I often joke about how clumsy I am. I say how I am well practiced at falling with my face, in an effort to protect my harp-playing appendages. Legs and arms are a harpists bread and butter and are arguably the parts of my body that I protecte most. Break your leg arm, finger or wrist and you are out for at least a few months. But, there is a part of the body that I will argue is equally important and worthy of protection, to maintain your active harp-life: the core.
The major muscles of the core reside in the area of the belly and the mid and lower back, and peripherally include the hips, the shoulders and the neck. Basically, your core is any part of your body that isn’t your arms, legs, or head. The core is your support system, and without it, playing the harp (much less moving one!) would be impossible.
Before I began working on my core I would often pull muscles in my back attempting to move my instrument up stairs, through tight corners, and numerous other ridiculous harp moving situations. When I was in school this wasn’t too much of a problem, as I was moving my instrument infrequently. These days a pulled muscle means days of pain while schlepping my harp from one wedding to another. Since I have dedicated myself to supporting this muscular system the same way it supports me, not only have I not pulled a muscle, but moving my harp has become significantly easier.
Below you will find 4 exercises that are all at a beginner level. Anyone should be able to do these without injuring themselves. As always, if something hurts: stop. Consult your doctor if you are worried about beginning an exercise routine. These exercises are designed to be done with slow smooth movements with visualization focus given to the area worked on (in this case the core). Spending a few minutes executing these simple movements a few times a week will significantly improve your ability to do virtually any activity!!
1. Seated Leg Lift
Step 1: Sit with your back straight and your hands supporting your weight (wrists in whatever position is most comfortable).
Step 2: Slowly lift one leg at a time, holding each leg up for 2 seconds.
–3 sets of 10 leg lifts (5 for each leg)–
2. Bird-Dog Crunch
Step 1: On all fours, extend one arm and the opposing leg (right arm, left leg) attempting to create a flat plane from your finger tips to the end of your shoe.
Step 2: Bring your extended elbow and knee together and squeeze your stomach muscles.
Step 3: Return to all fours.
Step 4: Repeat with opposite appendages.
–3 sets of 10 leg lifts (5 for each arm/leg set)–
3. Standing Bicycle Crunch
Step 1: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and fingers laced behind your head.
Step 2: Bend forward bringing one elbow to the opposing knee (right elbow, left knee).
Step 3: Return to standing position.
Step 4: Repeat with opposite appendages.
–3 sets of 10 leg lifts (5 for each elbow/knee set)–
4. Plank – the most advanced of the exercises given here, the essence of plank come in the area of form. The idea is to hold this position for as long as possible. Keep your rear down, trying to create an angled plane from your head down to your feet, and your abdominal muscles tight. Begin slowly by holding for 5-10 seconds at a time 3 times, with 30-60 seconds of rest between holds. If 5-10 seconds feels easy I suggest adding 5 second increments to your time as your body builds strength!!
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.
6. If you are working outside, always remember to wear sunscreen!!
Happy harping, and be well!! Let’s 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!!