arm exercises to reduce rigidness

Dan Shipway

Free Bird Player
  • Nov 11, 2019
    I have been noticing some issues recently with my picking arm and after a lot of thought into what the cause could be, one of the possible hypothesis I came up with was possibly an issue with which arm I am using. I am a lefty naturally and other than guitar I do everything with my left arm. When doing things such as practice picking movements without my guitar in hand it always feels as though the muscles in my right arm seem to tense up a lot more than the ones in my left. I was wondering if any other left handed people have this issue if they play guitar right handed and If there were any exercises you used to relax your arm and make movements less rigid?
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    Reactions: Chris Johnston

    Radu-Cristian Perde

    Staff member
  • Nov 11, 2019
    Honestly, I don't think it has anything to do with you being left or right handed. I think it just might be a question of technique. Now I don't know your playing personally but if you learned to pick in a very tense way than yeah it's normal to feel your muscles to be tensed. But here's the thing, the right approach to technique is for your arm and wrists to have a certain level of relaxation and flexibility to maximize the fluidity in your movement. Strangely enough, because it doesn't seem like it, to be fast you gotta be very relax and in control with your arm and wrists because you can't be super fast while being tense.

    So let's say that my hypothesis is right, my advice would be to take some exercise and really slow them down and rebuild your technique with a more relax approach.

    I speak from experience in drums. My right foot became really tense due to bad technique and I had to relearn how to do it in a more relax state. I hope this helps! Good luck!

    Chris Johnston

    Music Theory Bragger
  • Nov 11, 2019
    North Ayrshire, Scotland
    Hey Dan,

    You should send a video in of you picking so we can see what your technique is like, but here are a few tips that really helped my picking:

    1. Make sure you're not squeezing your pick. A tight squeeze on the pick can end up contributing to arm tension. You'll want a really relaxed grip on the pick so that your wrist is loose,
    2. Make sure you're picking from your wrist (mostly) - If you find that you use your forearm rather than your wrist to pick, this will definitely cause it to tense up and be rigid, as it will need to make rigid movements to pick a thin string, because it's a big limb.
    3. You didn't mention speed specifically, but just in case that's what you're looking to get going, make sure that with all of the above, that you're really ready to try and pick as fast as you are - as if you're trying to push yourself to go faster than you're capable, that will also cause unhealthy arm/wrist tension & lead to rigid movements.

    Basically, in order to have a healthy picking technique, it needs to be both relaxed & controlled (i.e loose but not sloppy) Try sitting with a metronome as a really slow speed & use all of the above tips - keep relaxed & keep your picking from your wrist, really controlled, kinda like if your hand was a robot hand. If you start to feel any tension, immediately stop, take a sec and jump back in. Be really strict with it.

    The biggest piece of advice I can give for picking, is to remember that when your brain tells you you're ready to go faster, it is 100% lying to you! - When you hear that voice in your head, stick to where you are and practice the controlled relaxation some more. I feel like a lot of guitarists, myself included have this inner 'speed gollum' that's just dying to get their hands on the technique they want, straight away :ROFLMAO: Patience is key!

    Hope this helps!

    Steven Huth

    Campfire Attention Holder
  • Nov 11, 2019
    I'll add to what everyone is saying as well. Posture is extremely important too. Check out Lesson 2 in the Beginner track and compare to how you are holding the guitar and that may help!

    Keep us updated!
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    Dan Shipway

    Free Bird Player
  • Nov 11, 2019

    One of the things the video may not show is that my hand tilts upwards slightly (as if im doing upwards pick slanting) which makes going from the 6th to 5th string difficult as my hand does not start on the bridge)

    I hope it highlights a few issues with my fretting hand a there is more movement than I feel is necessary