Guitar Finger Strengthener Guide (Healthy Hands Matter, Folks)

There are a variety of guitar finger strengthener products on the market, but which one is right for you?

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • 5 of the most recommended guitar finger strengthener products
  • Why healthy hands are important
  • Tips for a healthy hand-card routine
  • How to find the right guitar finger strengthener for you

What Is A Guitar Finger Strengthener?

As you’ve surely noticed, playing the guitar involves a bit of necessary discomfort. 

  • There are calluses to develop, fretting hand positions to figure out, barre chords, and the whole idea of how long we’re able to play before our hands just get achy and tired.
  • With all that pain happening, of course we want to build up enough strength in our fingers and hands to be able to play as much and as long as we want without causing injury.

Perhaps you’ve seen one of these devices floating around the guitarosphere.

It certainly looks like it’s designed to do the trick!

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We’ve taken a look at the top guitar finger strengthener devices to break down the good, the great, and the cautionary for you.

  • Understanding the mechanics of playing the guitar, especially for the fretting hand, is important in figuring out what areas you really want to work on, so we’ll discuss that too.
  • Ultimately, a guitar finger strengthener is only as good as its ability to do what you want it to without causing more problems than it solves.

You definitely want to check with a medical provider if you’re having wrist, nerve, or forearm pain while playing the guitar.

If you’re pain-free and would like to keep it that way, however, here are some helpful hints!

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Everything Is Connected

The first things that hurt when we play the guitar are our fingers, and those are the body parts that deal with the guitar most actively and constantly.

It’s therefore natural to focus all the attention on the fingers when we think about how to improve and optimize our playing ability.

A guitar finger strengthener seems like a natural choice in achieving those ends, but we really have to look all the way up to the shoulders and back, and even the core, to get the full picture of guitar playing health.

  • If you’re slouching, if your shoulders are rounded, if your elbows are tense, any of these things can lead to bad alignment and unnecessary injury.
  • Avoiding injury on the guitar is just like avoiding injury in life.

Everything is connected. Slouching shoulders leads to arthritis in the neck, which leads to the inability to use a strap – or to keep your head straight so that you can look forward.

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Here is a lovely and informative article on some of the more important aspects of anatomy to consider when playing the guitar, if you’re into that sort of thing.

It all relates to finding a guitar finger strengthener because any device you use assumes that the rest of your body is in proper working order.

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Relax All the Way Down to Your Hand

With guitar, there’s nothing more disheartening than having an injury that prevents us from being able to play. 

  • Almost equally frustrating is finding that we just don’t have the endurance to play for very long without something getting achy be it our fingers, neck, or forearms.
  • When a muscle is over-used, some others are under-used, and that leads to injury or fatigue much more quickly than we’d like.

The very first thing we’re going to consider is the connection from the upper back to the fingers.

guitar finger strengthener

Whether you are sitting or standing, having your middle and upper back slightly engaged so that you’re up straight is really key to everything else that follows.

Then, everything from your shoulder down to your fingers should be absolutely relaxed.

Here’s a simple but important exercise you can use to develop the habit of relaxing your fretting arm and avoiding unnecessary muscle stress.

  1. While holding your guitar as if you were making a chord, just hold your fretting hand on the guitar with your thumb. Let the rest of your hand relax.
  2. Let your wrist relax, then your elbow, then your shoulder. Stay there a minute and notice if you’re tensing any of those parts of your arm.

That’s it!

Your arm should be entirely supported by your thumb and everything else should be heavy and floppy.

  • If you notice any tension between your wrist and your neck, sit with it until it releases.
  • There’s almost always a little tension somewhere, maybe in your upper arm or between your shoulder and neck.

You’ll avoid a lot of injuries if you can release that tension before you begin playing.

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Guitar Finger Strengthener 1: The Stress Ball

So far, it seems like we have discussed everything except how to make your fingers stronger. 

That’s only because a guitar finger strengthener is only as good as its ability to keep you playing guitar.

  • If there are some posture or tension issues lurking, strengthening your fingers is only going to make the problem worse and lead to injury.
  • We want you to be playing the guitar as long as your heart desires, so the discussion of the guitar finger strengthener devices that follows has to include those elements as well.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s break out the first best thing to get you stronger and build your playing endurance: the stress ball!

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After you’ve played guitar for a little while, it becomes apparent that while your fingers are certainly doing the work on the guitar, playing chords is not so much a matter of pressing your fingers onto the neck as it is squeezing the shape of the chord onto the fretboard.

Your finger muscles are important, but when you are looking for strength to hold chords on the guitar, you’re looking for hand strength.

  • There are two major muscle groups in your hand.
  • One is between your thumb and first finger, and the other is on the side of your fourth finger.
  • To get a better grip on chords (especially barre chords), you’ll want a stress ball.

It’s worth keeping in your case, gig bag, backpack, or purse for a guitar finger strengthener you can use anywhere.

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Pro-Tip: We can’t say it enough – there are always muscle groups and opposing muscle groups. For every flexion exercise you try, there’s an extension exercise you should also try.

