People usually resolve to join a gym to get fit and healthy, not to improve their singing voice. But exercise is a surprisingly good elixir for your vocals. Certain types of workouts and sports can strengthen your respiratory system and make your voice more powerful and resilient.
Exercise is a great way to stay physically fit and whip your voice into shape too. A strong singing voice starts with a healthy body, and certain sports can help improve your vocals. However, you need to learn proper technique, or you could injure your voice and body.
Physical exercise, jogging, and working out is beneficial for your body, mind, and voice. But it can be hard to find time to work out; especially if you’re a singer caught between shows and rehearsals. This article gives a breakdown of the exercises that are best for singers, and how to get the best workout in the time you have.
How does exercise improve your singing voice?
There are so many reasons to exercise. Being physically active keeps you fit, healthy, reduces stress levels and rejuvenates your mind. If that’s not enough, the benefits of exercise can have a great knock–on effect on your voice.
If you exercise regularly, you’ll reap the rewards when you get on stage. Working out will improve your stamina and cardiovascular strength, and you’ll feel the benefit of this kick in when you sing. Building muscle and endurance throughout your body will help strengthen your voice and vocal apparatus.
The fitness, endurance, and agility you gain from exercise will transfer to your vocal performance. Staying active can make your singing voice clearer, widen your range, and reduce strain. Exercise is also a great mood lifter and stress reliever, so it can keep you focused and clearheaded before a show.
Does exercise help singing?
If you’ve been searching for motivation to get active, this could be it: exercise can actually improve your singing voice!
You don’t have to join a gym or start lifting weights to get good vocal results. In fact, certain types of exercise are recommended for singers over others. The best sports to improve your singing voice include:
Taking up yoga will improve your breathing technique and concentration. It will also train you to focus your mind and relax, which will really help you mentally prepare for shows.
Cardiovascular exercise will benefit your lungs and teach you good breath control. Doing aerobic exercise will also improve your stamina and endurance which will help power you through long and dynamic performances on stage.
Joining a martial arts class will teach you good posture and practising with others will also build your confidence to perform in front of a crowd. Karate and Tai Kwon Do are high-energy sports, and training your body to perform at a high tempo is great for singers who want to have an energetic stage presence.
Working on your core muscles with Pilates will really help your singing voice. The moves will lengthen and strengthen your core muscles, which will condition your diaphragm and contribute to better vocal support.
Exercise before singing
Exercising before you perform can be invigorating and relieve tension. But if you work out before you sing, you have to ensure your workouts are always done in a mindful way, so you don’t overexert yourself and leave your body feeling stressed.
It’s fine to exercise on the days you’re due to perform. In fact, exercising for 30 minutes on show days can help reduce your nerves and loosen up your muscles. But always warm–up, stay hydrated and cool down properly as part of your workout so your muscles aren’t left tight and contracted.
Always leave at least 2 hours after a workout before you sing, so you don’t exhaust your body and perform under stress. Avoid exercising in conditions that will negatively impact your voice, too. Extreme weather conditions can dry out your throat and lungs and exercising in areas with lots of air pollution – like running next to roads – can irritate your vocal cords.
Is running good for singers & does jogging help singing?
Running or jogging counts as a form of cardiovascular exercise and is a great workout for singers. It increases your lung capacity, improves your breath control, and builds your stamina: all great skills when it comes to singing!
Going for a run requires conscious breathing to pace yourself through your workout. A good breathing technique is crucial for singing as you can use up to 90% of your lung capacity when you perform – something we’re not used to doing in everyday life. Running will develop your lung expansion and teach you good breath support habits.
Jogging or running and singing at the same time
When Beyoncé was 10 years old, she would run on a treadmill while singing to build up her stamina. Now her personal trainer, Mark Jenkins, puts the superstar through some gruelling workouts, like singing through her entire album while out for runs.
Lots of singers sing while working out to improve their endurance and stamina. But is running and singing at the same time good for your voice?
