Comparing the Impact of Specific Strength Training vs General Fitness Training on Professional Symphony Orchestra Musicians: A Feasibility Study

Med Probl Perform Art. 2017 Jun;32(2):94-100. doi: 10.21091/mppa.2017.2016.


Musculoskeletal symptoms, especially in the upper body, are frequent among professional symphony orchestra musicians. Physical exercise may relieve pain but might also interfere with playing performance.

Objective: To evaluate the feasibility and effect of "specific strength training" (SST) versus "general fitness training" (GFT).

Methods: A feasibility study using randomized controlled methods. Primarily, evaluations involved self-reported impact on instrument playing and satisfaction with the interventions. Secondary evaluations included pain intensity, hand-grip strength, aerobic capacity, body mass index, and self-assessed physical fitness. A total of 23 professional symphony orchestra musicians were randomly allocated to either the SST (n=12) or GFT (n=11) groups. Participants conducted three 20-minutes exercise periods/wk at the workplace for 9 weeks.

Results: Evaluations of both interventions showed that approximately 50% of musicians were satisfied with the interventions and experienced a positive impact on playing, while 18% reported a slightly negative impact. From baseline to follow-up, SST showed a significant reduction in pain (26.3±22.5 to 11.4±15.2 mm), with no significant reduction for GFT (19.7±24.0 to 13.5±26.0 mm). GFT significantly improved aerobic capacity (34.1±7.9 mL/min/kg to 40.0±13.6 mL/min/kg) compared to no significant gain for SST. For GFT, a significant improvement was seen in self-reported muscle strength (5.7±1.3 to 6.5±1.8) with a tendency toward significant improvement in self-reported aerobic fitness (5.6±2.3 to 6.2±2.5).

Conclusion: Exercise interventions have the potential to improve musicians' working situation. For future research, muscle-strengthening exercises and aerobic fitness exercises might be combined in an intelligently designed program, which may include other relevant educational activities.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Music*
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Resistance Training / methods*