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Weight Lifting vs. Martial Arts for Cellists

WEIGHT LIFTING FOR STRENGTH?
Below is the attached file Steve mentions in his message to me.

"I lift weights about 5 times a week and can honestly say it does not help my playing. Sometimes after a heavy workout, bench pressing in the 300 pound range, I do have to make extra effort to relax my muscles. Don't get me wrong. I do believe that playing the cello requires quite a bit of strength. It just requires different muscles. But they do have to be strong. I got alot out of that article about stretching and so forth. The other day at my last lesson I was playing a Duport etude in g minor. You might know it better as #159 in the Schroeder book. After playing it my teacher said " how's the arm?" I felt like I had just bench pressed 400 pounds!!! There is a ton of extended first postition in it. You know, like a g minor chord in first position with 4th finger on g and 1st finger on b flat. Comments??"

ANSWER:

Lifting heavy weights is not recommended for musicians, though some recommend lifting small weights to maintain muscle tone. Another recommended activity is swimming, which builds up your overall body conditioning and endurance. Tennis is considered a "no-no" too, much to my dismay.

Strength should not be a focus in playing the cello. As Paul Katz, Cleveland Quartet cellist, says in Victor Sazer's book, 'New Directions in Cello Playing:'

"It is far better for cellists to learn from the martial arts of the Far East, which focus on balancing the body, loosening joints, relaxing muscles, using body weight rather than flexed muscles for strength, and breathing in ways to promote balance and ease." Somewhat paradoxically, strength can be achieved with a degree of looseness, balance, and ease of motion.

Since you are experiencing pain, I would say you REALLY need to buy this book. You don't want to cause yourself permanent injury. This book has a number of great tips on how to play more healthily.

Interestingly, you freely admit that you start playing before warming up. Naughty, naughty :) For some good warm techniques, see the last Tutti Celli, where our own Linda Hickey has an article called, "Stretching is the Key to a Long Life of Playing."

Tim Janof

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ICS Staff
Tim Janof, ICS Director
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