My top three post-practice stretches for guitarists

I thought I’d share with you today the three stretches that I now do after each and every practice session. Well, after most sessions anyway. Those sessions where I don’t do these stretches after I tend to notice a higher degree of tension in the time post-practice. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), those times when I do do the following stretches I feel marvellous! All stretched out, tension released, refreshed and re-energised. They’re good for getting the oxygenated blood flowing to the parts again after sitting down, focusing and concentrating, during your practice.

I’m sharing these exercises as they work for me – whether you choose to do these for yourself is entirely up to you, but please take account of your own physical condition and health before commencing them. If unsure don’t do them and/ or consult your doctor. Always consult a health professional if you have any lingering aches and pains or any unduly sharp pains during or after playing guitar.

Stretch #1 – The Back Roll

OK, so this first one isn’t really a stretch after all. It is a tension-reliever though and involves a the use of a hard foam roller to effectively crack your own back. It feels great!

I could try and explain the technique here (and thought better of filming myself lumbering around on the floor!), but check out this video instead – this chap demonstrates the technique very neatly, although I would recommend rolling a little more slowly perhaps than he is doing.

Stretch #2 – The Lumbar Twist

This one was inspired by my forays in to the world of yoga. Don’t worry it’s not some crazy, one-legged, balancing act. It’s actually a very gentle posture, that promotes release of tension in the spine through a gentle, supported twisting – lying down on your back on the floor your head and neck move one way, whilst the legs move the other with the position held for 10 – 30 seconds to really let the tension melt away.

Again, rather than me trying to explain further and/ or clamber around ungracefully for your viewing displeasure, check out this YouTube clip. The posture I’m on about starts around 1 minute 10 seconds in.

Stretch #3 – The Shoulder and Chest Stretch

This is a good one to round off a wee stretching session, as it brings you back up to standing and focuses on chest and shoulders. Standing with feet about hip width apart, put your hands behind your back, palms facing each other and interlock your fingers. Raise your interlocked hands up (not too far) and stretch – you should feel a nice gentle stretch across the front of the chest and shoulders. You can choose to put you head slightly forward as well to increase the stretch and stretch the back of the neck. You can also then gently tilt the head back to gently stretch the muscles in the front of the neck. This stretch, because of the interlocked hands, can also help with stretching out the wrists. If you want to stretch the wrists a little more turn your interlocked hands so your palms are facing outward. You’ll also get a nice wee stretch in the forearms with this too.

Another option is to stretch the chest and shoulders like so…

 

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Getting back to basics on the guitar

This post follows on quite nicely – well, I think so anyway! – from my earlier post on taking a step back and taking some reflection time.

Just like a little time to step back and notice the world around us, so too can getting back to basics with our playing give us renewed vigour, and help us to check potential bad habits that may have crept into our playing.

So, when I say getting back to basics I mean just taking a bit of time to reassess the fundamentals of our technique. That, after all, is the bedrock and the foundation upon which we build our playing, so it pays everyone and then to do a wee survey and a check of how those foundations are holding up.

So then – how do I do that exactly, huh?

Well, I’d recommend going from “large” to “small” in terms of getting back to basics with your set up with the following checklist:

Posture – ask yourself how am I sitting? Is my back straight when playing? No undue strain on the back, legs, arms? Are the arms feeling nice and relaxed? Are the feet rooted to the floor and/ or foot stool? Legs in a good solid position, bent at the knees around 90 degrees?

Left hand and fingers – are you holding the neck in a relaxed fashion? Is the thumb at some kind of funky angle that causes tension? Am I using the arm to leverage pressure into the strings or is it all coming from the hand and fingers? Is there any extraneous movement or undue tension in the hand when making certain movements?

Right hand and fingers and tone production – how’s my tone quality and consistency in producing the sound I want?  What’s my angle of attack with my nails? Are my nails shaped and polished to maximum effect for the tone I want to create? Is my right hand playing in a neutral position from which I can move around to create different tone colours?

I’d then recommend going from “small” to “large” in terms of reviewing your playing:

Open string tone production – have a look at the above dot point. Same applies here!

Scales and arpeggios – excellent medicine for all guitarists! How’s your clarity, control, speed, left/right hand finger co-ordination, right hand finger combinations. What movements are extraneous? What else in your body is moving, perhaps unnecessarily, when playing?

Studies – this is application of our technical stuff (scales, arpeggios and other little exercises) in a more “musical setting”. Be sure to check what’s relevant to the piece or pieces you’re playing at the moment? Key? Rhythms? Movements and textures – i.e. arpeggios, chords, movements in thirds, sixths or octaves?