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Fitness training for singers

Fitness Training for Singers: Five Golden Rules for Busy Performers ⏱ 3 mins

Here are five no-nonsense fitness training tips for singers looking to improve their stamina and energy levels on and off stage.

Life on the road or the West End can be physically demanding, with singers expected to deliver high-octane performances night after night (sometimes in costumes that leave little to the imagination).

So what kind of exercise regime does a singer need to meet these challenges head-on and maintain the endurance to get through a long run of shows?

We put that question to Duncan Rock on the Singing Teachers Talk podcast. Duncan is an opera singer, physiotherapist and nutritionist (yes, really) and revealed his five tips on fitness training for singers.

1 Keep things varied

Don’t focus on one form of exercise. Instead, follow a varied regime that incorporates strength, mobility and cardiovascular endurance.

“When you only train your body to do one activity, you can get hyper-adaptation to the detriment of another capacity,” Duncan says. “If someone only does yoga, they might become very flexible at the expense of their cardiovascular fitness. Or if someone only focuses on strength, they might get strong, but at the expense of mobility of the joints.

“If you work on all three – strength, mobility and cardiovascular fitness – you will be as fit, strong and healthy as possible.”

2 Keep it sustainable

Signing up for a challenging event such as a marathon can be a great motivator. But after gritting your teeth through months of training and then running the big race, what happens next? “Often you go and do that big event, then that’s it – you lose your motivation and stop,” Duncan says.

If you’re looking to devise a fitness programme to keep you going long-term, you need it to be enjoyable.

3 Pace yourself

While high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has many benefits, it might not be the best idea for working singers.

“HIIT tends to be more synonymous with injury,” Duncan says. “You don’t want to miss a performance at the Royal Opera House because you were sprinting up a hill in the morning. It’s also more taxing on the body. When I was travelling the world as a performer, I couldn’t get up early, smash it in the gym and then rehearse all day.”

As an alternative, try 30 to 60 minutes of low-intensity steady-state (LISS) exercise three times a week. “It’s a bit more time-consuming, but it’s the best way to train the heart,” Duncan says.

Work at a level where it’s possible to speak, but you don’t feel like you want to talk too much. “If you’re so chilled you can recite Shakespeare, you’re not working hard enough.”

4 Listen to your body

While there’s nothing wrong with feeling a bit of discomfort when you exercise, stop if you experience pain.

“Pain is not necessarily indicative of tissue damage, but it is a warning of potential damage. We have this useful body signalling system; it’s valuable to listen to it.”

5 Eat well

A balanced diet will help provide singers with the energy and stamina they need to perform. “Don’t get too hung up on following strict rules. As a general guide, eat as many whole foods as possible and avoid processed foods.”

Learn more

Listen to the full interview with Duncan here to learn more about Exercise and Singing.

You can also take a deep dive into nutrition for singers by listening to our episode on The Truth About Singing and Dairy.


Interested in learning more about the voice? Want to train the next generation of singers? Why not become a singing teacher? Read more about our courses here.