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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Classical Guitar Foot Stool or Rest?

This is a choice that you may be faced with in first coming to the guitar, or coming back to it after a while. It may also be something to think about if you’ve been playing for a while.

For years and years and years, throughout my formative playing years through my eighth grade and beyond I always played guitar with my left leg propped up on the trusty, adjustable foot stool. There was no reason to do otherwise – my teachers played in this way, all my “guitar heroes” played in this way (Bream, Williams and so on).

To be honest, for a long time I’d not seen anyone play using any other form of support to raise the guitar up to a height that both allowed playability and was comfortable. That was until I started to see more and more folks – my peers, teachers, players – using these adjustable rest-type contraptions attached to the side of the guitar which rests on the leg propping the guitar up on the left leg.

Interesting, I thought. There must be a reason why I’m seeing more and more players choosing this type of tool to raise and support the guitar over the foot stool, so I tried out a few different styles of rests for myself. And there are a whole host of different styles of rests to choose from (a couple of which I really didn’t get on with), but some which, for me personally, were fantastic. I now use the rest over a foot stool 100% of the time.

Why is this?

Well, my feet are both flat on the floor meaning that there’s no undue strain or twisting on the lower back. This allows for much more comfortable playing for longer periods of time (although of course you should always take regular breaks), and ensures that you’re not going to be storing up trouble for later on.

I also understand that the prolonged use of a foot stool can shorten the hip flexor on the side being raised by the foot stool (as can too much sitting generally). So you could potentially end up with a shortened hip flexor on one side of your body causing an imbalance as well as a weakness. Great…. not!

Having both feet flat on the floor also provides a very stable platform for playing – you feel very grounded and centred, a sensation which I find lacking with the foot stool. And with the type of rest that I have I can change the height at which I have the guitar and the angle – this allows me to receive better feedback from the guitar, both aurally and also in terms of the vibrations felt from the instrument in my body. Being able to fine-tune the height and angle of the guitar also means I can achieve a much more ergonomic (i.e. better, more comfortable and healthy) playing position than can be afforded to me by a foot stool alone.

So in answer to the question, foot stool or rest, I’d say it’s really up to you, but think about what it is you want. If you want something that’s going to allow you to play comfortably for longer periods, and for a longer time overall, with fewer physical issues then I’d say give some serious consideration to a guitar rest.