Guitar Tutorial: The Forgotten Art of Warming Up the Right Way

Would you ever even think of doing this?

You go the gym…

You put on your workout clothes…

You load up a barbell with a huge stack of weights and then…

You just start lifting.

That’s right.  No warm-up, or anything like that.  You just jump right in and go full-out.

You would never think of doing that would you?

Of course not.

You know that’s a recipe for disaster.

But let me ask you this: “Before you start playing guitar, do you warm-up?

Most guitar players don’t warm-up at all.  They simply grab their guitar and start to play.

Well, let me ask you this:

“Are you at your best on guitar when your fingers feel cold and stiff, or are you going to play at your best when your fingers are warm, loose and limber?”

The answer is obvious.

There are many effective things you can do to properly warm-up.  There are two broad categories of warm-up: off-instrument and on-instrument.  Today we will look at the off-instrument component.

A warm-up should contain a sufficient number of exercises that will warm your body’s core temperature and allow for mental readiness and focus on the task at hand.

A warm-up will increase deep muscle temperature, increase the viscosity of joint fluids and increase the range of motion in joints.

In other words, a warm-up gets you ready to play!

The Off-Instrument Warm-up

The idea behind the off-instrument warm-up is that you warm-up your body before you even pick up the guitar.  This means you would do some very light cardio and some very light stretching.  You would do this for 2-5 minutes and then start your true practice session with your on-instrument warm-up exercises.

The light cardio can be as simple as walking or marching in place, running in place,  or jumping jacks.  The idea here is to simply warm your whole body up.

For stretching, you should perform some light stretches that will get your whole body ready for practice.  Remember that your whole body is involved when you play guitar, not just your hands.

Obviously the focus is on the hands and forearms, but other body parts are used and some will need to remain stationary for extended periods of time.  This is not easy on the supporting body parts.  This is why you want to warm them all up.  For example, think of what your neck, shoulders, and back have to do when you practice.  So it just makes sense to perform some light stretches for your neck, shoulders, back, abs, arms, hands and legs.

Here you will find a PDF you can download with 12 stretching/warm-up body exercises  – PDF.  These stretches were created for the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine.

Before you begin the light cardio and light stretching, remember it’s always best to consult with your doctor before you start any physical fitness program regardless of how light it is─just to be safe.  Don’t take any chances.  Also, if you experience any pain it’s time to stop.

So there you go, you now know the basics of how to do a simple off-instrument warm-up.  Try it out at the beginning of your next practice session and I’m sure you will notice better results from your practice time.

About Don J MacLean

Don J. MacLean is one of the world's leading authorities on accelerated learning systems for guitar—with students using his methods in more than 50 countries worldwide. Don is the author of over 60 books including The World of Scales, the Absolute Essentials of Music Theory for Guitar, How I Got Killer Guitar Chops While I Was Still in High School: Confessions of a High School Shredder, 21 Secrets to Learn any Guitar Song Super-Fast, and Guitar Essentials: Chord Master Expanded Edition.

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