7 stretches and exercises for musicians (with pictures)

As musicians’ workflows begin to center more and more around desks, we need to make sure we take care of our bodies as well as our minds in order to unlock creativity.

In this post, we’ll talk about a few stretches and exercises for desk-locked musicians, roughly inspired by yoga, calisthenics, and breathwork practices. Hopefully, the bodily adjustments in this post will help those spending tons of time at a desk avoid aches and pains from accumulated tension and stress.

1. Dropping the shoulders

Let’s start off with a simple adjustment. Generally, we have a tendency to hold tension in the shoulders and allow them to creep up to our ears. I caught myself doing it even while writing this sentence. Think about increasing the distance between your shoulders and your ears, but don’t allow your shoulder caps to roll forward. Instead, feel your collarbone becoming broader and your chest ascending as your triceps move back and your shoulders fall.

A person standing with posture that causes tension to build in their shoulders

Above: How not to stand / sit

A person standing with posture that is far more relaxed

Above: How to stand / sit

2. A stretch for your forearms

Start from either a seated or standing position. Extend one arm straight out, keeping the forearm on the same plane as the shoulder. Turn your fingers down towards the floor and try to send the heel of your hand out forward. Then, use your opposite hand to gently pull your outstretched fingers back towards you, beginning with the thumb, then each individual finger. If you’re constantly typing, this should feel fabulous up your forearm.


3. A stretch for alleviating tension

Standing up, reach your arms over your head. Reach up high, then move your shoulders down your back and away from your ears. Keep your shoulders down as you interlace your hands in a fist behind your back, fingers facing down. Push your fists down towards the floor and look up to feel your chest ascending. This is great for those who crane their necks over a laptop.


4. Seated pigeon pose

This might be challenging if you have tight hip points, so be careful here. Sitting up in your chair, with your knees at a 90-degree angle, place your left ankle on your right thigh. This might be enough for you, but if you’d like a deeper stretch, you can press your palms together with your thumbs touching your sternum. Now, start to fold over your legs with your back straight. Thinking about moving your chest forward will help you avoid rounding your back. You should feel this in your hamstring; if anything hurts beyond normal stretching, stop and return to a seated position. Hold for a few breaths, then slowly come back up and switch your legs to stretch the other side equally.

A person in the seated pigeon pose

5. Baby cobra pose

Lie facing down on the floor with your palms flat on the ground near your ribs, keeping your elbows in instead of splaying them out. Press the tops of your feet into the ground. Look about six inches in front of your face, move your shoulders down your back and away from your ears, and push the floor away with your hands to feel a beautiful upper pectoral activation that should feel amazing for those (like me) who tend to hunch their shoulders over as they work at a desk.


6. Knee lunge hip flexor

Start from a kneeling position. You can do this on a carpet, yoga mat, or floor, but if your knees feel uncomfortable in contact with your surface, then stop and add a blanket or pillow underneath. Put one leg in front with your foot flat on the ground. Your knee should form a 90-degree angle, and your ankle should be directly under your knee. Feel this stretch in the hip flexor, the muscle at the top of your thighs. Breathe into this position, sinking down slightly as you exhale. Then, switch and do the other side.


7. Spinal twist

Sit in a chair with your knees at a 90-degree angle to the ground. Raise your right arm over your head and bring it to the outside of your left thigh, palm facing out. Then, raise your left hand up, reach back around, and look over your left shoulder. Keep your torso over your hips as you look back and try to think about using your breath to bring your belly button to your lower back. For a little added leverage, feel free to grab the back of your chair and hold on, but don’t allow your shoulders to creep up as you revolve.


Hopefully these stretches help your body feel a little looser, especially if you’re frequently working from a desk. Do you have any other favorite stretches or exercises to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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April 10, 2020

Max Rewak Max Rewak is a record producer, audio engineer, and music writer, based in New York and currently working in Sounds content at Splice.