30 Days and 30 Minutes to Becoming a Stronger Bagpiper. Go!

What is the one single thing that will improve your performance as a Highland bagpiper? Did you come up with an answer? It’s wrong if it is not what is the most important thing that will lead to improvement: Physical Exercise.

A previous series of posts here at Pipehacker.com, “Be a Stronger Piper” deals with this very issue. As I wrote in “Be a Stronger Piper, Literally,” it’s clear that good tonal production on the bagpipe requires no small amount of physical stamina and exertion. Being a stronger bagpiper is not just about stronger fingers and better quality playing, it is about being a stronger bagpiper, literally. The best part? It’s really simple.

Being in good physical condition is one of those easy, obvious things we can all do to improve our quality of life. But it’s not just about feeling good and improving your health, it carries a side benefit of making you a more fit piper as well. Long playing sessions, band practices, and endless competition can take its physical toll. Here we are, 30 days from the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. That is four weeks to put yourself in the shape you need for a grueling day on Glasgow Green—not too late to bring your body up to a level with noticeable improvement. Here is a modified version of “The Piper’s Power Workout” from the above-mentioned post that, if done daily for 30 minutes each day, can put you in the right condition to get you through the remainder of your competition season. Obviously, if you’re not used to doing regular physical activity, some caution is in order. It’s not a contest. Do what you can and don’t force anything. Stick with it and the gains will come more quickly than you think. If you are already in good condition, this is an excellent maintenance workout for the piper on the go.

The Piper’s Power Workout

This is a no-equipment workout anyone can do anywhere. It is a modified version of many “30-minute” workouts you can find with a quick Google search. Search YouTube for videos showing proper form for these exercises if you’re still unclear. Each is listed for 1 minute duration, but that is really 50 seconds on with a 10 second rest and reposition for the next exercise. No cheating!

1. IMPORTANT: Warm up for five to eight minutes. Do whatever you like to get your heart rate up. Jumping jacks, jog in place, or a combination of different things. Then do each of the following, one right after the other.

2. Jungle squats (1 minute)
3. Push ups (1 minute)

4. Reverse V lunges (1 minute)

5. Chair dips (1 minute)

6. Cardio (burpee/mountain climber combination) (2 minutes)

7. Abdominal crunches, sit-ups, or leg lifts / plank / V-ups (1 minute; alternate each exercise each time through the routine)

8. Take a 30 second break.

Repeat steps 2 through 8. Repeat again. Done.

The Step-by-Step

Jungle Squats
What you’re working: Quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves, the core.

How to do it: Start out in a basic squat position, making sure your knees are not extending beyond your toes and with weight distributed evenly on your heels. Pivot to the right 90 degrees on left foot while maintaining the squat position. Pivot back to starting point, staying in squat position and then pivot to the left 90 degrees on right foot. Pivot back to starting point and come out of squat position. While standing up, do not lock your knees. This is one Jungle Squat; repeat for one minute. Be sure to keep your back straight the whole time.

Push Ups
What you’re working: Pectorals, deltoids, triceps and traps, the core.

How to do it: Just about everyone knows how to do a push up but, a surprising number of people don’t pay attention to form. In order to get the most from push ups, it’s important to keep your body straight in the plank position at all times and move slowly and deliberately. Be careful not to arch your back. Quality over quantity. Continue for one minute. For a tougher modification, do an elevated push up using a chair, bed, bench, bar or other object that will hold your weight and not cause you to fall.

Reverse V Lunges
What you’re working: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, the core.

How to do it: Starting from the standing position, lunge backward at a 45-degree angle to the right, making sure your left knee does not extend over your foot. Explode from that lunge position back to the standing position. With only enough time to regain balance, lunge right back down, on the left side, going backward in another 45-degree angle. Explode back from lunge to standing position to complete one repetition. Repeat for one minute. As you lunge, keep your eyes looking straight ahead and focus on keeping your core engaged to maintain balance.

Chair Dips
What you’re working: Triceps, pectorals, rhomboids, deltoids, traps, lats and biceps.

How to do it: Face away from a chair. Bend your knees, lean back with your hands placed on the seat. Your fingers should be facing your back and your knees should be bent with feet shoulder width apart and flat on the ground. Lower yourself until your arms are bent at 90-degree angle and then push yourself back till arms are straight again. Repeat for one minute. To make this more difficult you can straighten your legs and even raise one leg at a time while you continue to dip.

What you’re working: The whole body and building stamina.

How to do it: A good cardio combination can be anything that gets your heart rate up but, here is a suggestion for a burpee and mountain climber combo. With feet shoulder-width apart, perform a squat, place hands on ground and thrust both legs back at the same time until you are in full plank position. From the plank position, perform six mountain climbers (in push up position, bring each of your knees up to your chest rapidly); right and left knee equals one mountain climber. Bring your legs back up to a squat position and stand back up. This completes one repetition. You can add a push up before the mountain climber to make this a bit more intense.

What you’re working: Abdominals, obliques, the core.

How to do it: Abdominal crunches and/or sit ups are done laying on your back with your hands gripped behind your neck. Bring your knees and shoulders together and apart, together and apart. Or, lift your upper body to your knees and back down again. Repeat for one minute. For the plank, put yourself in the push-up position but with your elbows and forearms on the floor. Hold for 50 seconds. Keep your body straight and do not arch your back. V-ups: laying on your back with your arms over your head, bring your hands and feet together. Bring them apart as far as you can without letting your arms or legs touch the floor—in other words, form a “V.” Bring them together again and repeat.

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