Warming up is something we’re used to hearing about in exercise and sports, but is it really something you need to do before you practice guitar?
What is warming up?
‘Warming up’ means exactly that – getting your blood flowing and muscles moving so that you can perform at your best.
It’s definitely a real thing, as most guitar players discover the hard way…
When you try to play at the upper limit of your abilities without having touched your guitar that day, you know all about it!
It’s especially noticeable if you’re under pressure, like playing to an audience or recording in front of the red light.
Your fingers feel like they’re weighed down with lead instead of gliding over the fretboard like you want (and like they were at the end of your last practice session!).
What are you “warming up” to do?
Like an athlete preparing to run 100 metres as fast as possible, you need to be sufficiently warmed up if you want to play guitar at your absolute best.
That makes total sense.
But that’s not what you’re doing when you’re sat at home by yourself, working on your playing.
A practice session is not a performance
And this is the problem with “guitar warm up exercises”.
I hear guys with jobs, families and careers – who might have about 20 minutes a day to practice guitar – talk about “warming up” for 5, 10 or even 15 minutes before they start practicing.
What a waste of time.
Rather than fiddling around with “warm up exercises”, just start warming up with the things you’re going to be practicing anyway.
You don’t need to waste precious time on a whole separate category of exercises.
All you need to do is ease in to your practice.
Most of the time, this simply means start slower. Don’t expect (or even try) to hit your top speed straight out of the gate.
Warming up is as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing.
That’s why you need to engage your mind on the things you’re trying to improve – not wasting limited time and energy on irrelevant exercises.
Think of your guitar playing muscles a bit like a car engine.
You wouldn’t jump into your car, turn on the ignition and floor it to 100mph would you? Not if you cared at all about your car.
But nor would you mess about for 15 minutes with blankets and hot water bottles to “warm up” the engine before you set off.
Rather, you just warm it up by doing what you’re there to do – driving (moderately at first). It’s the same with guitar practice.
And, like a car engine, the longer it’s been since you last went out the longer it will take to fully warm up, and the more likely it is you’ll damage it if you go too far too soon.
So, all the more reason to practice regularly and consistently. And when you do:
Spend all your practice time working on the things you actually need to improve.
If you waste half your practice time not practicing, then think about it – it’s going to take you twice as long to reach your goals!
How you spend your practice time is the biggest factor in becoming good, and fast.
You can make impressive progress with as little as half an hour a day to practice, but you cannot afford to waste time.
Spending time on specific exercises just to “warm up” is a classic example of inefficient guitar practice.