- Running while singing trains your body to cope with doing aerobic exercise while phonating – something you’ll have to do if you dance and sing while you’re on stage.
- It trains your larynx to efficiently switch between breathing and singing functions.
- Singing while you run works your core muscles, teaching you to stabilise your core and give support to your diaphragm.
- Your body will learn how to cope and perform in oxygen–deprived scenarios.
- Running and singing at the same time can cause dizziness and leave you feeling lightheaded.
- You’re more susceptible to injury because your concentration is divided, and your oxygen supply is depleted from singing.
- If you don’t use proper technique, you can strain your vocal cords.
- You should only attempt to sing while running if you’re an advanced runner and are physically fit and healthy.
Swimming for singers
Swimming is tipped as one of the best types of exercise for singers. Endurance swimming will strengthen and tone your entire body while getting your breathing co-ordination and lungs in better shape too.
Spending time in the pool will improve your posture, getting you to stretch out and lift your rib cage while you swim. It’s not often that the small muscles in the rib cage are engaged and strengthening these will allow you to get better chest and lung expansion. This will help you project your voice and improve your vocal stamina.
Swimming can also be highly therapeutic and releases endorphins – the perfect remedy for pre-show jitters. But to avoid sinus infections, always wear earplugs when you swim and choose heated swimming pools over ocean swims as cold conditions and salty water can irritate your throat.
Crunches and singing
Singing doesn’t require a six–pack, but having a strong core is key to a good singing technique. Spot-targeting your abs with intense reps of crunches won’t help your voice, though.
Lots of people tend to focus on one muscle group when they work their abs (the rectus abdominis muscle – the six-pack area). This leaves a residual tightness and causes the stomach muscles to shorten and contract. It also constricts the diaphragm and impedes your breath control technique rather than improving it.
To strengthen your core in a way that aids your voice, you need to strengthen and lengthen your muscles in a balanced way. You can do this by targeting your entire torso area with your workout, not just your abs. Incorporate exercises for your obliques, your hip flexors and work on spinal extension, rotation and stabilisation to get a balanced, strong core for singing.
5 Stretches that help your singing voice
Ellie from Know Your Instrument goes over some of her favourite stretches below.
The fantastic thing about singing is that you don’t need to buy an instrument. Everyone is born with a singing voice. Unfortunately, this also means that your voice changes day to day, depending on how your body feels. I notice that if I haven’t done my stretches, it feels harder to sing, and I don’t have as much freedom in my voice.
Before your next singing lesson or performance, try warming up your body with these five stretches. Play around with them. Some days your neck might be tense from sleeping funny. The day after a long bike ride, you might need to spend some more time stretching
#1 Cat and Cow Stretch
I love yoga and always do a quick routine before a big audition or performance. The Cat and Cow stretch is one of my favourites for releasing the muscles around the diaphragm, which help control your airflow
Although you can’t directly control your diaphragm, you can control the muscles around it. The Cat and Cow stretch also helps strengthen the rest of your core, which is essential for healthy singing.
#2 Downward Dog
Another great yoga pose is downward dog. It stretches everything: your back, your legs, and your arms.
Just remain in this pose, or you can try out downward with twist if you like. I find this loosens up some hard to reach muscles in my upper back, which can tense up over time with singing.
#3 Shoulder Stretches
Every singer has habits they want to fix, and mine is that I carry far too much tension in my shoulders. Especially after a long journey hauling a suitcase, I sometimes find it hard to release my shoulders and connect to my core support.
Test out a few stretches to see where your shoulder tension is. Every body is different, and you should take care not to overstretch or push yourself too hard.
#4 Use a Pool Noodle
Singers also tend to store tension in the lower back. Often, our lower back will tense up in response when we hold our support muscles instead of breathing through them. Lay on a soft pool noodle in the Alexander Constructive Rest Position, and gently roll around to release any tight muscles.
Some singers like using more rigid rollers, but I suggest starting with softer material. The harder ones can cause damage, but the soft ones will just be like a nice massage.
