It’s not like I practice for hours everyday (I wish) but from time to time I have wrist problems. Sometimes it’s a burning, cramping sensation in my forearm, but more problematic is a sense of tightness I feel in my left wrist, usually relating to trying to do some fast legato licks on lower strings involving the ring finger and the pinky. Cold weather/body seems to contribute, too. When I get this wrist pain, I usually stop playing and rest.
This last week I had a bout of wrist pain described above, so while I was waiting for my wrist to heal I looked up some videos on wrist and hand stretches for guitar players. Surprisingly, I didn’t come across anything from a professional in the field of physiology. One reputable source I did find was the trusty Mr. John Petrucci:
Of course, Mr. Petrucci is not a medical professional by any means, but you can’t argue that he has attained advanced skills without injuring yourself — so what he presents here, while basic, seems convincing.
I also liked this guy’s stretches:
Now, I go to the gym about twice a week most of the time, but last week I didn’t hit the gym — I did exercise in the pool, but not the gym. Today I went for the first time in like 2 weeks. It felt great. My body felt energized from having had that challenged-to-do-something-it-can’t experience. My guitar practice went very well, too, and my wrist feels very solid.
I don’t have any wrist strengthening exercises in my gym routine, but now I’m thinking of adding some. Part of the reason why the muscles get tense or cramp up is because the muscle is fatigued — tired. If the muscle is developed enough so it has enough stamina to withstand the activities. Although my current gym routine doesn’t focus on wrists, my body in general felt strong and limber from being challenged. On cold days without that experience, my body can get cold and tense.
So, while exercising the muscles in your wrists and hands don’t make you a better guitar player — it does give you a fighting chance at becoming one, as you’ll stay healthier and play longer without injuries. Stretches and strengthening exercises should be incorporated into routines of all serious players.