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In live events, from the start of your career until the end, you will be moving heavy boxes. Packing and unpacking trucks, lifting road-cases and subwoofers, carrying amplifiers, and so on so forth.

8/12/2022 – Articles

Keeping Fit In Live Audio

The 5 most beneficial exercises for people working in live events

Josh Hamill
Sound Engineer for JSD

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Key Points

  • Even though the job is physical, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise.
  • Start small, make the task easy at first and build up the habit.
  • Training strength helps to prevent injuries and makes physical labor less strenuous.

When working in live audio, from the start of your career until the end, you will be moving heavy boxes. Packing and unpacking trucks, lifting road-cases and subwoofers, carrying amplifiers, and so on so forth. Seemingly most things relating to live audio are heavy, and lifting heavy can take it’s toll on your body.

However, there are a few exercises that you can do that will greatly benefit your strength and longevity. Correct lifting technique (which should be covered in any induction into live events) can help to make sure you don’t become seriously injured due to bad form, but there is more that can be done; and it comes with other benefits too.

Why should you exercise outside of a very physical job?

A common objection that I’ve had when discussing with my colleagues the importance of exercise is “I get my exercise from the job” or another similar statement. While it is true that the job is physical, I don’t think you should neglect the need to exercise purely because of this fact.

A common objection that I’ve had when discussing with my colleagues the importance of exercise is “I get my exercise from the job” or another similar statement. While it is true that the job is physical, I don’t think you should neglect the need to exercise purely because of this fact.

Why? Well, exercise has a number of benefits that will directly help you within your profession in live events, whether in audio or not (everyone has to load trucks at some point). The main benefit is preventing fatigue and injury. If you conduct a simple exercise routine consisting of the exercises I will discuss below, you will build muscular strength and endurance in key areas that are injury prone. This will mean that after some time and dedication to your training, you will be less likely to experience injury when working, and your physical work tasks will become easier.

On top of this, exercise has been proven to release endorphins, improve mental health, improves cardiovascular health, and promote brain health among other benefits; but you’ve most likely heard all of this before. If you feel like beginning an exercise routine is an uncomfortable and foreign task, then start small. Make getting into the gym an easy task that doesn’t have much resistance. Pick your favorite and most enjoyable exercise, and simply do that with maximum effort for 20 minutes. As you build the habit, you can slowly increase the time you spend working out.

It takes 21 days to form a habit, so you must make it easy to commit to the task of exercising for this period before it can become a part of your routine.

Exercise 1: The Deadlift

A staple ‘compound movement’ in many exercise routines, the deadlift is especially beneficial to those working in the live events industry due to the muscles that it strengthens. ‘Compound movement’ means that the movement involves many muscles. The deadlift incorporates the hamstrings, hip flexors, spinal erectors, glutes, latissimus dorsi (lats), and upper trapezius (traps). These muscles all reside within your ‘posterior chain’ (the muscles of the back of your legs and spine).

The deadlift will decrease the potential for you to experience back pain due to lifting as it increases the strength and endurance of your spinal erectors (lower back). This exercise will also make it so lifting heavy road-cases or other objects becomes less strenuous. The main reason and point of importance of these exercises is to reduce the likelihood of injury and to increase strength in key areas. The deadlift is a hard exercise that incorporates a large amount of muscles, it alone will dramatically increase your strength, build decent muscle mass, and prevent injury from occurring in common places.

If you have never done the deadlift before, you must focus on your lifting technique. Start with an empty barbell and watch yourself side-on in a mirror. Your back should always remain straight, and your driving force should be through your legs and hips rather than the flexion of your spine. Ensure that the barbell remains as close to your body as possible, touching the front of your legs throughout the movement (or being very close to doing so). Training the deadlift incorrectly will cause the injuries that the exercise is trying to prevent, so make sure to nail your technique before you add any weight.

Exercise 2: Face-pulls

For work such as that in the live events industry, the lower back and the shoulders are key failure points and muscle groups prone to injury. The face-pull is an exercise that from my experience will bullet proof your shoulders.

I have been suffering from a rotator cuff tear for roughly 1 year, and I have been able to reduce my pain and discomfort down to almost nothing thanks to correct stretches and exercises – and a staple in all of my workout routines since my injury has been the face-pull. The face-pull is a fairly simply exercise that can be done either with a resistance band or a cable pulley machine. There are a few slight variations in this exercise that each target different areas of the upper back and shoulders, but the variation that I believe to be most beneficial is the one that focuses on strengthening the rotator cuff muscles.

The rotator cuff muscles are a cluster of small yet very important shoulder stabilizer muscles that contribute immensely to shoulder health due to their role as stabilizers. As the shoulder joint is one of extremely mobility, stabilization is crucial in preventing injury for movements that require overhead arm extension.

To do a face-pull that focuses on strengthening the rotator cuff muscles, you should be pulling from directly in front of you in a completely vertical position. Don’t focus on your arms during this movement, think of pulling ‘through your elbows’, this will cue for your rotator cuff muscles to kick in instead of your biceps.