It’s all about balance! Every muscle you work with your guitar finger strengthener should also be stretched gently, especially in the hands and forearms, to avoid repetitive stress injury.

Guitar Finger Strengthener 2: Therapy Putty

Whether or not you’ve checked out the article from Guitar World on anatomy related to playing guitar, there’s one thing that’s not only important but pretty interesting to know:

  • Your finger muscles are located nowhere near your fingers.
  • One of the reasons your forearms are bigger near the elbow is that your finger muscles attach there, and that is where the muscle mass lives.
  • If you’ve ever played guitar very fast for a very long period of time, or played the piano or typed at the computer, you may have noticed your forearms burning.

Your forearms are where you will experience the symptoms of overworked fingers.

guitar finger strengthener

Finding a satisfying guitar finger strengthener that can be used anywhere can be life-changing,

Hand exercises are important not only for your extended jams but also for general functioning and quality of life.

If the hand exercises are fun, so much the better!

Therapy putty is a great supplement or alternative to a stress ball because it works your hand and finger muscles in different directions.

Any set of therapy putty comes with a booklet or video of recommended exercises.

guitar hand strength

Guitar Finger Strengthener 3: The Gripmaster & The VariGrip

This is a classic guitar finger strengthener that has been around for decades. 

  • Teenage guitarists have been bringing it to study hall and having it confiscated, seemingly since the dawn of time.
  • It exercises each finger individually and also exercises your grip at the same time, making it a complete guitar finger strengthener.
  • The tension on the Gripmaster can be adjusted, so you can start out with very little resistance and build your way up at your own pace.

There are many like it, but this one comes in red.

strong-guitar-fingers

There’s also this one, made by guitar accessory manufacturers D’Addario.

  • This guitar finger strengthener, the Varigrip, has a couple of features that are not found on other grip strengtheners.
  • The most interesting one is that the cover can be removed, revealing a simulated guitar string. You can work on developing your calluses anywhere with this device.

Of course, we recommend playing your guitar every day to achieve that purpose, but it’s always nice to have a failsafe!

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Guitar Finger Strengthener 4: Ultimate Hand Helper

The above guitar finger strengthener devices come in slightly different shapes and sizes, as do our hands.

  • Although those devices are certainly useful for accomplishing the purpose, it can take some trial and error to find the one that is correctly sized for your hand.
  • Using a guitar finger strengthener that isn’t compatible with your hand can lead to misalignment of the hand during the exercises, and that can hurt more than it helps.

We have ventured into the world of physical therapy to find a device that helps strengthen the fingers and hand, and is ergonomically sound regardless of the size of your hand or length of your fingers.

guitar-finger-pain

This is the Ultimate Hand Helper, a guitar finger strengthener device that is used by physical therapists to help arthritis and injury patients with hand strength.

  • The Ultimate Hand Helper has a curve that was specifically designed to promote proper alignment.
  • It also promotes proper tendon glide.
  • Overexerted muscles lead to tendon inflammation and eventually tendonitis, a painful and guitar career-threatening injury.

This device comes with a set of suggested exercises so that you can be sure you are using it properly to strengthen your hands and fingers.

Pro-Tip: Tendonitis is not fun, and has ended the career of many a musician.

It happens to guitarists when the tendons of the finger muscles, located in the forearm, become too rigid and become inflamed.

The use of any guitar finger strengthener should be accompanied by stretching and massaging of the forearms to avoid this dreadful fate!

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Guitar Finger Strengthener 5: The Whole Kit

To properly exercise your hands and fingers for your best performance on the guitar, it’s necessary to do much more than just grip and press down on things.

  • Dexterity and endurance on the guitar depend on more than just flexion, which is the motion of gripping, clenching the fist, and curling in the fingers.
  • A healthy hand-care routine should include just as much extension as flexion. To accomplish that, it’s helpful to have some resistance against which to straighten the fingers and open up the hand.

A whole package of guitar finger strengthener devices sure would be helpful, wouldn’t it?

This guitar finger strengthener kit comes with different kinds of grips for flexion exercises and a finger-independent grip enhancer.

  • Additionally, the kit includes three resistance bands for those extension exercises.
  • Each band, as well as each grip exercise ring, has a different level of resistance, so you can adjust the intensity.

There is an instruction manual with suggested exercises, and if you’re committed to doing multiple exercises on the go or you’d like to take the kit traveling with you, there’s a pouch that holds everything.

This might be the guitar finger strengthener kit for you if you’re thinking about beginning a hand care routine and are not sure where to start.

Guitar Finger Strengthener Devices and Stretching Exercises

Using any one of these guitar finger strengthener devices will definitely help your fingers last longer on the guitar. 

  • It is also important to remember to stretch out your hands and fingers.
  • Flexibility is just as much a part of functioning on the guitar as strength is.

If you would like to get started with some stretching ideas, check out this video, courtesy of real physical therapists! Have fun and stay healthy!

Recommended Resources

Did you enjoy this free guide to finding the right guitar finger strengthener? If so, check out some more of our guitar lesson content below!

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