Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Value of Vocal Warm-Up and Cool-Down Exercises: Questions and Controversies

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Value of Vocal Warm-Up and Cool-Down Exercises: Questions and Controversies

Article excerpt

IN SINGING AND OTHER ATHLETIC ENDEAVORS, the value of warm-up and cool-down exercises has not been defined clearly. Relatively few studies have researched the effects of these exercises on muscle function and even fewer have studied their effect on singing-specific outcomes. The value of warming up before singing is accepted widely despite the paucity of scientific evidence to support its benefit. Singers often report increased pitch range, smoother transitions, and overall improved ease of singing after warming up. Warm-ups are a component of most voice pedagogy programs and many voice therapy regimens. The importance and use of cool-down exercises after singing is more controversial, just as it is in sports medicine. Studies in exercise physiology literature both support and refute their value. Although no consensus can be reached based on available scientific evidence, singing teachers and voice therapists should be familiar with the current literature in order to guide and counsel students appropriately.

The findings of exercise research can be applied in broad terms to singing. Through a comprehensive review of the literature, Hoh showed that laryngeal and limb muscles share several properties.1 Fast and slow twitch fibers are found in both locations. Slow twitch fibers (type I) generally are considered to be fatigue resistant. They can generate a steady flow of energy (adenosine triphosphate, or ATP) by oxidative metabolism that is supported by a rich blood supply and high mitochondrial content. Fast twitch fibers (types IIa, IIx, and IIb) generally lack the endurance of slow twitch fibers. They possess a wider range of speed and power made possible through glycolysis (sugar metabolism to lactic acid). Each set of muscles in the larynx possesses unique functional capabilities owing to the variable composition of fast and slow twitch fibers. The thyroarytenoid (TA) has a high type II fiber content that gives it the shortest contraction time of all the intrinsic muscles. The cricothyroid (CT) contains a much higher ratio of type I fibers, which slows its contraction rate four fold. The range of TA contraction speeds parallels those of very fast extraocular muscles, whereas CT contraction speeds approximate those of fast limb muscles. Beyond the mentioned similarities, additional histochemical specialization gives the larynx exceptional speed and endurance that are absent from extremity muscles of the same species.

Before warm-up and cool-down exercises can be applied clinically, basic biochemical and physiologic effects should be understood. Bogdanis and colleagues studied the effects of cool-down on metabolic, cardiopulmonary, and power output changes during repeated sprints.2 Thirteen young healthy male volunteers completed two 30-second cycle sprints. The sprints were four minutes apart and separated either by passive recovery (sitting still) or active recovery (cycling at 40% of maximal oxygen uptake). The active recovery group showed an expected higher heart rate during the recovery interval and a greater power output retrieval during the second sprint. Despite these findings, blood lactate and pH levels were not significantly different between groups. It has been suggested by Harris et al. that blood flow to recovering muscle is critical for the clearance of metabolites (such as lactic acid), which are assumed often to cause clinical muscle pain and fatigue.3 A recent study by Tenan and colleagues demonstrated no correlation between lactate levels and muscle fatigue as measured objectively by a decrease in the median frequency of electromyographic tracings.4 Although Bogdanis's study did not assess subjective fatigue, Tenan's findings call into question the correlation between metabolite buildup and muscle soreness. However, the study was small and cannot be considered definitive.

Law and Herbert attempted to quantify the effects of both warm-up and cool-down on delayed onset muscle soreness. …

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