Shoulder strength exercises, tips, etc?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by fuzz_factor, Dec 16, 2009.

  1. fuzz_factor

    fuzz_factor Supporting Member

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    My guitars have been really weighing on my shoulder lately, even light ones like my SG. I have a variety of thick, wide, padded, neoprene, etc. straps. I figure it's time to try and build up some strength in my shoulders.

    Does anyone have any exercises, stretches, weight lifting schemes or just general advice on developing shoulder strength for guitar playing?

    Thanks!
     
  2. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    I believe KRosser mentioned doing yoga helped relieve a similar problem (shoulder fatigue caused by guitar weight).
     
  3. fetishfrog

    fetishfrog Member

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    Google 'rotator cuff exercises'. I have had some issues recently and doing some simply stretches/light lifting has helped quite a bit.
     
  4. ivers

    ivers Member

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  5. mjm59

    mjm59 Member

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    I had a very similar experience and discovered that it went far beyond the weight of the guitar, strap, etc. Turned out that the way I was orienting the instrument to my body was the source of all my problems.

    I had been a long time Strat and 335 player so this never occurred to me until I bought some smaller guitars, Les Paul and a Lakewood M-32 acoustic. Even though I had bought a heavily padded strap, the LP was cutting into my shoulder so badly that my left arm began going numb from my fingers to the elbow after about an hour of playing. I also began to experience discomfort when I was playing sitting down and began to think that my playing days were slowly coming to an end.

    Then one day, suddenly I decided to try something different. I think it happened while I was playing the acoustic, but I decided to place the guitar on my left leg, more like a classical posture. Immediately, the pain in my shoulder was relieved and I found that playing the LP in that position was much more comfortable, too.

    Unfortunately, I was still in great pain when playing the LP in a standing position and realized that the difference was that even though my strap is at the length that would hold the guitar at the same height as when I was sitting, I was orienting the guitar as if it were sitting on my right leg. After pulling the guitar more in front of me so that the instrument ran pefectly parallel to my waist, as opposed to an angle of 45 deg from my right hip, my shoulder immediately felt much better. Furthermore, I found that I had much better, consistent access to the upper frets without my left hand running into my gut and having to radically move the guitar to gain the access that I needed.

    So, if you find that you tend to play/pick off of your right hip, try swinging the guitar more directly in front of you and see if that helps. It seemed that combined with my normal slouching, having the weight of the guitar pulling my left shoulder even further forward was the major source of my troubles. I think that you'll find that playing with a more classical posture, both sitting and standing, will help you to stand straighter, more evenly distribute the weight of the instrument to your back as opposed to centralizing it on your shoulder, and you'll be amazed at how you'll increase your access to the upper frets. Another thing you might have noticed is that when you have the guitar coming off your right hip, you end up having to "reach" out in front of you when playing those first position chords.

    I hope you find that my experience helps you.

    Mike
     
  6. fuzz_factor

    fuzz_factor Supporting Member

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    Thanks for all the tips. mjm59: I'll definitely check out what you're saying. In fact, I've been trying to find comfortable positions for practicing, especially while sitting. I've tried a variety of chairs, angles, strap heights, etc.

    Since starting to play bass a year or so ago, I find that I'm doing exactly what you're talking about regarding the 45 degree angle from the right hip. I did that to relieve right hand tension, especially as I've gotten into using the floating thumb technique on bass. That has caused problems on the left side, however. Their must be some balance that I'm missing.

    Thanks!
     
  7. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    Yes, indeed.
     
  8. GA20T

    GA20T Member

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    Aside from good stretching: push-ups, military presses, bent over rows, shrugs with weight, and a few rotator cuff exercises should do.
     
  9. xntrick

    xntrick Member

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  10. SRVYJM

    SRVYJM Member

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    The classical sitting and standing approach really worked for me. I even bought one of those little adjustable foot stools for classical guitar, and it makes all the difference. I had the problem that no matter what when I played the guitar on my right leg, my right shoulder, not my left, would start aching terribly right away. Just didn't work at all for me. With the guitar resting comfortably between my legs, resting on my left leg, it solved it completely, and when I stand, it's almost in the exact same place so I don't have to re-learn anything, it's just a bit lower for me standing then sitting, but very comfortable. It also helps center the total weight of the guitar in a more balanced position across my body instead of just on my left shoulder, effectively makes the guitar seem much lighter as well.

    Worked in just one sitting too, not after years of yoga or weight lifting. Now both those are used to keep from developing a beer gut and ruining the whole approach (much less aesthetic!).
     
  11. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    Since this thread is still going, I plan to get Gary Kraftsow's yoga DVD for upper back and shoulders:

    [​IMG]

    I took private lessons with a student of his who was pursuing a teacher training program. I've had good progress working with the material in his lower back yoga DVD (which is essentially the same as what I was taught in person).

    I had a left shoulder injury a couple of years back. It's healthy now, but I've always had loose shoulders that could use some stability work (and no, weight lifting is not an option until I finish my low back rehab), and I've always had tightness in my upper back - no pain or soreness there, but it shows when I do certain movements.
     
  12. Tomo

    Tomo Member

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    Please do stretch your body and do push-ups, sit-ups. Your body balance is more important than guitar playing. feel good yourself will help making playing good!

    Tomo
     

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