Stretching isn’t just for physical activity; it can also improve your singing voice. Performing simple stretching exercises before you sing can help alleviate tension and promote good vocal technique that will allow you to reach higher notes, project more volume and deliver powerful performances with less effort.
How does stretching help singers?
Stretching exercises can be beneficial to singers in many ways.
They help improve posture, increase flexibility and range of motion, relax the muscles used during singing, reduce tension and stress within the body, improve breathing capacity and create a sense of balance between breath support muscles. Regular stretching helps keep your vocal cords healthy as well as improving your overall performance capability.
For singers wanting to increase their range or refresh themselves for a vocal performance, stretching often makes an ideal warm-up routine before singing begins. Many voice teachers will recommend stretching exercises particularly when introducing new repertoire or working on extending range safely with beginners.
Stretching also serves an important role in preparing for any physical activity involving the use of our bodies- including singing!
What kind of stretches are good for singers?
There are different types of stretches which target different aspects that may be beneficial for singers.
Some stretches that may be good for singers include targeted stretches for specific muscles and joints, dynamic stretches which involve moving the body in an active manner rather than simply holding a pose (think ‘warming up’ type movements), whole-body stretching as well as breathing exercises to promote relaxation/tension relief.
Targeted (or Static) Stretches
This refers to stretches that target specific muscles used during singing. These muscles can be specifically targeted with stretches to promote flexibility, range of motion and relaxation. These include stretching the chest wall, abdominal muscles as well as neck and shoulder girdle (the area where your shoulders connect to the back).
Some common targeted stretches for singers:
- Chest wall stretch: Hold your arms out in front of you at shoulder level and open them out wide as far as is comfortable. You should feel a gentle pull/stretch across the chest muscles.
- Abdominal stretch: While sitting with legs crossed, fingers locked behind head to support it and elbows pulled back slightly, gently lean backward while keeping spine straight until a gentle stretching sensation is felt across your abdomen.
- Neck and shoulder girdle: Sitting in a chair press your chin down towards your chest. You should feel the muscles of your neck stretching.
Dynamic Stretches for Singers
Dynamic stretches involve controlled and repeated movements which focus more on ‘warming up’ muscles in the body to help them become more extended. These are active, controlled stretches which involve moving parts of the body rather than holding still to stretch.
Dynamic stretching involves movement of muscles rather than just holding a pose; this kind of stretching is usually done before engaging in physical activity (such as singing) because it helps increase blood flow throughout body parts used during performance, increases flexibility and range of motion while also readying our bodies physically for upcoming activities.
Dynamic exercises are best performed prior to singing as they prepare the muscles ready for use; they can also be beneficial during a break between sets or songs in order to avoid straining or fatigue.
Dynamic stretching also helps with growing accustomed to sustained movement while exercising good posture throughout a dynamic activity, such as performing onstage.
Whole Body Stretching for Singers
This involves stretching the whole body, focusing especially on areas that support our breath during singing by loosening up arms, legs and any other muscle groups used in performance.
These stretches can be done to promote relaxation before a vocal performance or between sets while allowing one’s muscles some rest from use.
Breathing Exercises for Singers
Breathing exercises involve deep inhalation/exhalation techniques which help relax and energize the body as well as reducing tension within it.
They are particularly useful when we feel ‘frazzled’ mentally or find ourselves with shallow breathing due to poor posture or lack of concentration; they guide us towards building more awareness of our diaphragm (the primary area where we should be initiating movement from) and how it moves both upon inhaling/exhaling air (we want this movement to originate mainly from here).
It is always recommended that before experimenting with any exercises that you consult with a professional who has had a chance to hear and understands your voice. As always, it may be suggested to consult with a medical professional if you have any concerns about the health of your voice.