Forget About The Gym! Play Rockband and Guitar Hero For Fitness

August 31, 2009 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug


Guitar Hero for fitness

In a previous post, I talked about unique ways to build muscles, forearms to be specific. The great thing about most unique approaches to building muscle is that they often put an emphasis on building functional strength. This is strength that you would use performing everyday tasks from pulling, pushing, climbing or lifting. These are benefits that you don’t get when using weights machines. These unique approaches are also very good for those that either,

1) Don’t have time for the gym

2) Simply not a fan of them

This is where RockBand and Guitar Hero would come into play.

Guitar HeroRockBand 2 for fitnessGuitar Hero 5
For those who don’t know, RockBand and Guitar Hero are music games that simulate a ‘Rock band’ experience via a games consoles (PS3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii) and plastic (instrument shaped) controllers.

It was the year 2005 and it had been a few months since I graduated. I was (and still am) quite active in the online business world and I loved trying out new games in my spare time. September had arrived and I picked up a copy of Guitar Hero (version one) along with the controller. I won’t bore you with my life story, so to keep a long story short,

‘ It led to many memorable nights rocking out on a guitar to classic rock songs and a new found level of virtual rock stardom’

Fast-forward to 2008 and these games had now evolved into hugely popular family/ friend’s music games, leading to a fun fuelled Christmas holiday season. But the games now included,

  • Drums
  • Microphones
  • Multi-player action (A physical or virtual band)

The key thing about playing these games over anything else is that you get the feeling that you are in a real band. You will sweat, rock out, take breaks and feel exhausted… just like you do in a real band. And if you have watched a real band on stage, whether it be the drummer, guitarist or lead singer, you will know that performing can be a hell of a workout.

Up until this day I would sometimes do 5-6 hours straight when playing RockBand. I usually like to be the drummer and I can tell you, it is a workout. The difference being that it’s a lot more fun than hitting the gym, and I would often play this instead of doing my usual ‘alternate’ home work out routine.

Being a drummer mirrors compound body exercises

Strong drummer

I’ve often talked about the importance of performing compound body exercises when working out, and by being a drummer in RockBand or Guitar Hero, you can develop similar results to what that exercise can give.

Playing the drums in general is a very strenuous task. You will use all 4 limbs to play a number of repetitive motions many times. Although the game is a simulation, the actions you perform are still quite real.

In a 4-minute song at 120bpm playing a standard 8th note rock beat, you’ll hit your hi-hat 960 times and your kick, snare at 120times.

In 30 minutes of playing you can raise your heartbeat to round 120-140bpm. That is a lot of sweat.

So the key benefits here in comparison to exercising is that you will be working,

  • All four limbs
  • Heart
  • Lungs

Ok, we know this is a fun and unique way to exercise, but be more specific, what muscles get worked and from what actions?

In RockBand and Guitar Hero you have different difficulty levels.

  • Easy
  • Medium
  • Hard
  • Expert

The real comparison between playing this and exercising in the gym is when you become an expert drummer.

Instruments and muscles worked


Once you start playing the cymbals on expert, you will feel worked out and the key muscles that will feel worked are,

  • Shoulders
  • Upper back
  • Forearms
  • Triceps
  • Lower back (If you sit up straight)


In both games you will get this as part of the drums and again, when you get to expert level and start playing fast you will lift your legs up more and that will work your,

  • Thighs
  • Shin muscles
  • Ankles
  • Calves

That does sound good and I’m all for new approaches to fitness, but I’m no skilled drummer, what can I do to practice the movements?

Without a doubt, jumping on RockBand or Guitar hero can be a challenge for beginners. Or some people may not want to take up RockBand, Guitar Hero or drumming and just want to perform the actions involved. For both here are a couple of things you can do.

1) Get some drumsticks and practice on a pillow, there would naturally be no bounce so you’re forced to pull the stick back up rather than relying on rebound.

2) You can do the same for your feet with the bass. Do this in front of the television. I’ve also tried this exercise when I am resting between weight lifting sets at the gym. This means I get to perform two workouts, my normal one and a drumming one, now that’s what I call a good use of my time! 🙂

If you have not yet played these games and wish to try after reading this, please keep this in mind.

Purchase RockBand game only (for the music tracks)
Purchase Guitar Hero drums (better quality)

  • In any form of exercise if you start to experience acute sharp pains, stop immediately. I’m talking nasty hard pain, especially in your chest. Not just mild discomfort.
  • If you are drumming and your wrist start to hurt, stop and rest them.
  • Also, build up your endurance exercises over time, if you haven’t played a single stroke before, start slowly, rest and then build up over time. This is to give your body time to adapt to the extra workload you are placing on it.
  • If you have any difficulty breathing, again, stop and go and see your doctor.
  • Lastly, if you haven’t done much exercise go and see your doctor first before starting just for a check up and get the OK to start again. I don’t want any of you hurting yourself following this advice.

As you can see, playing RockBand or Guitar Hero can be a quite radical, yet unique approach to improving fitness. You probably won’t gain any real muscle mass from doing so, as most of these activities are aerobic, but it will certainly increase your strength and endurance. Besides you get to kill 2 birds with one stone. Keeping fit while at the same time… having fun.

Do you play any musical instruments? If so has it had an effect on your fitness levels?

See you in the comments.

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