Can a 6-pack make a difference?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Griffin, Dec 2, 2004.

  1. Griffin

    Griffin Active Member

    I was reading Dr Roger Webster’s Master Class on 4BarsRest (

    "The diaphragm cannot assist expiration. It is purely an inspiratory muscle. During a forced expiration, the anterior abdominal wall muscles are active, in addition to the intercostals muscles"…And…”Therefore, the pre-warm up stage should more correctly be based on the player achieving a level of readiness, both physically and mentally, to proceed to the next and main stage of warming up. Pre warm-up, therefore, should be based upon an amalgam of physiological and psychological principles that reflect the possibility of achieving…”

    I was wondering if actual physical fitness makes a significant difference to ones playing ability. He mentions the abdominal muscles; therefore can a ‘6-pack’ make a difference?
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  2. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    and if a 6 pack helps what does the whole barrel i carry arround inder my shirt do?
  3. Griffin

    Griffin Active Member

    Im sure that there are sum muscles tucked away somewhere!;)

    I know as a sop player that I can 'ache' sometimes in my abdominals from playing high or loud or both... Maybe its just because i'm a whimp!!
  4. Apparently once you give up smoking (which I know is entirely different from working out but still...) it's miles easier to breathe/you have better lung capacity or something like that. Either way it helps.
  5. Griffin

    Griffin Active Member

    I am in the 'process' of stopping: down to 10 silk cut a week. (from 10 Marlboroughs a day!) next week none!
    Combined with going to the gym, should make a difference!
  6. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    The diaphragm is situated roughly horizontally between the chest cavity and the abdominal cavity. The muscles involved in a "six-pack" are part of the abdominal wall and don't really play a part in breathing. The reason that the abdomen moves when (properly) deep inhaling is that the diaphragm moves down into the abdomen, increasing the volume of the chest cavity and expanding the lungs. The abdominal wall can help to push the air back out by tightening and decreasing the space in the abdomen during exhalation. Most of the work is done by the diaphragm rising back into the chest cavity, however.

    Keeping fit could help with endurance while playing. Any excess weight can affect respiration in general (one of the classic effects of obesity is constant shortness of breath).

    Smoking is the worst possible thing to do to your lungs (short of working in an asbestos factory).
  7. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    >>Most of the work is done by the diaphragm rising back into the chest cavity

    Sorry, Brasscrest, It might be a convenient way of trying to explain it to a lay person, but from an anatomical/physiological point of view that's entirely the misconception that RW is trying to put right. :-?

    Muscles such as the diaphragm, like Elastic, can pull but they can't push. They can only do work in ONE direction, not two, and the diaphragms "work" is entirely on 'breathing in'.

    The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle which attaches in a roughly horizontal ring around the body cavity at the bottom of the ribs. However it is NOT a flat sheet - it arches up a long way inside the chest cavity. When the muscle of the diaphragm contracts it pulls this arch downwards into a flatter sheet, increasing the chest capacity and as a consequence pulling air into the lungs. However the diaphragm CANNOT then push back up - all the diaphragm can do is relax and allow the abdominal contents to push it from behind.

    This is the reason why (and I know this is a gross generalisation) Brass players tend to fall into two camps, and choosing Tuba players I have been taught by as an obvious example there is the James Gourlay category who are supremely athletic and push the diaphragm back up by pushing the abdominal contents back inside using the abdominal muscles, and then the Steve Sykes (Sorry Steve if you're out there somewhere.....) category who instead have a lot of abdominal content which naturally tends to return to its original position without needing to be pushed too much. ;)

    The problem with working out as a way of improving this is that you have to use the muscles in the right way in order for them to push inwards rather than just strengthen up where they are. Building up a six pack is mainly a consequence of static contractions when lifting AND HOLDING weights, and so is not pushing inwards just bulging while remaining still (isometric contraction).

    That's why RWs article stresses the importance of aerobic exercise and particularly the benefits of e.g. cycling/swimming/running which demand a lot of breath control and particularly demand a hard coordinated push to expel lots of air.

    For those of you that have experienced David James' teaching style, it is the Rectus abdominis (an abdominal muscle) and NOT the diaphragm which pushes his thumb out after he rams it into your chest at the lowest point where the ribs meet (the attachment of the Rectus muscle onto the Xiphisternal cartilage)

    (BVSc., CertZooMed., MRCVS..
    Amongst other things, lecturer in comparative anatomy and physiology
  8. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    I knew I should have waited until the Lizard posted . . . I bow to your superior anatomical knowledge (and I mean that as a compliment of the highest order).
  9. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member


    I could take the lecture further and suggest that for the same reasons Bass players (who need large volume but low pressure of air) manage to get away more easily with the 'large physique' method than sop players (who require smaller volumes but higher pressure, and therefore need to use the muscular technique).

