Drumming can be a great workout but it entirely depends on the intensity of the drummer. High intensity drumming can burn calories similarly to cardio, while low intensity drumming might come up short.
Drumming Is Similar to Other Types of Cardio Exercise
I like to think of high intensity drumming as similar to cardio exercise. If you get your heart rate up and break a sweat while playing, that’s a good indicator that you’re playing with higher intensity. Playing drums doesn’t really provide resistance training like lifting weights does, but it can be similar to going for a brisk walk or hike, or doing something like using an elliptical machine or exercise bike at the gym.
Since it’s possible to play drums with a wide range of intensity, it’s hard to nail down exactly how many calories you might be burning during a session. You might be able to burn up to 1000 calories in an hour playing a high intensity show. But most drummers should expect to burn 200-500 calories per hour depending on how hard you play.
Eloy Casagrande is a great example of a high intensity drummer, he’s definitely getting a good workout when he plays stuff like this.
Track Your Drumming Sessions with An Activity Tracker
If you’re curious how much of a workout your drumming sessions actually are, you could try using an activity tracker like a Fitbit to gauge your sessions. If you focus on tracking heart rate while playing it can give you a better idea where you might be at personally as to whether your drumming is a good workout or not.
I like to check my Fitbit to see what it says after I get done with a drumming session if I’m curious about how hard I worked. If I play hard enough to keep my heart rate up for 30-60 minutes, it turns out to be a decent workout sometimes. I also get a kick out of what my Fitbit thought I was doing during that drumming session. Sometimes it’ll label it as an exercise bike session if I’m doing a lot of constant double kick work, other times it’ll log it as a jog or a walk.
Double Kick Bass Can Easily Add Intensity
When I think of high intensity drumming, I’m usually thinking of thrash metal, death metal or other aggressive styles of music, preferably with lots of double kick bass action. Other styles can certainly be high intensity as well, that’s just the type of music I have experience with personally.
If you incorporate lots of double kick into your playing, you’ll be using more of your full body and activating your core while playing drums and it’s much easier to get the heart rate up and break a sweat.
When I’m playing music with lots of constant double bass, I’m focusing on full body balance and getting a good leg workout while playing. This is especially true if I play harder during endurance building runs. That is missing when I’m playing styles of music that don’t incorporate double bass, so that’s why I find my death metal playlist to be more of a workout than anything else.
Hauling Drums Is Also a Workout
Actively gigging drummers are often getting a good workout not so much from drumming but from the work involved with hauling drums around from gig to gig. One of my local venues that I play at consistently is up three flights of stairs. So every time I play a gig there I lug my entire drum kit (plus I usually help with hauling some amp cabs and other gear) up three flights of stairs, which feels like more of a workout than playing the 30 minute set, and then I get to lug it all out afterwards. Checking the Fitbit after a day with one of those gigs is fun, the total activity from load in to playing and then load out often adds up to the equivalent of walking 5-10 miles, not to mention the several prolonged spikes in heart rate while hauling and playing.
How I Incorporate Drumming Into My Health Habits
I like to think of drumming, especially the more intense stuff, as an alternative to taking a brisk walk in terms of how I work it into my health habits. I’ll often go to the studio and play through some aggressive stuff on my metal playlist as a warmup before going to lift weights at the gym. In this way drumming is a good warmup. It gets the blood flowing and gets me pumped up to go lift. I especially rely on this routine during the winter when I don’t walk as much due to the cold weather.