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I don't get as much time with my guitar as I'd like, and I'd like to be "in shape" for the time of day when I can play. Are there exercises I can do while I don't have my guitar that can help improve the strength of my fingers, especially my ring and pinky fingers? Are there exercises I can do to help me move them independently of each other? My ring finger seems especially eager to follow my middle finger.

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7 Answers 7

A simple soft rubber ball can do the job.

Gripped in your fret board hand, you squeeze and and release it slowly. This helps build strength in the hand muscles you use to fret your guitar.

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Also chin ups using only the fingertips, or rock climbing are extremely good for building up finger strength. –  Dr Mayhem Mar 18 '11 at 1:38

Something like the Planet Waves Varigrip should help you out.

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Get a Powerball to train your fingers and hands. Quite effective.

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Going through an old newspaper or flyer from the mail sheet by sheet rolling them into a ball as fast and hard as I can (alternating between each hand) really does a number on on my forearms and fingers.

It seems I always lose or misplace those grippie things you can buy at Guitar shops.

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Fingertip pushups might help as well.

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Many of the answers so far address strength primarily. I'd say the fret hand requires stamina more than raw strength. Many of the exercises people have suggested will increase stamina too, so that's all to the good. I guess I'm just suggesting you be aware of what you're really after.

You also asked about finger independence, and I'd imagine you're interested in general dexterity as well as strength. The Finger Fitness exercises by Greg Irwin are good for finger independence and swiftness. I wouldn't buy his whole DVD series. Just find some of the short videos on YouTube, and you'll get the idea. You can build your own dexterity exercises from the examples.

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Since this was brought up from the past, I might as well post my suggestion as well. I use the product line called Grip Master. It's a grip training device which strengthens your fingers considerably, and it comes in different tensions so you can start from whatever current level your fingers can handle.

Stephan's answer is also right in that you want to practice stamina as well. The answer to this is how you use the grip master. It's not just about being able to push it, but how you push it. You will want to push with each finger one at a time so you build up each finger itself, and try to hold it for a certain amount of time. Holding it will bring up your stamina and strength at the same time.

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