LA-based voice and movement guru Jennie Morton gives her verdict on singers and six-packs.
In our Insta-obsessed, image-driven society, singers often feel pressure to have washboard abs. But this preoccupation with how our bodies look, instead of how they work, drives osteopath and performance coach Jennie Morton mad.
Jennie shares her views on singers and six-packs in a wide-ranging interview with the Singing Teachers Talk podcast (check it out here, it’s well worth a listen).
‘The singers and six-pack thing drives me nuts’
“It’s not helpful for a singer or dancer,” Jennie says. “The six-pack is the rectus abdominis muscle – the most superficial of the abdominal muscles, and they run sort of vertically from the bottom of the ribs down to the pelvis.
“We don’t want that to be tight and strong as a dancer, believe it or not, or as a vocalist – or as anyone really. But people are doing ab crunches to try and get that. What happens is because it’s a very superficial muscle, it’s going to get to the dominant quite quickly.
“What happens then is the deep spinal stabilizers that give us dynamic stability, not rigidity, switch off, because it’s like you’re all locked up at the front. Essentially, you’re creating a downward tug from the bottom of your ribcage to your pelvis, which is locking you down, then your spine behind that is de-stabilized.
“The whole idea of a six-pack is commercial nonsense. Some people naturally have a well-defined six-pack – but that doesn’t mean that it’s something we should all be striving for.”
Getting fit for the stage
Professional singers need to be fit to cope with demanding routines and choreography. But “being fit” doesn’t necessarily correlate with possessing razor-sharp abs. And there’s something else singers need to factor in: the impact of adrenaline.
Adrenaline pumps through the system when you’re on stage, bumping up the heart rate. “As a performer, you need to have a ceiling of fitness to allow for the adrenaline spike,” Jennie says.
“Just doing what you do in rehearsal is not enough. It’s why you can rehearse for weeks in the studio and yet on the first night still be on your knees, and all the breath phrasing you thought you had has gone out the window.
“The adrenaline ramps everything up a few pegs. You have to train aerobically to allow for the endurance capacity that’s required.”
The good news is that, according to Jennie, this is easy enough to do. “It doesn’t have to be anything structured. All you need to do is some form of exercise that gets your heart rate up to 80% of its maximum. (Maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age.) You want to do that activity for 20 minutes, three times a week. Basically, it’s one hour of your week broken up into three chunks.”
Listen to the full interview with Jennie to learn
- How she helps dancers learn to sing (and the challenges involved).
- Why singers need to understand vocal anatomy (but not obsess over it).
- How the ‘traditional’ approach to stage show rehearsals can be improved to reduce injury.
LISTEN HERE to Jennie Morton on Singing Teachers Talk.