Warm-up WITHOUT Guitar

Hello everyone! I’m Daniel, new to the forum.
Thanks to Cracking the Code we know all biomechanical aspects of playing guitar.
There is something I’ve been asking myself since I was a kid: HOW TO DO A WARM-UP WITHOUT THE GUITAR.

Background info:
We all know what warm-up is: to “PREPARE” the muscles so they perform optimally at certain task (guitar playing, running, etc.). We also know how good it feels when your muscles are well warmed-up and you feel that can play anything you brain wants.

So, instead of spending 20 mins every day trying to get to that state (warmed up), what is we could do some finger/wrist/forearm “GYM” for a few minutes and get the same result?

Over the years, I’ve tried different “work-outs”: Do repetitive Rotation (pronation to supination), Deviation (radial to ulnar), open/close left hand, etc. Until I feel the muscles “burn” a bit.
I had different degrees of success: sometimes it works, sometimes I feel tired as it is easy to overdo it, etc.
Do any of you have an idea on how we can do “offline” warm-up and maximize the muscles? what do you do?
I think this is interesting as a good routine can help us get the muscles “ready” faster and more efficiently.

Thanks a lot!

Hi Daniel,

IMO playing is much more a nervous system activity, and not so much muscles. I think that warm up has much more to do with awakening and sensitizing the brain-nerve-muscle connection, and getting the nervous system ready. So perhaps thinking in that way might give you a different set of questions to ask. I don’t have those answers myself yet! :slight_smile: cheers, jz


Right, I think of it like zeroing in on the guitar strings. Giving your brain the range of motion and force thats going to be used.
When you try a new guitar you usually got to get used to it first, the string testion, string spacing etc
Same with a new pick.

Idk if you can speed this up. I think the nervous system kind of has a base line that is our normal movements, and for the more intricate stuff like drawing, guitar playing etc it needs a re locking on.

Tho one thing I personally do is use the pc mouse in my right hand, I’m left handed but play standerd. I think the use of the mouse can help train my hand. I’ve no evidence tho, just an idea.

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I should have mentioned stretches, which is very helpful and will probably suffice to start things up:


Thank you all for the answers! I agree the idea is to focus on the instrument to activate certain neural paths. That is why you start slow, kind of telling your brain “Theses are the motions you need to do. I show you slow and clear so you know later”.
What I’m trying to achieve, if possible, is to REPLICATE the muscular state/feeling you have when you are warmed-up best/been playing for a few hours. It would be amazing to reach that state in the fastest possible way.
Will try the streches again. There are many vids about it but there are very different to each other…

I don’t think besides with drugs thats possible.

Stretches while good, as far as I’m aware will make getting there harder. It recudes the force your muscles can exert and changes the input needed to reach a certain contraction level.

There are various supplements you can take to increase “acetylcholine”. I’ve taken one called dmae, and it not only increases my sociability but also can increase that connection to the guitar or any physical movement. Tho they are supplements, not drugs so it is a subtle effect.
Alcohol is a drug that will make my playing much better it not overdone. But obviously not a good thing to take just to get more fluid control faster.

I think the best thing really is to just develop a warm up etude, ofcourse thats with the guitar.
Short cuts are always going to be missing very important things.

One thing that can put you in the zone for almost anything is cardio. That could be an answer?

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Honest question- does alcohol actually make your playing better, or does it just make you think its better? Or is it that you feel relaxed?

Edit: I have never enjoyed drinking and playing. As a UK born and raised, I have done my fair share of boozing and can hold my drink (I don’t fall all over the place even after a skinful), but even after 1 pint of ale, I feel physically disconnected from my finger tips when playing guitar…

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I get stimulated from alcohol. I have fairly bad add, and that could possibly be a reason for it. I am very cognisant with alcohol intake, I do reach a point where it’s too much. But It’s far more of a stimulator and focuser/stress reliever than a numbing effect.

Yes, without doubt it improves my playing, I can feel the strings, the frets, the neck, The pick feels fluid etc. Perhaps I’m just giving my personal experience to much and is not appropriate to just let it out there as fact. Tho it is my honest experience. More than 3/4 beers it can get sloppy, but the “come up” is a stimulating experience, and it’s almost as if I’m getting more information from my hands than when sober, the guitar actually feels more like silk rather than an awkward clunky stumbling block.

If I drink to much it does mess me up, I think it’s due to dopamine, just enough provides a carrot for my nervous system to chase after, that in the zone fluid feeling where your movements feel good/ are rewarded. In a sober state things can feel awkward, disconnected, tacky. But with a Good warm up or just on a Good day/brain chemistry is in line with physically, Things flow much better.
The feeling is literally of akward tackyness vs connected silk smoothness.

In my opinion it’s all about the chemicals in your brain/nervous system. Thats why… in my opinion… many of the best guitar performances are people under the influence of something.

Both on cocaine… just look at martys jaw.
And they are both playing unbelievably well.

Thank you all for the answers.
RE: Alcohol/drugs… I don’t think so. Same thing as you try to speak a foreign language you are not fluid, when drunk. You think you sound “almost native”, while in reality it is pretty bad…
I’m trying to maximize the performance of MUSCLES used in in guitar playing, that’s all.
TO THE MUSCLE, maybe 1 min of “workout” is the same as 1 hour of guitar playing…if so, we could use that work out to our advantage…

Just an idea…

The preformance in guitar playing is mostly nervous system based. Things that stimulate the nervous system will help, as I posted. The muscles in our forearms and hands are more than capable of applying enough force to the guitar, a workout is not necessary. It’s more about how fired up your nervous system is.
Alcohol does actually increase verbal fluency for most people, until you drink to much.

Try doing some cardio before your guitar playing. Or creating an etude.

When you get a bit older, you’ll understand the benefits of doing MAB’s warm-up exercises for 10 mins every time you pick up a guitar.
Without a guitar you should be making a fist and then pointing out all your fingers, then repeating this about 20 times. The second non-guitar warm up is to cross each combination of adjaacent fingers on each hand - index and middle, then middle and ring, ring and pinkie, both ways over and under.
These two simple exercises help with keeping flexibility and can be done several times a day.
I learnt about these exercises from two separate and unconnected people - one is a jazz pianist, the other a classical concert pianist both are over 80 and still play with great speed and dexterity. I think it’s good advice for any instrumentalist.


This guitar yoga is really great. I’ve been doing in pre practice over the last week - it feels really good when I pick up an instrument. Thanks for posting.

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For MAB’s warmup, are you referring to this video? Thanks @Zoot for the other pianist warmups.

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Yes these exercises using all fingers although I saw him explaining this a while ago in his SPEED KILLS video.

@WhammyStarScream has said it a couple times but cardio could be critical for this depending on your needs. For me, my hands seem to get poor circulation most of the time (unless I just ate or did cardio / workouts) which is exacerbated if it’s cold. There are a few grip tools you can use to get blood flowing, but you can also do things like planks / push ups if you don’t have anything with you.

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Yeah cardio is great to stimulate almost every aspect of preformance, nervous system control, blood flow, memory etc

Idk much else besides the chemical aspect that will get you to a state somewhat like playing for a few hours as op wants.
Cardio is used by many people to get in “the zone” and that’s what a few hours of playing can do too if you’re lucky.

I too take Nootropics, so I may add Acetylcholine to my mix if it helps!