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classical guitar stretch strength dexterity exercise

Opposing Movement Stretches, for Strength and Independence

This is a left hand stretching, independence and dexterity exercise.  It’s long been a favorite of mine to recommend to cocky students who think they’re hot stuff.

But really, it is a wonderful way to improve the range of motion and finger independence of the left hand.

Here’s the Stretch and Dexterity Exercise:

  1. Start with all four fingers on four consecutive frets anywhere on the third string.
  2. Shift one finger to each of the other strings in turn (leaving the other three fingers on the third string on their individual frets, and allowing the hand and wrist to remain still.  In other words, move the finger, not the hand.). 
  3. Repeat with each finger in turn, always returning to the third string, and always keeping the others in place.
  4. –All this has been a warm-up, now for the real nitty-gritty:
  5. Starting with all fingers in place (as above), allow one finger to move up a string, while the adjacent finger moves down a string.
  6. Then, with these same two fingers, reverse their positions, so that they trade places (though remaining on their respective frets)
  7. Continue back and forth a few times, increasing the distance by moving to the fifth and sixth strings.
  8. Repeat with all possible finger combinations:
  • 1,2
  • 2,3
  • 3,4
  • 1,3
  • 2,4
  • 1,4

Warm up before this!

As with any exercise, be careful not to over-do it, and make sure you are warmed up before jumping in.

You may benefit from holding your hands under or in some hot water to loosen up before playing (in my mind the quickest, easiest, and most enjoyable warm-up!)


That’s it!  Have fun!

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8 Responses to Opposing Movement Stretches, for Strength and Independence

  1. Bernie January 12, 2015 at 1:56 pm #

    Thanks for Odair’s Favorite practice exercise. I like this and the rasqueados exercise. I am just starting and looking for exercises I can do develop technique and coordination and strengthen my hands. This is hard for me. Thanks a million!

    • Allen January 14, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

      Thanks Bernie! Hard for me, too, but that’s the fun of it!

  2. debbie July 8, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    Tried multi-tasking and incorporated subdividing with metronome with the exercise which is kind of fun and interesting to listen to. Slurring didn’t work so well…. 🙂

    • Allen July 8, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      Experimentation is great, (though recent studies on multi-tasking overwhelming show that…..). I am glad you’re having fun with it.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Keep up the good practice!


  3. eame July 8, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    That is a good exersise and will keep it in mind.
    Nice1 Allen

    • Allen July 8, 2013 at 9:55 am #



  4. debbie July 7, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    thanks for sharing this Allen. Its a good exercise. My technical stuff has fallen by the wayside recently with summer/vacation fever persisting. My guitar time reflects the whim and desire of the moment and kind of random. Actually most of my practice is like that(what keeps it fun for me. ) , but I usually balance it with a list of “things to do”. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Allen July 7, 2013 at 11:27 am #

      Thanks for the comment, Debbie!
      It’s true, a balance of routine and spontaneity is crucial to keep things fresh and still move forward. All routine and no spontaneity becomes stale, and we can hear it in the music that comes from this place (boring, academic). All spontaneity and no long-term skill development creates a “dabbler” (and we can hear that as well). Ideally, we can bridge the two, and develop great technical prowess while infusing our music (and daily practice) with a sense of joy and play.

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