    However I'm not convinced that the difference in size between the archetypal small and skinny sop player and the classical sumo-style BB player isn't more a case of

    (1) there's more room for fat blokes in the bass section than in a tight line of 6 cornet players and

    (2) the conductor can't see if a bass player is eating and drinking during rehearsal. :)
  10. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... I'll put these links to Arnold Jacob's lectures about breathing and performance ... he has the knack of talking and describing things in simple language!!! ;) (as opposed to Pschology/Physiology graduate Mr. Webster ... he has got formal quaifications in these areas hasn't he?)
  11. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    Love the reference to a "Piccolo Tuba", aka Baritone ;)
  12. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Some of Arnold Jacob's theoretical ideas are a bit outdated (... Operant Learning Theory was popular in the '60s) but his principles regarding function are sound, especially the idea that you don't have to have superlungs to breathe effectively for brass-wind playing. Worth a look (there's more than just the piccolo tuba on show! ;) )
  13. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    Does this mean I should be blowing out of my ****, then? Or is your **** in a different place than mine? :)
  14. Craigsav83

    Craigsav83 Active Member

    I find that on sop too. I'm not particularly fit (bad back, cant exercise as much as I used to), but play about 9 hours a week (sop and trumpet) and don't smoke, but still really struggle on sop for long periods of time.

    Puzzles me a little - open to suggestions!!!
  15. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    I could make some pithy comment about it making a change from you talking out of it.......but I won't ;)


    p.s. The word "Rectus" is a latin word meaning "Upright".

    The RectUM is the part of the large intestine which, in a standing human, is fixed in a vertical position. The RectUS abdominis muscle is a muscle that extends from the Xiphisternum down to the pelvis and so in a standing human is in an upright position.

    Since there are 4,500 mammal species, and apart from humans and bats they all walk predominantly on 4 legs, the term "upright" is pretty inaccurate anyway.
  16. wally

    wally Member

    now i'm really enjoying this thread. this is good stuff.
    as a relative novice in the double B world i have until fairly recently been dismayed by the observation that many excellent tuba players seem to be enormous fat blokes (eg. steve sykes, matt routley, gavin saynor, derek jackson) I initially took this to mean that there must be some form of mysterious correlation between obesity and playing ability. Being a reasonably svelt chap I also took this to mean that unless I took up a rigorous training regime in mcdonalds and various beer and pie gymnasia I was never going to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of tuba playing. But then i began to notice more and more exceptions to this apparent rule. There are loads of good tuba players with waist lines - james gourlay being just one of them.

    I was delighted to realise therefore, that my original theory was complete claptrap. Its nowt to do with size. Its all about technique and training (surprise surprise).

    i know i'm stating the obvious here but i just want to share my thoughts and experience on this interesting topic.

    I also wondered about the possible existence of a play-off between abdominal muscle tone and abdominal capacity. ie. bulgy doming belly = high abdominal capacity and higher degree of diaphragm movement vs nice flat abs = less room for expansion but more control and pushing power.

    during the lead-up to a contest, despite regular visits to the gym, i avoided any form of abdominal exercise and concentrated instead on letting my belly dome outwards and practised sucking in as much air as possible. the results were ok but not particularly overwhelming. I did feel full of air but didnt find it remarkably beneficial to my playing.

    During the build up to another contest I did the opposite and did loads of ab exercises in the gym and worked on pulling my waist line in. I discovered this to be a far superior plan in terms of improving breathing and playing ability. I didnt feel any decrease in my ability to fill up on air but i felt to have so much more control over putting it through the instrument. As far as I'm concerned this is definatley the way to go.

    I realise that once again I have probably stated the obvious to many of you. Had i had access to some of the information above I could have saved myself a lot of worrying and messing about. All the same, its good to finally be pointed toward some of the stuff included in this thread and it is pleasing to discover that my own "experiments" - carried out in the dark - are in complete agreement with all of this.

    This anatomy site might be of interest to some of you. Its a bit like a butchers shop window but helpful all the same.


    this essay is over.

  17. Griffin

    Griffin Active Member

    I fit into the Skinny catagory! is there then a specific excersize that one could do in the abdominal area that would be beneficial?
  18. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    You could try 5/6 pints a night as a first step - proven to cure skinnyness in 99% of cases :D
  19. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  20. Griffin

    Griffin Active Member

    Looks a bit complicated... think I might try Stevetrom's suggestion!
    'tiss Christmas tho... shouldn't be a prob!!

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