Pump Up Your Speaking Voice with a Strength Training Workout


Does your voice convey confidence and conviction every time you speak?

Or does your voice need strength training?

A Six Minutes reader whose career depends on a strong, confident voice sent in this question:

“One thing I need help in is voice control.  For some reason my voice quivers.  Is there some kind of exercise that may strengthen my vocal cords? Any ideas what may contribute to that?

Also, as a Realtor, I encounter the quivery voice as I’m talking with my clients and it conveys an impression of not being sure of what I’m saying.”

Your Speaking Voice

The voice is made up of muscles, cavities, tissues, nerves, fluids, etc., just like the rest of you.  It can produce at least 325 different pitches. There are more nerves in the muscles of the larynx than any other muscles in your body, with the exception of your eyes. In addition, you use three quarters of your body when you speak a word, and even a stubbed toe can affect the sound of your voice.  So it’s not surprising that your voice can be adversely affected by excitement and stress.

Just as with the rest of your body, some people naturally have more vocal strength, while others need to pump up theirs just to keep up with their daily vocal requirements.  I cannot know the exact cause of the reader’s quivers without speaking with them, but it is likely that the cause of their quivering voice is either nerves, or lack of vocal strength, or both.  Regardless of the case, voice training using proper vocal exercises can make a world of difference in both control and endurance in the voice.

Unless you are a voice practitioner, or have studied with a voice professional (which I highly recommend!) you may not know what proper vocal exercises are. So here is a mini-workout that you can use every day to get your voice in shape and get control of those tremors, quivers, and flips when you speak.

A Strength Training Workout for Your Voice

  1. Breathe deeply and exhale on a hisssssssing sound.  Repeat 10 times.
    • Proper breathing is the foundation for a healthy voice AND control over nervous energy that can make the voice quiver.
  2. Say “Mm-mmm (as in yummy) Mmm-hmm (like yes) ” Repeat 5  times.
    • This develops mask resonance, which creates a clean and vibrant sound by creating a clean approximation of the cords and a resonance that will sound great and project easily.
  3. Say “Mm-mmm.  Mmm-hmm.” up and down your vocal range, from low to middle to high and back again, 10 times.
  4. Raise your volume a bit and say “Mmmmmmmmy name is…” Repeat this ten times up and down your vocal range.
    • This enhances vocal flexibility and coordination.
  5. Say “Ney, ney, ney, ney, ney” loudly but without yelling 10 times up and down your vocal range.
    • This is more mask resonance training.
  6. Starting at mid range, make a siren sound with Oooo and Eeeee by sliding down your vocal range several times, starting higher each time.
    • Again, the focus here is on more flexibility and coordination.
  7. Say “Mmmmmmm” until you feel a buzzy sensation in the front of your face. Repeat 5 times.
    • Mask resonance again.
  8. Now, for isolation of muscles for articulation, try some tongue twisters like those below.  To get the full workout, say them each several times but only as fast as you can go and keep them clear.  You can increase your speed over time:
    • The blue bluebird blinks.
    • Three free throws.
    • What time does the wristwatch strap shop shut?
    • Strange strategic statistics.
    • Freshly fried flying fish, freshly fried flesh.
  9. To bring it all together, speak a few sentences out loud.  Use an opening or closing of a talk, a favorite poem or long quote, or song lyrics.
  10. Every good work out needs a cool down.  End with 5 more big, deep breaths.

Taking Your Vocal Workout to the Next Level

The workout above will help you get some awareness of your voice and start to strengthen it.  To go to the next level, I recommend the following:

  • Practice your speeches out loud.
  • Warm up your voice everyday, but especially before public speaking. Ideally, spend as much time practicing as you will in front of an audience.
  • Learn to breathe properly and apply that technique to your public speaking.
    See Breathing: The Seductive Key to Unlocking Your Vocal Variety
  • Hum a lot.  Explore and develop mask resonance.
    See Speak Up! A Guide to Voice Projection
  • Take a singing class or private singing lessons. This is true strength training for your voice.

This is one of many public speaking articles featured on Six Minutes.
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Comments icon7 Comments

  1. I have a very weak voice and its one of the issues always pointed out by my speech evaluators. I will definitely try these methods. Thanks for the tips.

  2. I too suffered from a quivering voice when speaking in public. I found 2 ways to overcome this: Breathing exercises and confident self talk. For breathing, find exercises online that suit you but for the self talk I would say and continue to say before I speak: You don’t get too many opportunities to blow an audience away with how good you are, go out there and do it. But the secret to overcoming nerves is practice, practice and practice your speech again!

  3. Akanksha says:

    I always knew there was a problem in my voice. Initially I thought it was my lack of confidence and less public speaking that resulted to one. But over the years, even when I made a profession that requires lot of speaking; I realised – it’s not about confidence. My vocal chords needed help, so I thought yoga or some doctor could help. One of these random days of endless search on correcting the problem lead me to this page with a big realisation – my voice chords are so weak, that even if I don’t talk for 2 hours; the moment I try doing, my voice lets me down. Thank you so much Kate for this article and I hope your stated exercises will restore my confidence which keep getting battered coz of the let down.

  4. Ron Ang says:

    I am teaching migrants to speak English voluntarily in a Sydney church but I have serious voice clarity due to earlier working condition where I had to seriously strain my voice to instruct clients at a sheltered work shop. Can you help

  5. sid leonard says:

    Do your vocal exercises help improve the aging voice (presbyphonia)? I am 78 years old and beginning to notice the effects of age on my voice. Thank you.

  6. Kelvin Igie says:

    My voice gets crack and feel cough inside, and my communication ceased. My audience don`t hear me clearly.

    Pls what can i do?

  7. Pete J. Alvarez says:

    I just had some plops removed from my left vocal cord and my voice is still rough.
    Thanks Pete

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