Guitarists are working mostly with hands, and the hands mostly work hard is the left hand (those who are right handed). of course, those who are left handed will use the right hand most for pressing string making chords and melodies.
Most first-timer guitarists find it hard to deal with their left hands because pressing notes when playing chords and melodies actually needs more power. This because the fingers are not powerful enough to deal with this need. Someone may have great strength like powerful enough to pull really hard things, but pressing guitar strings is somewhat different. No matter how strong you are if you haven’t exercised your fingers specifically for playing guitar, you will find your fingers’ power weaken.
Hand stretch for guitarists actually has three main advantages:
1. Warming up
Playing guitar is the same as playing sports. Before playing football, you need at least to run for warming up. Why do we need warming up? Guitarists need warming up to make blood flow to the used part of body, in this case, the part of the body used most for playing guitar is the hands. So, you need to do warming up to your hands including your finger like by pressing, massaging your fingers, arms, and all parts that you consider important. It may include your shoulder and your back because they are all connected when you are playing guitar.
2. Preventing injury
After warming up, you will feel your arms and hands warmed. This indicates that your pours are opened and the blood is moving to your hands well. In most sport, most injuries are caused by the absence of warming up session. If you were about to swim, and you didn’t do such kind of introducing your body to the coldness of the water (adjusting yourself to the water temperature), your body is most likely to feel pain. Another example is that you were absence from playing football, and in this occasion you had to play football, you didn’t have enough time for warming up and you didn’t do the warming, you directly played football, you ran, you kick, you jumped, and did so many things involving stretching your body, after you play football you would find your self feeling hurt. This is because your body was surprised by the accidental stretching.
This is the same as when you are playing guitar. If you didn’t do enough exercises and stretching for your fingers, arms, hands, shoulder, and your back before playing guitar, it is more likely for you to experience injury when playing guitar.
I can tell you this as I have experienced it myself. I was so passionate in learning to play Metropolis 1 of Dream Theater album Images and Words. There was the most difficult part that I wanted to study, I kept trying to play it well until I forgot to do exercise and stretching before playing. The result was that my left hands, including the fingers, swollen.
3. Improve fingers ability
Some exercises like stretching fingers are very important for improving the ability of your fingers in playing guitar. Some technique in playing guitar require finger stretching. This is so that you can reach far notes like you can press the first note with your point finger and the that the next note is pressed using little finger without moving the hold position. Another function is that when you need to stretch your fingers for composing / pressing strange chords.
If you want to see some exercises for finger, hand stretching, there is one good teaching for that. He is John Petrucci. Watch his exercises on stretching in his video “Rock Discipline”.
For starter, you can do the following stretching:
1. Massaging, pressing, squeezing hand palms.
Squeeze your palms (both upper / bottom side). This will make the blood easily moves to your palms.
2. Squeezing fingers
Squeeze each of your fingers including the thumb. This will make blood easily comes through your fingers. This of course will make you fingers move more flexibly, loosely, and is easy to adjust to increasing speed guitar play, and cover long distance notes and make difficult chords progression.
3. Squeezing your arms
the next body part to squeeze is your arms. When you are typing on your keyboard, it is frequently to happen that your arms feel hurt and so tired. This is because your fingers that you use for typing is connected to the muscle of your arms. Similarly, when you are playing guitar, your fingers will work most of the time pressing notes on the guitar neck. The muscle of your fingers make the muscle of your arm tired and tightened. So, it is advisable to do stretching on your arm to relax and loose you arm and of course to avoid injury.
4. Pulling fingers
in relation to reaching far notes and making progression chords that require stretching, pulling fingers is a very good exercise. Pull all your fingers, one by one, upward and downward. Do it very slowly, do not pull too hard that make you feel hurt. Remember, the purpose of this stretching is to avoid injury, not to get injured. Do not hurt yourself.
Move your the other fingers while pulling upward a finger downward and upward. After you pull upward a finger while moving the other finger upward and downward, shake your fingers like when you want to release water from your hands.
5. Split Fingers
This is focused on building capability on reaching far notes and making difficult chords that needs finger stretching most. Split between your fingers. Start with splitting the middle that is your index finger and your middle finger to the left and your ring finger and your baby / pinky finger to the left. you can stretch between all of them one by one.
6. Pulling all fingers
After pulling each fingers, it is time to pull all fingers upward and downward.
7. Stretching all fingers
now that you have done all the stretching, it is essential that you do such kind of reflection. This is to loose all the stiffness resulted from the stretching.
Do the stretching as frequently as possible, but not too much so that you don’t end like Jason Becker.