Nobody ever told me to do this.
I wish they had, years ago.
As a typical music geek kid, I wasn’t into sports as a youngster, preferring to practice, listen to and play music. Consequently I had poor muscle tone, particularly in my upper body.
I had “grampa bod” at the age of 14.
A massage therapist told me once that my posture was “down into my hips,” and I had no idea what she was talking about – although by my 40’s I had chronic pain in my psoas, quadratus lumborum and iliacus muscles (core muscles connecting the pelvis, spine/low back and legs), especially on the right side, from opposing the arm weight I was putting into the bass.
It became chronic.
In later years, around age 35, I started exercising – jogging, walking, Stairmaster, and (later) an exercise ball. These measures helped somewhat, but my body never really changed. My weight would go up and down, but my upper body muscle tone and posture remained pretty much the same, although it did begin to improve when I started using the yoga ball.
Lately my work has become more sedentary as I’ve become busier writing and arranging music. Playing the bass more at least had me moving around more, schlepping the bass to gigs etc.
Last winter, after a sustained period of sedentary work, I ended up in crisis with my back – the whole system of postural imbalance led to “restless leg syndrome,” chronic acute back pain, and impaired ability to walk. Sciatica? Slipped disc? I didn’t know.
After poking around in my hip, I found the principal sources of pain. My leg muscles, particularly the right side of my right thigh, were incredibly tight. The hip in front of the pelvis bone was a source of constant pain. The thought of losing mobility and becoming disabled motivated me to try to do something about it.
All of the core hip muscles were tight, weak, conflicting with each other, and out of balance. One day, just to try it, I took a pair of eight pound hand weights (I used to use occasionally on the yoga ball) out for a walk. Moving my arms around with the weights in my hands, I found that the weights, when used to oppose the motion of my walk, dug right down into the iliacus, quadratus, and psoas. Hand weights reached down into the core of my hip muscles! How weird! But – there was a distinct sensation that the pain was a good pain, a liberation. Muscles long ignored were being challenged, releasing their stored toxins and tightness, and bringing relief. It felt like a deep itch was being scratched for the first time.
One side effect of the weights was I started to get muscle tone in my upper body for the first time in my life. Upper back and neck issues started to disappear, and I began to gain muscle mass and definition.
The bass has started to feel lighter in my hands, and my muscle memory has become more consistent, improving my intonation. The eight-pound weights are starting to feel light, and I’m planning to move up to ten pounders.
This new habit of taking the weights out on my walk has done more to improve my physical shape, endurance, wellness, posture, confidence, and a million other things, and done it quicker than anything else I’ve tried in my entire life.
I can’t recommend it highly enough.