British Association for PERFORMING Arts Medicine

Don’t Cramp Your Style


This factsheet is also available as a folding pocket sized leaflet. To order copies of the leaflet please email

Check our health resources for more advice and resources, including guidance on warm-ups, physical and mental health, vocal health, nutrition and touring. Find out about our free healthy practice training sessions and creative community support by looking at our events.



Warm Up Exercises for Musicians

All skilled physical activity, including music performance, should be preceded by a warm-up to increase the blood flow to muscles, free up motion and prepare the body for healthy and effective activity.

Here are some useful exercises to help you warm up before you play. Remember:

  • A warm-up does not involve stretching. You should only do gentle stretches after playing once your muscles are warm
  • A breathing exercise or visualisation can help you mentally prepare. If you are nervous, stay positive. Remember that fear is close to excitement and telling yourself I’m excited about this performance can make a big difference
  • Check your posture. Stand with feet a hip width apart and knees slightly bent. Breathe slowly and rhythmically throughout
  • Keep well hydrated. Drink enough water before, during and after practising and performing
  • Be careful if you have high blood pressure or feel dizzy. STOP if you feel pain. If you are hypermobile (very flexible), you should seek advice from a performing arts specialist
  • Don’t forget to take regular breaks during practise and performance. You can repeat the warm-up exercises to release tension and to re-align posture
  • Check the BAPAM website for more healthy performance guidance and contact us if you have any queries or concerns 

Exercises 1 – 6

BAPAM_Head Turns

1. Head Turns

Turn your head from side to side

BAPAM_Head Drops

2. Head Drops

Drop your head forwards and backwards


3. Shoulders

Raise and lower your shoulders, and roll forwards and backwards


4. Arms

Swing each arm full circle

BAPAM_Side Bends

5. Side Bends

Hold your left arm overhead and tilt your body to the right. Alternate with bends to the opposite side

BAPAM_Pulse Raiser

6. Pulse Raiser

March on the spot with opposite arms swinging

This exercise is aerobic: build up stamina by starting for 1 minute and increasing by 30 seconds each week to a maximum of 3 minutes

Exercises 7 – 11

BAPAM_Wrist Bends

7. Wrist Bends

Relax your arms and hands by your sides with the palms facing in. Bend and extend your wrists

BAPAM_Wrist Rotations

8. Wrist Rotations

Relax your arms and bend them at the elbows. Circle your wrists


9. Forearms

Rotate forearms outwards and inwards



10. Hands

Form and release a fist

11. Fingers

Spread your fingers then bring them together

Cooling down after playing


  • Play something soft, slow and simple
  • Gentle stretches help lengthen muscles out of play postures
  • Sit or stand with feet wide apart. Allow arms and body to fall forwards and hold for at least 1 minute, feeling muscles lengthen down your back
  • Lie or sit and breathe slowly, allowing ribs to extend sideways
  • Quietly contemplate what you have been doing
BAPAM_Sit or stand

Authors: Drusilla Redman, David Fielding
Illustrations: Luke Skirenko, Alan Watson
Acknowledgements: Jill Guymer, Lucy Heyman, George Odam, Sarah Upjohn


Drop us a line

BAPAM is a Registered Charity No. 1167785
Contact us:

London Office

British Association for Performing Arts Medicine
63 Mansell Street, London, E1 8AN