Exercise 3: The Shoulder Press

After ensuring that you have developed significant strength in your rotator cuffs, and that you are not experiencing any shoulder pain, you should look to develop strength in your deltoid (shoulder) muscles.

The shoulder press is another compound movement that focuses on developing strength in your shoulders and arms, specifically your front deltoid, side deltoid, and triceps. This exercise can be done in a number of ways, but I prefer the standing barbell shoulder press. The reason why I would recommend this variation is due to this variations incorporation of upper back musculature. Also, by using a barbell, you are taking some strain off of the rotator cuff muscles. This is an important benefit if you are also doing face-pulls as your rotator cuff will likely be fatigued.

It is very important to not do this exercise if you are experiencing any amount of pain during the movement. If this is the case, consult a physical trainer so as they can assist in finding a variation of this exercise that best suits you (this goes for any of the aforementioned exercises).

To conduct the standing barbell shoulder press, set the barbell in a rack to chest height. Grip the bar with a pronated grip with your palms facing upwards. Step out from the rack, and push the barbell up above your head. As you push upwards, you will have to move your head back out of the way of the barbell. After the barbell has cleared your head, you need to bring your head forwards ‘pushing’ it between your arms. This last action is very important in ensuring that the barbell travels in a straight path upwards – this will prevent unneeded strain and potential injury.

Exercise 4: The Seated Cable Row

The seated cable row builds strength in your mid-back (lats, rhomboids, mid-trap) as well as in your biceps. Bicep strength is quite important in this profession as it is the primary muscle that assists you when holding up and wrapping heavy cabling. However, isolating the bicep with movements such as curls and bicep focused chin-ups is not as beneficial for strength as a rowing movement.

Rowing movements allow you to use a heavier load than a simple curling exercise. As such, the bicep responds more to strength stimulus. The seated cable row is a machine exercise and is extremely simple if you have access to the machine. Simply choose a grip (my recommendation would be a ‘close-grip’ attachment), select a weight, and conduct the movement. Again, as recommended for face-pulls, place your focus on pulling through your back rather than your arms. Remember, think of pulling through your elbows.

If you don’t have access to the seated row machine, or a cable pulley machine, there are a multitude of variations of this exercise that can be done with barbells and dumbbells. I would recommend choosing the simple dumbbell row if you have no machine access. The dumbbell row is conducted by leaning over whilst keeping a straight back and placing one hand on a workout bench whilst the other hand grips a dumbbell. Then, simply pull the dumbbell upwards keeping your elbows tucked into your sides.

Exercise 5: The Goblet Squat

A variation of the squat that involves holding a kettle bel or dumbbell up by your chest. This exercise is more functional for those working in live events due to the fact that most things that you will lift with your legs will be positioned on the front side of your body, rather than on your back (such as what a barbell back squat trains).

The goblet squat is also a beginner friendly variation of the squat that teaches you the mechanics of the movement. A squatting movement is very important to include in any exercise program due to its ‘bang for buck’. Again, the goblet squat is a compound movement that works the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, and the biceps.

To conduct this movement, bring a kettle bel or dumbbell up to your chest and hold it in the palms of your hands with your fingers facing outwards like you are cupping a goblet. Next, take a stance slightly wider than shoulder width, and flare your feet outwards slightly. On the downward movement, start by pushing your hips back before you bend at the knees. Take the movement to a reasonable depth, aiming for you knee and hip joint to be parallel before commencing the upward motion of the movement, returning to starting position. For those who are more advanced, consider doing a barbell front squat instead.

How To Start

As mentioned in the beginning, the most important thing that you can do to help you build the habit of exercising is make it easy.

Start small, and make it easy. Build the habit over time and make the process frictionless.

If you have never followed an exercise program before, here is what I would recommend. Pick a day to head into a gym to try out these five exercises. Then, choose your favorite, the one that was most enjoyable. After this, try to do this exercise twice a week to the following program: 3 sets of 10 repetitions. This should only take you approximately 20 minutes. As you continue, and 20 minutes becomes easy, then you can begin to add in a second exercise following 3 sets of 10 repetitions, and so on until you are following the five exercises and completing them twice a week.

Health is maintained through activity. You must be proactive about your health regardless of if you work a physical job or not. I argue that it is especially important if you work a physical job as it will not only make your job easier, but it will also help to prevent common injuries that occur due to physical labor. Strength training is in my opinion the best method of training your body to resist injury, and in the live events industry it is important to have a strong and resilient body that can withstand long hours, fatigue, and difficult lifting tasks.

This will be the last article of 2022. Thank you to all who’ve supported me on this journey so far and I look forward to continuing to write and share my passions with you in 2023 – I wish everyone a great holiday season and a happy new year. 

– Josh

Please note that I am not a personal trainer. Before beginning any of these exercises I recommend consulting with a qualified personal trainer in order to prevent the potential of injury.

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