Lets face it ladies (and gentlemen), playing the harp is a full body activity. Beyond the hand-eye-foot coordination required for getting through music like Renie’s “Danse de Lutins”, a harpist must also have a strong and healthy body to move and play their instrument. When I was first entering into my freelance career almost 2 years ago I was shocked at the frequency that I was moving my harp. More than once I pulled a muscle in my lower back yanking my harp up a flight of stairs or just pulling it out of the car. I have found that with a combination of vigorous cardiovascular exercise paired with stretching and light, weight work, moving my instrument has become something less of a physically exerting task.
This series of blog posts will feature specific simple exercises that can be done by anyone, no matter their age or physical ability, but please remember to listen to your body.
“Consulting with a doctor before joining an exercise program is always a good idea, especially if you have a family history of heart attack or sudden cardiac death in a close relative at an age under 60 years, high blood pressure, diabetes or several other risk factors for heart disease.
If you are able to walk briskly and climb a flight of stairs without difficulty with shortness of breath or chest discomfort, and are at low risk for heart disease, you may not need to consult a doctor before exercising – but it certainly doesn’t hurt.”
For me this is an area of constant concern. It is the muscle responsible for arm extension (you couldn’t reach those low wires without it!) and, at least for me, seems to wobble most when I play. Below you will find some simple exercises that if done consistently (10 minutes 3x a week) will help to build lean muscle and strengthen this all-important area of your arm! All of these exercises can be done with pretty much anything you can find around the house (that bottle of windex would work… have a re-usable water-bottle? Fill it up and use that as a weight and for convenient hydrating! Soup cans also work).
1. Overhead Extension
Step 1: Hold your weight up over and sightly behind your head.
Step 2: Keeping your elbows in, slowly lower the weight behind your head.
—Repeat 3 sets of 10 repetitions.—
2. Tricep Extension
Step 1: Stand with left foot forward, knees bent. Bend slightly forward at the hips and keep abdominal muscles pulled in toward the spine.
Step 2: Place left hand on left thigh for support and hold a soup can or water bottle in your right hand.
Step 3: Keeping elbow bent, pull right upper arm up and back to almost parallel with the ground. Extend arm straight out behind you. (See photo for proper position.)
Step 4: Squeeze and hold before bringing arm back in to starting position.
—Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.—
3. Side Pushup
Step 1: Lay on the floor on one side with your legs stack on-top of one another.
Step 2: Wrap the arm that is closest to the floor around your midsection while placing your other hand on the floor in front of you.
Step 3: Keeping your hips on the ground and focusing on pushing from your arm slowly lift and lower your torso.
—Repeat 2 sets of 10 on each side.—
4. Chair Dip
Step 1: Using your bench or chair as a tool, sit on the very edge with your hands flat on that bench at the side of your hips.
Step 2: Keeping your hands in the same position lift your body off of the bench and lower it down toward the floor (don’t go too far down) keeping your knees bent.
Step 3: Push your body back up so that your arms are fully extended.
—Repeat 2 sets of 10—
1. Listen to your body. If something hurts, stop.
2. Set numbers and repetitions are only suggestions. Start slowly and work up from your comfort levels.
3. Always move in slow and controlled motion. It is natural to want to get through a workout quickly, but with slow and focused movement you will find you get faster and more lasting results.
4. The power of visualization: While you are going through these workouts imagine your tricep muscle expanding and contracting, it will help you focus on using the specific muscle group rather than allowing your other muscles to do all the work!
5. Your body is just as important as your harp… love it, and take care of it!! You will be truly amazed at what you can do if you simply try.
Happy harping, and be well!! Lets start a #fitharp revolution! Please comment with what you do, or have done in the past, to build your #harpmuscles and feel free to ask any questions you might have!!