View Full Version : Weightlifting for speed
04-09-2010, 04:27 AM
As part of a general health routine, Iíve recently incorporated some picking up and putting down of heavy objects. Aside from general health (always a good thing), I figured Iíd work on improving my djembe playing. Iíve been playing for a long time and have pretty solid technique, but I have these floppy muppet arms that tend to fatigue during fast rhythms that run for a while. Fatigue is not good for maintaining a rhythm.
For an idea of the movements involved, see this YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnCiNlunT3g) clip (the person in the middle is Mahiri Keita (http://www.amazon.com/Akaran-Iko-Mastery-Through-Repetition/dp/B000OLG57M), one of my first teachers). Most movement is in the wrists and forearms.
I donít need Popeye arms, to open stuck jars, or to crush coal into diamonds; I need to move my arms very fast and for a sustained period of time. Yes, practice and playing have built a lot of speed and whatnot, but I figure adding a few minutes to the heavy object routines over the next year can take it that much further.
But I know very little about the heavy objects. I do know that Iíve seen references to high weight/low repetition and the opposite. Do those make a difference? Can anything be done to increase speed? Is muscle muscle and I shouldnít over think it?
04-09-2010, 06:34 AM
Plyometrics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plyometrics) is weight training designed to produce speed and power but doesn't do much for the endurance side of what you are asking for.
Yes there are different sorts of muscle fibers that do different things and training can build some more than others.
04-09-2010, 08:05 AM
In hand drumming, you don't need large amounts of power, at least compared to most sports. If you work out by lifting heavy weight, you will probably increase muscle mass and power, which won't do too much to help speed or endurance. Athletes sometimes train for "explosive power" but this allows you to expend energy very fast, but just once, like a football player coming off the line after the snap.
Muscles have slow-twitch or fast-twitch fibers (http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/anatomyandphysiology/a/MuscleFiberType.htm), which are good for endurance and power, respectively. Human muscle can have both kinds but different people have different distributions (some people are naturally good at weightlifting and some are natural marathon runners).
In very general terms, if you want to be good at something, you should do even more of it than what is normally required. I would do things like practicing against a pillow using a repetitive pattern for several minutes, past the point where the fatigue sets in. The pillow allows you to practice longer and hit a little harder without the punishment to your hands (http://www.drums.org/djembefaq/v13f.htm). (One of Santana's percussionists reported symptoms of rhabdomyolysis (http://bone-muscle.health-cares.net/rhabdomyolysis.php) after a performance, although he didn't seem to realize what it was or the potential dangers.)
I am not a drummer but have dabbled in conga playing in the past.
ETA: Cecil column: Can playing the bongos make you piss blood? (http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2848/can-playing-the-bongos-make-you-piss-blood)
The Great Philosopher
04-09-2010, 09:26 AM
It sounds like what you want to train for is endurance rather than 'speed'. To train for speed you usually do exercises like the plyometrics mentioned above, which involve 'exploding' into a lift, designed to increase the force and power of an action such as baseball pitchers adding force to their throw or sprinters adding power to their start off the blocks. By the sounds of things you don't really want to make your drumming (?) more forceful or powerful, you just want to be able to maintain the same force at a high speed for a longer period of time without getting fatigued.
Perosnally I've found that when it comes to single, specific and repetitive tasks like playing a musical instrument, the most effective way to improve my endurance was simply to practice the instrument. That's basically a form of resistance training in itself, but specially tailored to the results you want to get. But if you want to try and build up arm muscle endurance with weights as well I would recommend doing a bunch of regular arm exercises with, as you mentioned, a lower weight and higher number of repetitions, with a short interval between each set. A standard set-up for weight exercises is to do 8 repetitions for 4 sets, with a 2 minute break in between each set. You might want to do something more like 12 to 15 repetitions for 4 sets, with 60 seconds break in between each. Use as heavy a weight as you can manage for that number of reps. In terms of the exercises themselves, these are some I find are good for arms. The basic idea is that you do exercises to work the biceps at the front of the arm, and the triceps at the back. I tend to alternate between exercises for each. The forearms tend to get worked enough as part of those exercises. You can do separate forearm exercises as well if you want, but I don't know any! You'll need a long bar (ideally a "bendy bar") and dumb bells (dumb bells are the single-hand weights), as well as a machine for the push downs.
