Dr. John Pursell stopped by to contribute to one of our conversations here and he mentioned an article he wrote in the March 2000 International Trumpet Guild journal. In his article, entitled Pumping Brass, Pursell summarizes what we have learned about weight training principles regarding athletic training and offers some thoughts about how those principles can be applied to building embouchure strength.
Brass players may be interested in Pursell’s discussion of the difference between building strength and building endurance, both of which are important to good brass playing. Athletes use different training principles to build one or the other, depending on their particular goals. If the weight training is being used to build strength, heavier weights are used with fewer repetitions. For building endurance the athlete will train with lighter weights, but use more repetitions.
A lot of Pursell’s practical advice isn’t really new or unique, but it’s nice to see supporting evidence. For example, many teachers recommend carefully controlled rest periods throughout a practice session.
Rest is essential to the proper function of the muscles. It is during the rest period that the muscles “recharge” themselves with ATP. Without enough rest, the body cannot keep up with the aerobic production of ATP, which is necessary for long-term activities. Instead, anaerobic production of ATP will continue, lactic acid will build up, and fatigue will quickly set in.
Pursell’s discussion of different brass pedagogues’ recommendations on when to rest while practicing is interesting in part for the way that brass practice has changed over the centuries, or at least how it was written about. He makes an excellent point at the end of this portion of his article. Continue reading