Guitar Exercises to Increase Finger Strength & Stretch

By Simon Foden
The thumb should always be parallel with the first finger.

A strong and supple fretting hand is essential for intermediate to advanced guitar technique. For right-handed players, the left hand is the fretting hand. A weak fretting hand will limit your playing ability, especially when you attempt to play more complex lead guitar patterns. Establishing and developing finger strength and increased stretch during the early stages of guitar playing will enable you to develop your technique more quickly.

Rubber Band Exercise

Take a thick rubber band and place it around your thumb and index finger. Double up the band to get sufficient tension if necessary. Start with the tips of the index finger and the thumb touching, and slowly move them apart. The tension of the rubber band provides resistance, which works to strengthen the muscles on the top of your fretting hand. Repeat this exercise with all four fingers, paying special attention to the little finger.

Squash Ball Exercise

Take a squash ball and hold it with the tips of your fingers and thumb. Slowly squeeze it so that it becomes flat. Hold the ball in this position for as long as it is comfortable and then slowly release.

Chromatic Finger Exercise

Hold the guitar in a comfortable position and place each finger over--but not on--consecutive frets, starting with your index finger on your first fret and your fourth finger on the fourth fret. Fret and release the string using each finger in succession, starting with the index finger and then reverse the exercise. Perform this on each string, starting with the top E.

Stretch Exercise

Place your index finger on the first fret and then place your fourth finger on the fourth fret. Apply and release the pressure with your fourth finger, making sure that you are sounding the notes clearly. Once you are comfortable doing this, try stretching your fourth finger up to the fifth fret whilst keeping your index finger on the first fret. Move your fourth finger up one fret as your stretch increases. Perform this on each string and make sure you warm up using the rubber band technique prior to attempting this.

Alternating Finger Exercise

This is an advanced technique that increases finger strength, stretch and dexterity. This exercise can be moved up and down the fret board to make the stretch wider or narrower. Begin by placing your fourth finger on the twelfth fret of your top E string. Place your second finger on the tenth and your index finger on the eighth fret of the same string. Play the notes in descending order, but play the twelfth fret in between each note. The order of the frets fingered is 12, 10, 12, 8, 12, 7. Fret the seventh fret by sliding your index finger one fret to the left.

About the Author

Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for