Guitar Warm Ups – The Ultimate Guide

Do you want to feel more relaxed when you play guitar? We’ve got a series of guitar warm ups to get you playing more effectively

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In this free lesson you will learn…

  • Why stretching is so important for guitarists
  • Warm up stretches for your whole upper body
  • How to prepare for a practice session
  • Why yoga is so beneficial for musicians
  • 2 playable guitar warm ups to get your fingers moving

Guitar Warm Ups Lead To More Productive Practice Sessions

Pop Quiz: What’s the first thing you should do before you pick up the guitar?

If you answered with “stretch,” you answered correctly!

Whether you’re a beginner guitarist or a seasoned professional, you’ve all got one thing in common:

You need to look after your body in order to play effectively.

 Being a guitarist in any capacity is no joke. Your hands, forearms and arms go through a lot of stress to be able to accommodate you playing “Smoke on the Water” on repeat.


With that, we want to make sure that our bodies get the treatment they deserve both before and after we practice.

This comes from using effective guitar warm ups to get our hands and bodies in shape to play guitar effectively.

In this lesson, we’re going to help you build a quick and comfortable pre-practice warm up routine.

You won’t need any weights or external gear for these exercises, just yourself!

Before we dive into these guitar warm ups, let’s talk a bit about how to prepare yourself for playing guitar, and why these warm ups are so important.


How To Properly Prepare For A Practice Session

There are a few things we can do to really help us make the most of our practice sessions on guitar. Let’s have a look at a few “best practices.”

First and foremost, we need to talk about posture.

Whether you decide to use the guitar warm ups below or not, you won’t help yourself at all by playing hunched over your guitar.

It’s important to practice good posture in all things, but especially when we play guitar.

Once you’ve warmed yourself up one way or the other, make sure to keep your back straight as you play. If you’re sitting down, try elevating the leg that your guitar sits on with a foot stool.


Elevating your foot helps straighten your back and avoid hunching, so don’t skip this one!

Secondly, make sure to follow the principle of comfort when playing guitar (and during guitar warm ups as well).

To put it simply: If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it!

Pay attention to how your body feels when you play. If you’re working on an approach to a chord and you find that it gives you a painful level of discomfort, it’s totally okay to find another way to play that chord.

Above all else, listen to your body. It will always tell you what it needs.


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Why Should You Stretch?

“Mike, I just want to play guitar. I’m not trying to run a marathon here. Why should I bother?”

 Great question! The answer: So that you can play longer and more effectively.

Stretching promotes better blood flow in the muscles of our body, and allows our blood to reach all of the places it needs to more easily.

Daily stretching can also:

  • Help increase our range of motion and flexibility,
  • Aid in decreasing stress levels and calming the mind
  • Improve overall posture
  • Help to decrease headaches that are caused by muscular tension

If these all sound great to you, then we’ve got just the set of guitar warm ups for you that will help you stretch out all the important muscles you’ll need to shred for years to come.


Carving out a 15 minute time slot every day will help you feel better on the whole.

You’ll also find that there is far less standing in your way as a guitarist when you start implementing these guitar warm ups before you play.

Pro Tip: With a solid warm up routine, your hands will have a much easier time playing those hard-to-reach chords that you’ve previously had difficulty with.

Barre chords and larger chord shapes will begin to feel easier because we’re promoting good blood flow to our hands and fingers.

Now, let’s get down to some guitar warm ups and give our bodies what they need!


Guitar Warm Ups I – Start At The Top! Neck & Shoulders

You’d be surprised how stiff your neck and shoulders can get on a daily basis.

The first set of guitar warm ups we’re going to look at will loosen up that area.

Start by stretching your neck side to side.

Bring your left ear toward your left shoulder, and find a comfortable spot where you can feel the stretch in the right side of your neck. Hold for 10 seconds.

Do the same now for the other side, and bring your right ear to your right shoulder.

Finally, do this again but up and down. Bring your chin to your chest for 10 seconds, then tilt your head to the sky for another 10.


How’s your neck feeling? Good? Good.

Let’s move to some shoulder rolls!

Begin by rolling your shoulders in full forward circles for 10 seconds, then reverse backward for another 10 seconds. If it feels good, you can go for longer.

To end off our neck and shoulder guitar warm ups, bring your hands straight up above your head and point them to the ceiling. Hold them there for 30 seconds to a minute and practice some deep breathing to get yourself feeling great.

Inhale for 5, exhale for 10. Repeat as needed for as long as you like until you’re ready for some awesome stretches for your arms.


Guitar Warm Ups II – Arm Stretches

If you did everything from the neck and shoulder section above (including the deep breathing), you should already be feeling pretty fantastic.

We’re going to follow up with a few low-impact guitar warm ups in the arms to get the blood flowing to our hands.

First, find a wall in your home – preferably one with a corner if you can find it.

Extend your right arm, place your right hand against the corner and begin to turn your body outward, away from the wall. Keep your arm straight, and you should feel this all through your arm.

Hold for ten seconds, then do the same for the left arm. Don’t forget to breathe!


The second exercise is one you’ve probably done in gym class before.

Cross your left arm over your chest, and grab your left shoulder with your right hand.

