Music. Once everything for me. It still is the old lover who hurts me from time to time. But now I understand that Music is just another expression of the whole truth (albeit a very complete one, I must say). Which also means there is more than one lover that’s going to stick with you for a lifetime, and that’s the way it is😏.
There are so many things that have been said about Music and its glories, let me share here some:
“I often think in Music, I live my daydreams in Music. I see my life in terms of Music.” – Einstein
“Without Music, life would be a mistake” – Nietzsche
“When Music hits you, you feel no pain” – Bob Marley
“Music is a safe kind of high” – Jimmy Hendrix
“When words fail, Music begins” – Henrich Heine
“Music expresses that which cannot be said, and on which it is impossible to be silent” – Victor Hugo
Music has three basic components: Rhythm (instinct), Melody (heart) and Harmony (brain). These three have been associated throughout the history of Western music with Africa, Asia and Europe, respectively. It makes sense when you see the peoples and cultures of each continent. I see it all the time, also nowadays in our cosmopolitan societies, one only has to look at the subtle delicacy of an oriental meal (where minimalism tendencies came from) or the powerful drumming energy of an African person’s temperament. It matches the environment too: the beautiful lotus, the fragile cherry tree flowers, and then the power of the lions, the majesty of elephants and stormy galloping of buffaloes. Watch the languages, phonetics and physical attributes too. Makes sense? Oh well, just this bit would do a lengthy separate article, so let’s get to the point.
When teaching exercises at the gym, after my experience with Music students and personal training clients, there are a few common recurring events that happen, so I always take into consideration the things that Music has taught me:
1. Rhythm. Probably the most obvious one. I am not only talking about performing the moves “to the beat of a given song”, as we do in Exercise to Music (aerobics, step, zumba, dance aerobics, etc.), which might be the most logical thing to happen (although I’ve seen some ETM classes where the instructor had no idea what the beat was, with no coordination or any sense of tempo🙄). I am mostly referring to performing your reps of a given set, with a constant rhythm, from beginning to end. Something that I see many bodybuilders missing, they get agitated towards the end of the set, performing their final reps in a hurry and losing form. For a classically trained musician like myself, that is sacrilege and it not only hurts my eyes, but also my breathing and my whole muscles, resonating in sympathy with those of such people😭. Please, do all of us a favour and engrave this on your brain with hot wax: One always ends the phrase with the same energy, intention, volume and tempo (speed) at which it started. There isn’t one single rep which is more important than the other, all of them have the same energy, and between them there is always the same space. Thank you. If you aren’t able to keep up with this, then it means you need to lower your resistance/weight/intensity, or your number of reps.
2. Flow or Cadence. This relates to the consistency between the beginning and end of a movement, the phrasing (eccentric or concentric, it applies to both). For example, when executing a Leg Press. I often see my clients stopping for a second at the end of the rep (almost locking the knees) and then returning, often not going through the whole ROM and wanting to “push” or reach the end of the platform with their feet as if life is going away and the rest of the movement doesn’t matter. In life it happens the same. We only want the end results, the end results, the end results! unaware that those will appear when we apply the energy consistently throughout the whole movement (it’s the walking that carves the path). So, be consistent with the force of your movement from beginning to end, not a single bit has more presence than the other, the whole exercise should flow smoothly. I use my music conducting skills to direct my clients to help them see😎. It works.
3. Dynamics/Expression. There is no such thing in fitness, I am afraid. In your exercises, there is no enhancement, no ‘small rep’ and no ‘big rep’, no agitation, no ‘all of a sudden’ rep, no “faster rep” or “slower rep”, no passion, no sadness, no happiness, no hidden meanings, no second intentions, and no laziness. All your reps must be equal, constant, and with no alteration of any kind. In Music, the energy of a set could be defined dynamically as “andante con brio” in the likes of an epic, vigorous march (that would add a touch of happiness and motivation to it😊). Of course, I am referring here to normal reps, not to 1/3, 1/7 or irregular counting ones, although those must also be constant and steady, the only thing that changes is the rhythm.
4. Breathing. I have seen clients literally holding their breath when they exercise. This is because of a lack of lateralisation (something that is taught to musicians from early stages) and control of the isolation of muscles playing different actions at the same time (e.g. drummers). And also because of getting anxious trying to “do” the exercise externally and forgetting about what fuels it (the breathing and its movement), i.e., “letting it” happen. Always breathe in through the nose on the eccentric (relaxation) part of the movement and breathe out through the mouth, with pressure, on the concentric (exertion) part.
All these are interconnected. And, if you are an avid one, you’ll see its correspondence with life in many aspects. See how opposites harmonize and create beauty together, how clashing rhythms intertwined always find their way forward in time, how the next immediate thing is a natural consequence of the previous one. How in the face of adversity one just looks at it in the eye and accepts it, because no matter how many mistakes you make, the Music keeps playing and if you don’t go with it, it steps on you, the current takes you and you drown.
So no matter how tired you get, always finish your set with the same intention you started. Fight through. Keep going. If you can’t accomplish it, set less ambitious goals and increase them overtime. You shall get there eventually. But do not compromise the integrity of your workout. You can’t cheat yourself 🙂.