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Athletic exercise and the voice

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I do a lot of physical training and while I try, can't always keep my neck relaxed. I don't talk, grunt, or close my throat, and yet my voice sometimes feels tight and restricted even after my abdomen has recovered. Is there anything else I can do to stop from putting stress on my voice while I work out?

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Hmm -- Hard to trouble-shoot this from what you describe.

If throat feels tight, you are (somehow) tightening it.

Sometimes the jaw gets clenched in heavy physical exertion, to help counterbalance neck/back positions, and this can put more tension into voice & breath

Over-developed abdominal muscles can impair good breath support, but that would show up when you're singing, rather than during the workout or right after.

Best advice is to

(1) find exercises that specifically relax your throat (tongue stretching, yawn, slow/silent breath, throat massage ...) and use them before/during/after your workout.

(2)see if you can move head around (roll back & forth on the bench) & do an easy vocal trill (rolled r or lip-buzz) DURING the strength-training moves. This will isolate neck& throat from the rest of the work. If you can't do both, reduce the weight. Harder on the ego but better for the voice.

my blog on weight-lifting is here on TMV,


best wishes --

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  • 3 weeks later...

I used to lift weight six days a week, run ten miles every day and been doing it for eight years. I pushed and strained my body like I was slamming it into a brick wall at every workout. I used completely wrong breath control by holding my breath all the time. I was a quiet speaker to boot. Actually due to I always got a sore throat for what to me sounded like shouting cause nobody heard what I was saying. After the training my throat was stuffy and sore too. I avoided going to clubs after working out as I know I was in for a whole night of shouting if I was to say anything to anyone.

I trace all this back to the gym. Now that I'm learning (or relearning actually) to sing I had to stop training this hard as I noticed my throat got stuffy after barely no singing at all. I now know better the vocal chords were the only muscle in my body I hadn't touched all this time. I'm slowly but steadily working them out without straining. I've improved tremendously over the past few month's. And people can hear what I say too :)

What I've learned is total control of my body muscles and that I have insane breath pressure. I bought Jaime Venderas breath support book and doing the exercises for the first time I could hold tones for more than a minute already.

I don't know what implications almost half a life of bodily abuse have done to my voice but only time will tell. And it's sounding pretty ok so far I must say. If I can make it I don't think anyone is a hopeless case.

Back at the gym I don't strain as much and take extra care to breathe properly and exhale when pushing. Try to invert the problem: I use the singing-like posture/breath support at the gym nowadays. I make sure I warm up, stretch and down my whole body, neck and abs at every work out. Even in between the session. And it's helping a lot.


Here's a great advice from Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Pumping Iron": Take what's working and improve it, and take what not working and change it.



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I used to work out a lot. Breathing for weightlifting is different than breathing for singing. In weightlifting, I would exhale on the exertion, depending on which direction it was. Exhale on a curl, inhale on the relaxation. Exhale on the contraction of a butterfly, inhale on the descent. But the breath had to flow freely. So, I didn't close or clench my throat. If I felt that was necessary, I was working too hard.

I think all you need to do is what you have been doing. Essentially, re-coordinating the muscles in your throat. In weightlifting, you should feel air escaping your mouth. In singing, you should be able sing without blowing out a candle. Because singing requires the vocal folds to be adducted properly and the required air pressure is less than it is in weightlifting, and slightly more constant than the way most people speak. You probably had problems before because you didn't change breathing from gym to speaking.

Anyway, good luck.

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You probably had problems before because you didn't change breathing from gym to speaking.

Haha, yes I think I was sort of trying to explain that, but with a lot more words. Spot on.

Now that I know it it is much easier to dent it out.

Anyway, do you drink lots of water during your work outs?

It is also possible that the muscles around the stomach area are simply tired after working out and need several hours, or even a good nights sleep to recover fully. There are internal and external obliques going all over the place so they may just be a little swollen like any other muscle after a work out. But it's just a thought.



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I would hydrate before a work-out and after. Which is more important than hydrating during the work out. Of course, mine were not marathon sessions. 3 or 4 sets of heavy weight at 10 to 15 reps. Butterflies, curls, bench press, Iron Cross, one-arm push-ups with feet together. Leg extensions, running, martial arts. Oblique crunches, some pilates. Some yoga, including stomach lifts. I used to lift cast-iron free weights. Later, I used the Total Gym. With it, I could do everything I ever did by adding weight to the slider just being safer. Usually, I would go through the work-out quickly, not for aerobic benefit but because I liked efficiency. Also, I was not a pro in competition. Just an average guy trying to maintain decent proportions. I am 6' 6" and worked up to a 46 inch chest and 38 inch waist. In the last couple of years, I changed what I eat and lost weight. I used to weigh around 254 lbs. Now, I average 225. 215 in the summer. I work in construction and you just lose water and there's no way around it. While working an 8 to 10 hour day, I keep hydrated all the time. That habit has stayed with me as I move into management, yet again. I still drink some kind of fluid all day long.

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