Many people do not understand the true importance of warming up before you sing, play an instrument, or dance. The element that all of these activities have in common is the use of specific muscles that if not stretched properly could cause damage or slow one’s advancement in that specific area.
I realized while stretching this week for dance how unflexible I had become over the summer. Flexibility is one of dancer’s most important tools besides their technique because being flexible is crucial to the successful execution of most dance moves. Dance is all about control of body movements and the making lines and shapes with one’s body. Increased flexibility increases the grace and ease at which the moves are completed and enhances the visual appearance of a dance, which is of course the ultimate goal.
Stretching is the most crucial part in attaining and maintaining a dancer’s flexibility and keeping them from injury. If your muscles are not fully warmed up then there is a high possibility that you will hyper-extend a muscle or hurt yourself because of the nature of dance as a physically demanding sport all about body extensions. Dance is just like any other sport. If you do not practice, not only does your skill level drop but your body’s ability to keep up with the physical demands of the sport decreases. Over the summer, my flexibility waned because I was not dancing let alone stretching every week. I went from having both splits to having no splits and I realized this was going to put a damper on my physical ability to progress and perform as a dancer. The most important step in remedying this is stretching. I am getting to a point where in order to advance more I need to attain the well-rounded flexibility that is required to perform more advanced moves well. If the flexibility is not there than the moves look sub-par and are not worth inserting into a dance.
Warm-ups are also important to do before you sing. They essentially stretch and thereby strengthen the different muscles and muscles groups used for singing. Strengthening these singing muscles is vital to avoid straining your voice by using it incorrectly. For example, the diaphragm is a muscle that sits bellow the lungs, allowing them to expand down to get a deeper breathe. This deep breath allows a singer to really support their sound and is crucial for healthy singing. However, if a singer does not take a deep breath from their diaphragm, the lack of a deep breath can cause an unsupported sound, and this puts too much pressure on the vocal chords, resulting in strain. Additional muscles are also used for vocal control and placement. Specific warm-ups are designed to target and work different areas of the voice that are in need of extra work. Warm-ups really help singers not only prevent damage but create a versatile well rounded sound.
The same is true for instrumentalists, especially wind instruments. Warming up is vital in working muscles such as the diaphragm and others in the throat, mouth and face that control the air. To get the desired sound and tone on an instrument, the instrumentalist must control the speed, the amount and the type of air that is blown into the instrument. Specific warm ups just as in singing target and strengthen these muscles for better control.
I myself often find myself wanting to skip over a step that however vital I find tedious and boring. Warm-ups are almost the same every time; they are not exciting or fun to do. Stretching for dance can be painful because I am trying to push my body farther than it wants to go and not just for a few seconds but for minutes. Instrumental warm-ups are usually basic and repetitive and vocal warm ups can be frustrating because they expose the parts of your voice that are weak. But I know I have to realize that doing it will make me better quicker than not doing it and that then end result is worth it.