior pelvic tilt and thoracic kyphosis (permanent curvature of the spine), result in muscle weakness and muscle overload from faulty movement patterns or faulty holding patterns developed over time. This stresses our body, literally, from head to toe. Vocal artists suffering from any of the aforementioned will slowly deteriorate physical alignment of the body causing a domino effect to more deviation issues. Because vocalist must sustain use of the body for extended periods of time in practice and performance proper postural endurance and core control for stability and power are essential. This can only be achieved through correct form, in exercise protocol. Most vocalists are missing this key training. Only when gaining a ‘sense of self’ through proper exercise is one even aware of these and other deficiencies.
It is clear that singers struggle with a dilemma- to train or not to train? Whether you’ve been told of the erroneous pitfalls of exercise by an ill-advised instructor and/or you just aren’t sure- the answer is obvious. Train- but do it properly! Find the right person. Do your homework! Not everyone that says they’re a trainer is certified to be one! I have realized that there appears to be little difference for vocalist regarding the negative side effects of a sedentary lifestyle vs. exercise performance. I cannot stress enough that it is improper exercise and faulty teaching that is the culprit. In addition to promoting a healthy lifestyle, exercise can be used to enhance a vocal performance. The benefits are staggering and far outweigh non-activity.
Postural strength and core control can be improved through a body assessment. When coupled with an exercise regimen, this specialized testing improves ‘use of the self’ in vocal performance, for maximized health and wellness. Remember, exercise is a necessity among vocalists too….
In Part II, I will further discuss the role of the core in exercise and vocal performance by giving specific, detailed examples that will enhance the voice and its use.
Nikki Rouillard is a sought-after Denver-based strength and conditioning coach and owner of Mach 3 Elite Training Systems with locations in Denver and Aurora, Colorado. She has mentored and studied with a wide range of professionals regarding human movement and dysfunction. She received dual Bachelor Degrees in Communications and Music with an emphasis in Vocal Performance from the University of Loyola Marymount, Los Angeles, CA. Included in her collegiate days she played basketball on a full athletic scholarship and continued on to play professionally for over 10 years. Nikki also serves as a consultant to various multi dimensional care practitioners such as: chiropractors and physical therapists. She specializes in correcting the affects of poor movement patterns and posture that inhibit performance in a wide range of arenas. Contact Nikki at firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 1-720-338-6992 for a consultation. You can also sign up for her free newsletter at: http://www.mach3elite.com/.
-Certified Strength Coach (CSCS)
-Certified Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES), National Academy of Sports Medicine
-FM Specialist (Functional Movement)
-Corrective High Exercise Performance Specialist