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Drummer Lab is a series that follows Nadia Azar’s kinesiology research on some of your favorite drummers.

How many Calories does Mike Wengren burn during a show with Disturbed?

“My brothers and sisters, my blood…”

It’s early afternoon on July 11, 2018: I’m SUPER pumped because Disturbed is in town, and I haven’t seen them live since the Ten Thousand Fists tour. I’m at work and trying to focus, so I haven’t checked my email all morning.

Little did I know, that sitting in my inbox was a message from Mike Wengren – drummer and founding member of Disturbed. He had received information about my study and was willing to participate…AT TONIGHT’S SHOW!

Luckily, I checked my email, and we were able to pull together plans in time for him to wear the armbands and heart rate (HR) monitor that night.

Here’s what we found:

Mike burned a total of 866 Calories over the 80 minute set, for an average rate (what I refer to as ‘intensity’) of almost 11 Cal/min. Based on his body mass, this is comparable to a vigorous 80 minute session on a stationary rower1…but way more fun!

As expected, the lowest-intensity song was “The Sound of Silence” (~6 Cal/min). “Indestructible” was the highest, at almost 14 Cal/min. To put this in context: when you factor out body mass, playing “Indestructible” was comparable in intensity to running half a mile in about 4 minutes1. Overall, Mike’s rates of Calories burned per kilogram of body mass per minute were some of the highest I’ve recorded so far!

We couldn’t get HR data at this show because of an issue with the monitor, but Mike wore the devices at a second show in March of 2019. This time, Mike burned a total of 1147 Calories over 118 minutes, for an average intensity of about 10 Cal/min. This is a little lower than his average intensity at the first show, which Mike had predicted would be the case given the addition of some mellower songs and several sections with no drumming to the set list. Regardless…1147 Calories is a whole lot of energy to burn in one go!

This time, I asked Mike to predict which song would have the highest intensity. His pick was “Ten Thousand Fists”, because they go right into it from his drum solo. According to the armbands, this wasn’t the case – the highest intensity song was “The Animal” (13 Cal/min), although to be fair, “Ten Thousand Fists” was right behind it at 12.5 Cal/min.

I also asked Mike to predict the lowest-intensity song. His pick was “The Sound of Silence”, but again the armbands suggested something different: “Watch You Burn” registered a lower intensity, although again they were very close (4.6 Cal/min vs. 5.4 Cal/min, respectively).

If you know these songs as well as I do, you’re probably thinking “how can this be?” Subjective ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) – or in other words, how hard someone feels they are working – are very closely related to heart rate. As your heart rate increases, so does your RPE2.

When you look at Mike’s heart rate trace, you can clearly see that his peak heart rate readings occurred during his drum solo and “Ten Thousand Fists”. And although it’s not quite as obvious in the graph, Mike’s heart rate was also lowest during “The Sound of Silence”!

Why the discrepancy? There are a few possible contributors, but it’s most likely due to the different sensors measuring different things. This is why it’s good to have multiple data sources to help me sort out these findings!

So – Mike’s peak HR occurred during his drum solo, but his average HR was highest during “Ten Thousand Fists” and he also registered his second highest peak HR and rate of energy expenditure during this song. Therefore, the title of most intense song at the second show goes to “Ten Thousand Fists”.

Top 3 takeaways:

  1. Mike’s average intensity was similar at both shows (11 Cal/min and 10 Cal/min, respectively).
  2. “Indestructible” (~14 Cal/min) and “Ten Thousand Fists” (~13 Cal/min, average HR of 163 BPM, peak HR of 169 BPM) were the most intense songs.
  3. Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) are closely related to HR2.

References:

  1. Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights [document on the Internet]. Boston (MA): Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School; 2018 [cited 2019 May 29]. Available from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities.
  2. Scherr J, Wolfarth B, Christie JW, Pressler A, Wagenpfeil S, Halle M. Associations between Borg’s rating of perceived exertion and physiological measures of exercise intensity. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Jan;113(1):147-55. doi: 10.1007/s00421-012-2421-x.

Header image: Joe Orlando
Set-up image: Dory Azar


Nadia Azar

Nadia Azar Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Windsor, where she runs the Drummer Mechanics and Ergonomics Research Laboratory (DRUMMER Lab). Follow Nadia at @DrNadiaAzar or learn more here.

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