Top Exercises for Orchestral Musicians

By Dr Susan Tyfield (M.Tech.Chiropractic)

National and international surveys show that the lifetime prevalence of performance-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs) in professional orchestral musicians ranges from 39-87%.

Over time professional musicians develop very specific patterns of how their nerves control their muscles. This is also called mapping. 

The cumulative effect of this can lead to adaptive changes which can include postural imbalances and asymmetrical strength and mobility. Despite this, very little research has been done to develop a targeted strength and rehabilitation program for professional orchestral musicians. For this reason a study was done by Chan C, Driscoll T and Ackerman B to develop and assess a specific exercise program for musicians. 

This program included neck, shoulder, back, abdominal and hip exercises and is very in depth with 5 stages of progression. 

Here are a few exercises from the first stage and we will cover the more complicated ones in future blog posts:

Warm up: 1. Standing with your weight even on both feet and do deep diaphragmatic breathing. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. As you take a deep breath in you should feel your abdomen raise up followed by the hand on your chest.

                     Do this 6-8 times slowly.

                  2. Roll your neck and shoulders for 30 seconds.

                  3. Gently reach to touch your toes

                  4. Do gentle controlled rotations for you upper and lower back.

Stage 1: Neck - Deep neck flexor exercise

              Shoulders - Middle and Lower Trapezius Activation

              Spine - Prone leg lift

              Abdomen - Single leg fall out

              Hip -  Deep hip external rotator activation (clam exercise) do without exercise band

Cool down: Same as warm up

These exercises are designed to target supporting muscles that are under-activated during playing. During the research study musicians voiced concern that the exercises would lead to fatigue and affect their practice but this didn't prove to be the case as the exercises are designed to work under activated muscles. 

Always remember the big self care habits, rest, hydrate, and a healthy diet. 


Chan, C., Driscoll, T., & Ackermann, B. (2013). Development of a specific exercise programme for professional orchestral musicians. Injury Prevention19(4), 257-263.