Strength Training for Musicians: Good or Bad?

Updated: Nov 12

This is often a highly debated topic in the music community. As someone who has gone through 3 degrees and is finishing a 4th, I have had teachers and performers tell me (both trombone and non-trombonists) that strength training will negativey impact my playing. Sometimes this advice is vague, sometimes it is more specific, such as added tension, tightness, effort, or strain in the sound.

Before I give my opinion, let’s get some context! Let’s take a look at 3 studies published within the past 10 years so we can start gathering data to make our own educational and informed decision.

Lets take a look at a study conducted in 2017 (1). This study suggests that:

1️⃣ Strength training correlates with reduced playing-related pain

2️⃣ Strength training has positive effects on playing performance, based upon participant feedback, except for approx. 18% of the participants who experienced “slightly negative” effects.

Side note: what are the “slight negative” effects? I am not sure - this definition was left up to the discretion of the musicians participating in the survey. It is important to note that there are many contributing factors to unhealthy + unsustainable exercise including load on the body, nutrition, sleep, hydration, recovery, form, intensity of exercise, and movement pattens, to name a few. Any of these factors can interrupt the recovery process and cause many negative affects, including the injury cycle. If you don’t know what an injury cycle is, check out this previous blog post.

Let’s take a look at another study conducted in 2012 (2). This study suggests:

1️⃣Strength training can aid in injury prevention by increasing strength of the ligaments, tendons, tendon to bone, joint cartilage, and the connective tissue sheaths within the muscle.

2️⃣ Strength training may reduce the occurance of swimmer shoulder, tennis elbow, or other motion specific related activities.

Side note: musicians are prone to repetitive stress injuries.

3️⃣Resistance training may also be performed to correct muscle imbalances, therefore reducing the risk of injury. Side note - if you don’t know what a muscle imbalance is or how they happen, be sure to check out the injury cycle blog post here -

Side note: although this study wasn’t specifically evaluating musicians, many musicians struggle with repetitive stress injuries, including tennis elbow and carpal tunnel.

Lastly, let’s take a look at a study conducted in 2014, titled “Effect of a Musicians’ Exercise Intervention on Performance-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of an exercise program tailored to a sample of 85 professional orchestral musicians on PRMDs (performance-related musculoskeletal disorders - aka tension, tightness, pain, etc.).

Here is what the study found:

1️⃣ Exercise participants reported a reduction in frequency and severity of PRMDs during playing

2️⃣ Exercise intervention was rated to be moderately to highly effective for 3 performance related factors:

  1. Strengthing muscles that support playing

  2. Learning techniques that support playing

  3. Posture

3️⃣Other benefits found by the paricipants after the 10 week program

  1. Easier movement outside of practicing

  2. Increased confidence in their performance

  3. Higher levels of concentration

  4. Higher energy levels

  5. Increased level of performance during rehearsal, private practice, and performance.

With that said, what are your thoughts?

For me, th