Core Connections

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Illustration for core connections.
Strengthen the legs, spine, and abs to lighten the load of carrying heavy instruments.

I asked my husband, who previously played quads and snare, what he wished he knew when he was in marching band. He said he wished he knew more stretches for the muscles involved with carrying drums. In that vein, let’s talk about lifting with your abs, using your legs, and
strengthening those body parts.

Chair Squats

Start in a wide-legged position with your feet wider than your hips and your toes pointing forward. Place your hands in a prayer position in front of your chest with your elbows out to the side. Bend your knees and take your tailbone back as though you’re sitting down in a chair. Your hips and knees should be on the same plane. Inhale and engage your abs as you go back to standing in one streamlined movement. Try not to pitch forward. Release your arms down to your side. This set of movements is a single rep. Try to achieve 10 to 15 reps. This exercise will help strengthen your legs, back and glutes.

Illustration for core connections.Modified Kettlebell Swings

Starting in the same wide-legged position, using weights or kettlebells of at least 10 pounds, hold your weights with your arms down in front of you. Hinging forward at the hips, move your weights back between your legs and then swing them back up and out in front of your chest using straight arms and engaged abs. Try 10 to15 repetitions.

Neutral Spine Tuck

Lying on your back with your knees up and feet flat, tuck your tailbone up and bring your belly button down toward your spine as though you had been punched in the stomach. Exhale and arch through your spine, inhale and move to a neutral spine with a slight curve in the low back. Go through 10 to 15 rounds of this exercise in order to find and engage the abdominals and a straight spine.

Mountain Pose

To continue establishing the spine/abs connection, stand up straight with the feet together and big toes touching. Keep your arms by your sides with your fingers pointing down to the ground. Engage your muscles in your legs, glutes, abdominals, and upper back. Keep your chest open; try not to squeeze the scapula together. In yoga, this posture is called Tadasana, or Mountain Pose. In order to really find the back, legs, abs connection, you can engage each muscle in sequence, starting from your feet and stacking the next part on top of the previously engaged muscle group.

In/Out Feet Plank

Starting in plank position with either straight arms or on elbows, move your right foot out to the right, move your left foot to the left, bring the left foot back in, and bring your right foot back in. This sequence is one rep. Try 10 to 20 of these. In order to make this exercise more difficult, you can increase the speed. Make sure to keep your hips lifted in line with your back and spine and open through the shoulder blades.

With these exercises, marching musicians will have an easier time lifting and carrying their instruments.

Illustrations courtesy of Andriy Yankovskyy.

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