I have searched so much to find a good link between fitness and singing. I am struggling with breath support. There was a time when I was getting back into sports and all of a sudden everything worked so much better and I actually had the sensation of appoggio. I didn’t then link it to the exercises I was doing and stopped. And was very frustrated when this appoggio feeling just “went away”. Now I can’t seem to find the right exercises any more to experience the same again. Could you maybe give me a hint as to what sport exercises help? Or are absolutely necessary for good support? Or maybe stretches? I was thinking pushups and abs?
Thank you for your email. Your question touches on something I’ve been thinking about a great deal this week, and I’ll do my best to answer it.
What I have been pondering lately is how to help singers understand that, in fact, many of the things they find mysterious about technique can be made more transparent and relatively easy to work with through an understanding of kinesiology.
While art, imagination, and the transference of emotion through music are indeed mysterious, physical movement is not. Human anatomy, physiology and movement have been studied and codified in intricate detail. The field of Sports Science has its roots in ancient Greece, and advances in exercise physiology have accelerated throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. We now have extraordinary resources for optimizing the human body to perform in any arena.
You are looking back on a time when you were exceptionally physically active, and you suspect that there is a connection between your prior involvement in sports and a heightened sense of appoggio. Now that you are less active, you have lost that sense and hope that fitness can offer some tools to help you get it back. While you don’t mention the specific athletic activities or exercises you were engaging in, I can speculate that they led to the development of a stronger, more balanced core musculature, as well as enhanced strength and flexibility throughout your intercostals. However, engaging in a series of exercises targeting your core and rib cage will not by itself necessarily yield the results you are seeking. Any exercise that you engage in for a specific part of your body will impact the whole. One of the things that we have learned is that weakness in one area of the body is usually symptomatic of a pattern of imbalance that affects other areas as well. When there is a very specific skill that you wish to develop, it’s vital to take a comprehensive view of your overall physical condition and address any greater pattern of imbalance in order to avoid exacerbating it.
I’ll now get into the specifics of how fitness can improve your breathing.
To optimize any aspect of your singing performance, analyze the specifics of what you want your body to do, the extent to which you are already able to do it, the areas of strength, flexibility and coordination you must develop in order to improve, and the means to attain this improvement. Let’s apply this procedure to your question.
- Full range of motion available to all the joints involved in breathing (for which optimal alignment is a prerequisite)
- Balanced strength and flexibility throughout the musculature involved in breathing
- Excellent coordination between the muscles of inspiration and expiration
- A qualified fitness trainer can assess your alignment for postural distortions and imbalances – most everyone develops these to some extent, and they are nearly always possible to ameliorate through exercise.
- An Alexander Technique teacher, massage therapist, or other somatic instructor or bodyworker can assess balance in your breathing musculature.
- Your voice teacher can provide feedback on your breath management coordination.