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Keep It Simple!

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the time where people make resolutions on all kinds of things; from losing weight to saving money. If you’ve made any kind of health related resolution this year, I commend you! There’s no time like the present to make your dreams become reality. By the time you read this, you may have already long given up on your goals, or you may have kept at it, but feel lost at how to go forward. In previous posts I’ve talked about what types of exercises are best for flutists, but how do you put those together into a program? How do you have any idea how much to do, how many exercises, how few?

Rule #1: Don’t focus on overload.

What does that mean?  While there are plenty of times that overloading your body and your muscles can get you the results you want, in the musician’s case, let’s focus on the areas of concern: not getting injured, and building endurance and strength to allow for the demands of playing longer times without tiring or getting injured.  A muscle will only respond if it is challenged enough to grow, which means, you need to do more than is normally comfortable, otherwise, the body will not change. The type of overload I am talking about is focusing ONLY on one muscle group in a workout, or in every workout. A typical “bodybuilding style” workout that you see in magazines (i.e. train shoulders on one day, legs another, chest another, etc.) works for those looking to purposely over train their bodies into growth, but for those of us looking to avoid injury and increase stamina, the body needs balance.

Rule #2: Mix Heavier weights and lower reps with higher ones, be progressive!

This is the general rule of thumb when it comes to picking repetition ranges, and I give this to you with one caveat: take it with a grain of salt. Just because you train in only one range does not mean you will not reap benefits from others.  I’ll explain.

  • 1-5 repetitions: power and explosiveness
  • 6-10 repetitions: strength and hypertrophy (growth)
  • 12-15+ repetitions: endurance

This does not give you license to only train in the 12-15 rep range. Why? Well, after a while, the muscles will adapt to what you are giving them and you will lose all benefit. This is also a general range, remember, not a catch-all.  In the interests of keeping things simple, this is how I would use these repetition ranges to structure myself a 3 month workout program:

Month 1: 4 exercises, 1-2 sets of 12-15 repetitions at a very slow tempo
Month 2: 4 exercises, 2-3 sets of 6-10 reps for one set paired with 1 set of 12-15 at a moderate tempo
Month 3: 3 exercises, 3-5 sets of 1-5 repetitions focusing on whole body movements with max effort


Now, the question you may ask is: Why do I need to train in all of these rep ranges when I don’t care about changing my body shape and I don’t want to be a power lifter?

That’s where the misnomers come in. Your muscles are made up of different types of fibers and these different fibers have different jobs.  Basically you have strength fibers, endurance fibers and some “power” fibers.  They all work together, but if you only train the endurance fibers, pretty soon the other fibers start to atrophy and you could be creating more imbalances. In addition, after 4-6 weeks of training in one repetition range, your body should have adapted enough to not be seeing results anymore and needs a better challenge. Working in all the rep ranges allows your body to be able to reap maximum benefit while staying in better balance and working as a whole. And besides, you won’t end up looking like a power lifter or bodybuilder unless you eat for it and devote your life to it.  At best, the only shape change you’ll see is more curve in your arms and less flab other places. Nothing to really complain about.

Rule #3: Don’t forget to train your lower body

Yes, we play with our upper bodies, but what supports your arms? Your spine, which is attached to your pelvis, which attaches to your legs, etc. Your body works as a whole, therefor you have to train it as a whole, or you create more dysfunction.  Remember, you play your instrument with your legs, too.

Rule #4: Keep it simple; focus on what’s weak, do more pulling than pushing and do the same workout for at least 4-6 weeks.

This can be a tough one, we all want to try the latest workout we’ve seen on The Biggest Loser or in some magazine, and that’s fine once in a while, but if you add in too much variation without a base and constantly “program-hop” you will get a lot of nowhere. Pick a plan and stick to it for at least 4-6 weeks, this gives you time to measure and see your progress and really notice a difference. I would also pick a full body plan and do that 2-3 x’s a week, or if you really have a lot of time, do an upper/lower split, one upper body workout done 2 xs per week and one lower body workout done 2 x’s per week

This might be my sample workout plan for myself, considering I have an overuse injury in my left shoulder, chest area (and this is just for demonstration sake, the corrective exercises would be different depending on the person’s needs, this is also non-inclusive). A’s are done together, B’s done together, resting at the end of each set.

Warm up: Foam roll: calves, IT Band, Hip Flexors, Lats, use Lacrosse ball on chest, shoulders and neck
Stretch: aforementioned tight areas found by foam roller, holding for 30 seconds on each tight spot. Follow up with active stretches
Core: Planks 2 x30 seconds, 1 leg-balance 2x 30 seconds

Month 1: (full body) slow tempo on all exercises
1A Ball Squat  1-2×12-15                                  
2A Shoulder Press  1-2×12-15
1B Step Up (or side step up)   1-2×12-15 each
2B Inverted Row 1-2×12-15

Month 2: (upper/lower split)
Upper Body

1AI Incline Dumbbell Chest Press 2-3 x 8-10        
2A Shoulder front/side raise 2-3×12-15                  
1B Wide Grip Lat Pull-down 2-3 x 8-10                      
2B Face Pull 2-3 x12-15                                                  

Lower Body
1A. Goblet Squat 2-3 x 8-10
1B. Split Squat 2-3 x 12-15
2A. Barbell Hip Thrust 2-3 x 8-10
2B. Romanian Deadlift 2-3×12-15

Month 3:
Change core exercises
Exercise 1: Deadlift 5 sets of 5 reps
Exercise 2: Squats 4 sets of 4-6 reps
Exercise 3: Pull-ups 4 sets of 4-6 reps

This is a general template and if I were to add anything in, I would add in exercises I usually don’t suggest for the general public, such as Bicep Curls (piccolo playing will show you how much you need these to have great endurance!), rear delt flyes and chest flyes.  These are more isolation type moves that I don’t use much in the general public, but in regards to flutists, they all hit very specific muscles that tend to be overused, or weak and therefore need special attention. The above workout program however, hits all of these muscles as well: biceps are targeted in pull-down, pull ups and rows, etc. If done correctly, a program like this will serve as your cardio as well, keep the rest time short between exercises, and longer between sets, this is a form of interval training. If you aren’t out of breath, you aren’t lifting heavy enough.   This way, your lungs and cardiovascular system get a workout too, all while saving time by doing just what you need to do.

I look forward to hearing from you and what your New Year’s Resolutions are! If you haven’t made any, or have fallen off the wagon, why wait?  Give me a call to design you a specific program and take the guesswork out of it

See you in the gym!

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