Playing a guitar is just like physical exercise, just on a smaller level.  And just like an athlete, you need to be properly conditioned to avoid injury.  We all love it when our fingers fly over the fretboard effortlessly.  But if you're not warmed up right it will feel more like trying to play with uncooked kielbasa sausage fingers.  These are some super easy warm up tips to stretch out your muscles and tendons in both hands so you can shred like the wind.  You'll also avoid nasty ailments like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendonitis.

For this first one you don't need your guitar.  Stretch your left arm out in front of you, with your palm facing out (stop sign style), and point your fingers toward the ceiling.  Then gently pull back your left hand palm and fingers using your right hand.  You'll feel the stretch in your wrist.

Then, with your arm still straight out, point your fingers toward the ground.  Again with your right hand, gently pull your left hand towards you.  Now you'll feel the stretch on the top side of your wrist.

Do the same with your right hand.  While the right hand doesn't do as much stretching and flexing as the left, it can easily tense up if you're holding your pick too tight. 

Now a quick shoulder stretch.  You shoulders can easily get tight from holding the weight of your guitar.  Put your right arm straight out then swing it to your left towards your throat.  Then bring your left arm up under it and gently pull your right arm toward you.  You'll feel the stretch in your shoulder. 

Next put your right arm straight up in the air.  Bending at the elbow, place your forearm behind your head.  Grab your right wrist with your left hand and gently pull on it.  This loosens up your side muscles.  Now switch arms and repeat that process to loosen up your left side and shoulder.

Is cracking your knuckles a bad thing?  I'm sure your parents always yelled at you to stop it or you'd end up with arthritis.  It's simply not true.  If it makes your fingers feel a bit looser, it's probably ok.  Be careful not to over-extend your fingers in any direction as it can lead to damaged ligaments and sprains.  This article from the Washington Post explains more about what happens in your hand when you crack your knuckles.

Ok, now it's time to grab your guitar.  Start at the 7th fret of the bottom string with your first finger and play a four fret, four finger pattern.  --7--8--9--10--  Run this pattern on each string, all the way to the top, then back down.  --10--9--8--7-- Play this until you can keep all four fingers on their frets as you play up the pattern.

When you're comfortable with that, move down one fret and repeat the process.  Repeat that process until you're all the way down to the first fret.

Go back to the 7th fret.  This pattern uses your 1st, 2nd, and 4th fingers, skipping frets.  It will look like --7--9--11--  Same as before, do that until you can keep all the fingers on the frets.  Do it on each string, up and back.  Then continue moving down the frets until you reach the bottom of the neck.

Then move on to these patterns:
1st and 3rd finger  --7--10--
1st and 4th finger  --7--11--

Do these warm ups before you play each day and you'll have fingers that fly around the fretboard like the tiny individual guitar gods they are. 

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