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As a drummer who likes to play high-energy music (fast, aggressive metal) it's safe to say I burn a fair amount of calories when doing so. But I've been drumming for over a decade and despite the amount of it that I've done, it hasn't really had any (visible) effect on muscle growth. Every time I drum I try and push the limit of how fast I can go until I start to ache, so I'm definitely doing something to the muscles in my arms and legs, but it definitely isn't building mass.

I remember reading somewhere that speed based exercise can actually reduce muscle mass as the body tries to make itself more efficient, but heard no evidence to support this or an explanation of how.

Can someone please explain to me how exercise such as fast drumming affects muscle growth and development in relation to traditional muscle building exercise like lifting weights?

I am looking for a explanation of the biology behind this by the way, not fitness advice.

Clarification - for non-drummers, the "speed exercise" I'm referring to is what are called blast beats, where the aim is to keep an often inhumanely fast repetitive beat going. It's common in more "extreme" music such as death metal. While trying to maximise efficiency by minimising the amount of effort required is the goal, the muscles required are undergoing a rapid contraction-release cycle, often sustained for minutes at a time, and sometimes for an entire song.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's an interesting question +1. Just as a comment, body building is typically done by using weights/force and to increase the weights/force over time. Those drumsticks are too light. Although it consumes energy, it doesn't need muscle mass to do it. It needs endurance to complete an hour or two of intense practice, but no muscle mass per se. Further, I worked for a long time unloading trucks. Day in day out lifting ~15 kg boxes for months on end didn't do anything either. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Oct 20 '15 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ With that in mind, what factors determine a muscle's endurance? $\endgroup$ – leylandski Oct 20 '15 at 13:17
  • $\begingroup$ I think that's an entirely different question altogether. Muscle building is akin to body building. Endurance quite another. Do you want muscles or endurance? Perhaps a clarification in your question proper is appropriate. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Oct 20 '15 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ what do you mean by "speed based exercise?" $\endgroup$ – Nick Oct 20 '15 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ In this case I mean what drummers would call blast beats, where the aim is to keep a continuous but very fast beat going (some would refer to it as a wall of noise). Usually the aim is to minimize the amount of movement required because of the extreme speeds, so it's really about efficiency. But even though the movement is as minimal as it can be, the fast "back and forth" can still tire you out. $\endgroup$ – leylandski Oct 21 '15 at 11:28
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Your body creates muscle after an exercise through a process where it fuses muscle fibers together to form new muscle protein strands called myofibrils. these myofibrils increase in size as workout intensity increases, leading to muscle growth. Muscle growth occurs when muscle protein synthesis happens faster than muscle tissue breakdown 1.

Since you are never really increasing the amount of strain on your muscles(i.e. by adding more weight to a workout) there is no incentive for your body to create more myofibrils, rather it will just replace the ones that were torn during your drumming.

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