1. Standing bicep curl (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vf_g6vdSxRo) (for biceps). The guy in that video is just using a normal bar, which is OK, but personally I find that hurts my forearms a bit. A bendy bar (http://images.gittigidiyor.com/2061/SELEX-Z-BAR-UZUNLUK-120-CM__20610127_3.jpg), or Z-bar, means your forearms don't get quite as torsion.
2. Tricep extension (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1_RIFUDtO8) or "skullcrusher" (for triceps). It feels a bit unnatural at first but I find this is by far the best exercise for triceps.
3. Seated hammer curls (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdnxaIm9n1o). (biceps)
4. Triceps pushdown (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpz2Hwf-ulU). (triceps). This is the one you need that machine for. Most gyms have them. You can use any handle attachment you want really, they'll usually have a few. The one that guy is using in the video works well enough.
5. Close grip chin ups (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mCjdCVT5MQ&feature=related) (biceps). The wider your grip on chin ups (or, if you turn your hands the other way round, they're called pull ups) the more it starts working your back, but closer in it works the biceps really well. I really, really dislike the guy in that video, but he does demonstrate the exercise quite well!
6. Triceps kickback (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOeiqKL0jS4) (triceps).
There's also a triceps exercise called dips (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0-zHaFYizg) which just uses bodyweight and is quite good if you want to swap that in. I think a good arm workout for endurance would be doing 6 of those exercises, 12 to 15 repetitions and 4 sets for each, with 60 seconds in between sets. Leave about 48 hours between each session to recover, and gradually increase the weights as it starts getting easier.
04-09-2010, 10:00 AM
Not a percussionist or an athletic trainer here but I would also echo the thought that weight training should be used to only a limited degree. You want specific muscles strengthened and endurance enhanced. The advice to drum more and to drum on the pillow seems wise but you may also benefit from just an overall increase in fitness and strengthening the core muscles that support your body during your "event". Swimming laps for half an hour or so and then spending some time practicing your drum routine with your arms underwater (water drumming I guess) sounds silly but it is strengthening those specific muscles against resistance after some fatigue has set in and in a way that avoids potential overuse injury. Maybe even trying to drum standing on one foot to develop strength in the supporting muscles too?
04-09-2010, 11:38 AM
Oh. As for the particular weight training advising ... for the little that it is worth I would differ in some of the specific ones advised by The Great Philosopher - personally I'd think compound moves get more bang for the buck in terms of time anyway. Focus on particular muscles (like that skull crusher one does) when you have a specific need to strengthen that muscle (or portion of muscle) in isolation - such as to correct imbablances, or as part of a larger weight training program that works from large central muscles and finishes with focus on individual more distal ones. Compound moves use many muscles at once from core, to large central, to the smaller distal ones. The classics (http://www.realweighttraining.com/big-compound-exercises-everyone-should-do/) are squats, pull ups, dead lifts, bench press, and the military press. That said some that may be better for your particular interest include:
The T push up. (http://www.menshealth.co.uk/Fitness-&-muscle/T~push-up/v1)
Single leg dumbbell row. (http://weighttraining.about.com/b/2008/09/28/exercise-of-the-week-dumbbell-bent-over-single-leg-rows.htm)
And while this link (http://www.maxim.co.uk/fitness/workouts/4243/266/muscle_build.html) was one I found to show the single-arm curl to press, the host of ones on that site, in all the links, mixed and matched, would be good ones.
With a simple set of dumbbells you can do a huge variety of work outs. Bottom line again is that you are not drumming with just your arms - your whole body is involved if just to provide a consistently stable base. In general one improves in an event by both improving overall fitness and by doing that event more and doing it in good form and in a safe manner when the muscles involved are already somewhat fatigued.
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