Picture this…You spend the better part of the night “Hittin’ Skins”. But, when the act is complete, do you feel rejuvenated or completely drained? For those of you non-drummers out there who may be reading this…Get your mind out of the gutter! However, for those of you who are constantly grinding, holding down late night gigs or any gigs for that matter, you know exactly what I mean. Being the wife of For Loud Anointed Musicians Owner LaMar Merchant, I have firsthand knowledge of how draining and rejuvenating playing the drums can be for him. I’ve witnessed him swinging away on the kit from 10pm to 2am with only a couple of short breaks in between. Then, exit the stage to thunderous applause only to break down drums and hardware. If it’s a Saturday night, don’t bother waking him up early on Sunday. He has exhausted all his energy. He’s down for the count…stick a fork in him. This drummer is wiped out! I’d rather have that than the alternative. It’s not often that the FLAM owner hits a dryspell, but when he does watch out. Keep him away from the kit too long and the bear comes out (Laugh Out Loud). Clearly, as draining as playing the drums can be, he needs them in order to thrive. So, now that we’ve established that he’ll never part with the kit, the challenge now is how can he have a successful relationship with her without being constantly wore out?
It’s been said that the drums is one of the most physically demanding instruments. By playing them, musicians use the body’s muscle groups to deliver power, speed, endurance and coordination over long periods of time. Any good drummer knows you’re using 4 way independence or all 4 limbs when playing. My husband often ends a night of playing by saying, “I’m exhausted. I know I must’ve burned 1000 calories.” The irony is that, while drumming increases your heart rate, causes you to sweat and burns calories, it’s better if you’re in shape when you play. Don’t take my word for it. I decided to interview some drummers to find out for myself. When I decided to do a story on the benefits of drummers staying fit, I literally had to chase down Houston Drummer Jamarcus Brown. After a few texts to try and secure an interview, I caught up with him in the middle of his nightly run. I was shocked to learn that he runs at least three 5 k’s a year. He informed me he runs 3 times a week and works out to keep his heart rate and his chops up. He even challenges Musicians to hold each other accountable. “I use technology to hold me accountable. I have a Fitbit. I have a Garmin watch, things that can keep track of what I eat and monitor my heart rate to let me know how I’m progressing,” Brown says. For you drummers and percussionists out there who may be slacking on your fitness game or who, let’s be honest, are sitting on the couch eating a box full of donuts as we speak (wink, wink), don’t be intimidated. Jamarcus admits he wasn’t always this in shape. The church drummer recounts a personal story where he was required to play “Shout Music” every Sunday at his old church for 30 minute intervals. Well, for those you who don’t know what that means, I’ll break it down. Jamarcus had to wear the kit out for 30 minutes straight playing up tempo Gospel music. He remembers laughing, “Playing all that “Shout Music” wore me out. I remember one Sunday gasping for air after playing. Now, you know your cardio must be bad if you’re gasping after being on the kit!” Jamarcus was determined to do more cardio. He started running little by little to build up his stamina and endurance. Now, when he plays for church, he doesn’t find himself gasping for air. Jamarcus says increasing your cardio is so important for endurance.
United Cross Training Owner and Strength and Conditioning Coach John Kennedy aka “Boss” says building up your core is even more vital for drummers sitting for long periods of time. “I think you guys should deadlift as much as you can. That’s going to strengthen primarily your back, but every muscle in your body, especially your core.” The Sugarland Trainer, also, suggests investing in a foam roller or a ball to stretch out the back. That advice has definitely worked for Drummer Marc Dipasupil who works out at United Cross Training. His training with Kennedy usually involves a full body workout building up his arms, legs, back and core. Dipasupil says the bottom line boils down to discipline. “You want to be in control of the instrument, not the instrument being in control of you.” Dipasupil sees himself not just as a Drummer, but a vessel. “As far as being a Christian too, like you wanna’ give your best to God. You don’t wanna’ give him your leftovers.” Houston Drummer Jamarcus Brown agrees, saying if you prepare, you’ll have plenty to give. Now, he shows up 15 to 30 minutes early for gigs just to stretch his arms and back to keep his limbs loose while on the kit. It’s about cardio, core strength and commitment. And, for Drummers who think it’s okay to cut corners, he cautions. “Stay up all night and eat late. They call it grinding, but it could catch up with them in the long run. I know you’re grinding, but are you grinding for your health?” You have to ask yourself…If I cut too many corners, will I be here to live out my dreams on the kit?
STORY BY: NIKOLE MERCHANT, FLAM NEWS