By Darren Perkins
It’s not enough having the highest quality drumsticks and kits available. Your hands and wrists also play an important and integral part. And that may sound obvious, but it’s vital to keep your body in sync with the music you’re playing.
The only way to achieve this is to prepare through a series of stretches and exercises, gaining muscle memory for the actions you use the most in your playing and preventing injury when you step outside those boundaries.
These physical activities are designed to keep your hands agile and avoid the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Stretch Out Before You Play the Drums
Before starting on any drum exercise or stepping onstage for a gig, it’s important to stretch those hands and wrists. They are the most important tools in the drummer’s arsenal. You can do these warm-ups in a matter of minutes, but the benefits can last a lifetime. Here’s a starter list of some helpful stretches.
1. Shake Those Hands, Arms, and Wrists
Start by shaking your hands at a controlled pace as if you are shaking off water after washing.
2. Stretch Those Hands
Start with one arm and hold it up with your palm faced upward. Take the other hand, gently pulling back on the fingertips of the upward hand. The muscles in your wrists and forearms will begin to stretch.
Afterwards, place your fingertips on any surface’s edge and push the arm downward. Repeat the process with the other hand. The purpose of this exercise is to stretch the arms and wrists a little bit further by pushing your fingertips back to you.
3. Make “the Pretzel” — Wrist and Arm Stretch
This next exercise will take some getting used to, but it will benefit your entire torso. Hold the drumsticks together using both hands facing upward. Use the right hand to lift then twist above and below towards the elbow of the left arm. You should form an “L” with your arms, the sticks vertical to your left arm. This exercise is intended to pull your left hand by twisting in the other direction.
Afterwards, pull your left hand in front of you and rotate it below until the arms are inverted completely from the position you started. Don’t forget to hold the drumsticks tightly, since they create the stretching effect. If you can, try to pull the inverted arms back to your chest. You may experience some pain from this effort.
Reverse the twist steps to return to your original position. This exercise earned the “pretzel” name because of the hand maneuver. It can cause you some pain at first, but the benefits and effect will prove invaluable to your drumming career.
Hand and Wrist Exercises to Improve Coordination
1. Strengthen that Grip
For this exercise, you can use a metal grip strengthener, squeeze ball, or even a tennis ball, as well as a bag of rice. You can do this activity while watching or listening to your favorite music. Squeeze for at least ten seconds every single time. Do this exercise as often as possible if you want to build your endurance as quickly as possible.
2. Increase Your Wrist Control
Use any material that doesn’t bounce back like a pillow to increase your wrist control of the drumstick. This exercise will force you not to solely rely on your drum’s bounce-back energy. Paradiddle exercises and other activities using a metronome will increase your speed.
3. Coordinate Your Fingers
You only need the metronome for this exercise. Start tapping with your pinky finger first. After a few beats, continue with only your ring finger, then repeat the process up to your thumb. This will train the fingers to work independently of each other. You will then get a better grip and pivot control of the drumsticks.
Strengthen Those Wrists
Strong wrists are needed if you want to have the strength to play all day or night and for many years down the road. It’s a good idea to at least give those wrists a nice workout. Here are some things you could do at home:
- People normally use their dominant wrists in everyday activity. One way to strengthen the weaker wrist is to use it for normal activity. This can range from brushing the teeth to stirring a hot drink.
- Surprisingly, golf wrist exercises could help you a lot. Hold the golf club at its handle and standing with the arm at your side. Point it upward using only your wrist, then point back downward again.
If you have other exercises that can be helpful to drummers out there, please feel free to post them in the comments section below. And if you’re looking to expand your skills on the skins, create a more cohesive and funky rhythm section with the right tools and tactics in our new free course series, Writing Funk Grooves for Drums and Bass!
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Darren Perkins is a drummer and teacher, and the owner of Red Drum Studios in Australia. If you are looking for drum lessons in Melbourne, you can visit Red Drum Music Studios and make an appointment here.