Turn your body to the right to feel the stretch in your left arm and shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds, as usual.

Pro Tip: Be careful not to overextend with this exercise. We want to turn our bodies to the side just enough so that we can feel the stretch extend through our shoulder and arm.

Listen to your body and don’t overdo it – guitar warm ups are meant to prep you for a productive practice session, after all.

Now, let’s look at some hand stretches.


Guitar Warm Ups III – Hand & Forearm Stretches

Your hands and forearms take care of a lot of the heavy lifting when you play guitar, so it’s important to take care of them.

For this next section of guitar warm ups, start by extending your left hand straight out in front of you.

Lightly grab your left fingertips with your right hand, and begin to pull backward. You should feel this stretch in your left wrist and forearm. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then release.

From here, do the same for the left thumb – lightly pull backward to feel the stretch through the side of your forearm.


Finally (still stretching the left hand), place your right hand on top of your left hand and push down. You should feel this through the top of your forearm.

This three-piece sequence of guitar warm ups for your forearm will help to open up any constricted muscles that might be feeling tense.

Once you’ve done all three segments of this exercise, do the same for the right arm.

Pro Tip: Once you’ve completed these guitar warm ups up until this point, your upper body should be starting to feel pretty awesome. Ask yourself how you’re feeling right now.

Before we get to a playable exercise to warm up your hands on guitar, we’ve got some body stretches that will get you feeling lighter.


Guitar Warm Ups IV – Body Rotation Exercises

The last bit of exercise we’ve got for you involves some full-body movement.

Start with your feet spread apart just enough so that they line up with your shoulders.

Extend your hands outward, then bend over slowly and touch your toes. Hold for 10 seconds and breathe deeply in and out.

Once you’ve hit 10 seconds, come back up and bring your hands up to point to the ceiling again like we did at the end of the neck and shoulders section.

Hold this position for as long as you like, and breathe deeply.

When you’re comfortable, shake it out and move on to the last of our guitar warm-ups for the body.

The final exercise

This last exercise is mostly just to get us feeling good before we pick up the guitar, but it’s awesome nonetheless.

With your feet still planted firmly and aligned with your shoulders, bring your elbows out to the sides and rotate your upper body from left to right.

Keep as wide of a rotation as you can in order to really “feel it” in your hips and upper body.

You can do this for 10-20 seconds or as long as you like. By now, you should be feeling ready for just about anything.

We’ve got one more quick note on wellness before we move on to some guitar warm ups that you can do with your guitar.


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Guitar Warm Ups V – Why You Should Try Yoga

Yoga isn’t just for hippies! Although, they’ve got the right idea.

If we’re talking about guitar warm ups that can really make a beneficial difference in our lives, we need to talk about the benefits of yoga.

Apart from promoting mindfulness and overall wellness, yoga is an amazing tool for strengthening our muscles and promoting great blood flow throughout our body.

Yoga focuses on your whole body, meaning you’ll find yourself feeling aligned and refreshed after even a short session.

If you’re at all intrigued about the benefits of yoga for musicians, we strongly encourage you to check out this article here from on how yoga can make you a better musician.

We’ve also sourced a little 25 minute yoga routine for you to try from Yoga With Adrienne – our favourite yoga YouTuber!

Toss on some sweatpants and let this lovely lady help you to open up your body and your chakras with some guitar warm ups that you might not have thought about.

Finally, let’s move on to some playable routines to open up the fingers and hands even more.

Guitar Warm Ups VI – Playable Guitar Exercises

Now that we’ve gotten our upper bodies warmed up with some awesome stretches, it’s time to pick up our guitar and play!

We’ve got two guitar warm ups for you that will help you stretch out your fingers and get your forearms feeling relaxed, so let’s take a look.

These two exercises are based on the chromatic scale (or the “1, 2, 3, 4” scale as it’s often called). The first one is the chromatic scale itself played forwards and backwards.

Pro Tip: You’re going to want to assign one finger to each fret in order to play this exercise effectively.

When playing through guitar warm ups like these, make sure to avoid any excessive movement between frets.

You’ll want to use alternate picking to make the most of these exercises.

Downpicking won’t help us get the economy of motion that we’re looking for in our picking hand, but picking up and down will.

The second version of these guitar warm ups involves non-linear motion with our fingers.

Rather than play the “1, 2, 3, 4” pattern above, we can move these notes around in the same hand position to try something different.

Let’s try “1, 3, 2, 4” and “4, 2, 3, 1” in the example below.

Pro Tip: Make sure every note rings out in this exercise.

We don’t need to worry about playing fast, only playing clearly.

And now, to answer one final question:

How Often Should You Do These Exercises?

It’s important not to over-exert ourselves with guitar warm ups, but these exercises can be done as often as you play guitar.

We always recommend stretching and warming up before you pick up your guitar. Not only will you feel more flexible and confident, but you’ll also feel aligned and centered enough to focus completely on your practice.

Stretching helps wake our bodies up to feeling better, so don’t skip your warm ups!

Recommended Resources

If you enjoyed this lesson on guitar warm ups, you’ll love the other lessons we’ve got for you below:

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