Tongue tension is something all singers struggle with at some point in their careers. Often, if my tongue or jaw is tight, my neck will tense up in response. A favourite stretch to relieve this is the caterpillar.
Sit upright with your legs stretched out in front of you, and slowly roll your head down, vertebra by vertebra. As you go lower, you can lean forward as well. You’ll feel all the tiny muscles in your neck and shoulders release.
Use these stretches before your practice, lesson, or performance to loosen up and make your singing even better. If you feel the muscles tensing up during your practice, don’t be afraid to take a quick break and stretch out again.
Your body is your instrument, so treat it with care. Use these stretches to help make your singing more comfortable and free.
Core exercises for singers
Crunches and sit–ups are effective abdominal exercises but to strengthen your core all over, try incorporating a variety of different movements. Some of the best core-strengthening exercises for singers include:
- The Superman – a great move for improving your posture and strengthening your back muscles. It promotes spinal extension, which helps balance out any tightness in the abs.
- The Plank – this move will strengthen and stretch out your muscles at the same time! The plank stabilizes both your spine and core, helping improve your posture on stage.
- High Boat to Low Boat – an exercise for the entire core. The High Boat Low Boat works your upper and lower abs while improving your stability.
- Pilates – the strength and endurance movements in Pilates are highly effective at training your core. Unlike crunches and sit–ups, Pilates will target your entire core: your abs, lower back, hips, and bum.
- Hula hooping – this may not be the first exercise that springs to mind, but hula hooping is great for your core! It can improve your coordination, stamina, and fitness – all crucial areas for a singer.
Pelvic floor singing
When it comes to exercising, your pelvic floor may not be the first muscle group you think of. But the pelvic floor plays a vital part in your breath support and can be strengthened and trained just like any other muscle group.
Your pelvic floor is part of your lower torso; between your abdomen and your legs. When you try to hold in the urge to urinate, it’s your pelvic floor muscles that you can feel contracting. These muscles support your abdominal muscles while you sing too; your pelvic floor helps keeps your core engaged without the need to clench and push the diaphragm out of place.
Just like with other areas of your body, you can train your pelvic floor to improve your vocal technique. Squats are great for all areas of the core, including the pelvic floor. Bridges also help fire up the pelvic muscles.
Is singing a form of exercise?
Singing won’t help you drop a dress size, but it does give your lungs and core a good workout. It’s thought that you can burn as many as 136 calories an hour from singing. If you’re interested in how many calories singing can burn, try reading this article and give the calorie calculating equation a go.
Singing doesn’t count as aerobic exercise. But it does increase your lung capacity, build stronger chest-wall muscles and strengthen your respiratory system. It’s important to incorporate different types of exercise into your regime, from strength training to cardio activities, so singing can definitely bring something to your workout schedule.
Consider singing a type of resistance training; it’s an activity that builds your stamina and endurance levels if you learn the proper breathing technique. To get a full–body workout and incorporate some cardio into your regime, pair singing with dancing on stage to torch even more calories!
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I know if my core needs work?
You don’t have to have a six–pack or visibly defined abs to have a strong core. As long as you balance your training between all the areas of the core – the pelvic floor, back muscles, diaphragm, and hip flexors – and focus on lengthening not shortening the muscles, you can be confident your core is getting a good workout.
A sign that your core needs training is experiencing tension in your throat, shoulders, or jaw when you sing. This indicates that you’re trying to draw strength from the wrong muscle groups, and this causes tightness.
If you feel like you brace your abdomen when you project your voice, you might require some core training. Try to build up strength in your supporting muscles (your obliques and back muscles) to build a strong support system for your abs.
- How many times a week should I exercise to sing at my best?
How much exercise you need varies from person to person. But on average, it’s recommended 3 to 5 workouts a week is an effective amount to stay fit and achieve results.
You should divide your workout days between cardio workouts and strength training. A couple of days a week doing aerobic exercise paired with a couple of days working on the core muscles – with Pilates or yoga – is recommended for singers.
What exercises do you do to keep your body and voice in great shape? Let us know in the comments below!