Could Guitar Players Lift Weights – Lifting Weights Could Make your Fingers Stiff, What the Hell


Most people will just think of any reason at all why they mustn’t lift weights or have any exercise at all due to laziness. The result is that lifting gets demonized by the public due to the several rumors spread by few individuals who think that stagnancy is the way to live. One of these very stupid rumors is that lifting weights will hinder one’s musical capabilities because it will “stiffen” one’s fingers.

You see, one of the reasons why I lifted weights is when I got addicted to “Heavy Metal” – Pantera, Megadeth, Black Label Society, Black Sabbath and the like. I thought “How can a pipsqueak possibly express power with his lame body?” thus I thought that a big, strong body is fundamental to any heavy metal musician.

For me that was the absolute difference between metal and punk – punks play to whine, but metal heads play to express POWER and besides your music, how else can one portray power than with the display of his physique?

Thus at that time I began my journey in the weight room which was also when I began learning how to play “Aria” my guitar, a 1980’s design Aria warrior head from japan which my uncle gave me. She was handed to me as broken as a broken whore but fortunately my “master” Janry, who was going to Conservatory at that time (guitar major – and yes they learned how to play “classic” but he was an old school metal head, blues guy originally) knew a guy who knew how to restore guitars like a pro (certainly cause this guy was a pro) and he never charged for labor but only for the materials (which wasn’t that much) and we just treated him fried chicken for his hard work “Thanks Uncle Morota!”.

Janry off course, the guy who taught me everything I know (who never taught me how to play any single song without me first perfecting progressing all of the chromatic patters from the first to the last fret without mistakes) strongly advocated AGAINST lifting weights because it will make your fingers slower. They also had this belief that playing Bass guitars will make your fingers less flexible once you shifted back to playing lead guitars. I went on lifting anyways simply because I loved doing it.

Look, I am not a professional guitar head and I know that many of you guys are such and still believe in this myth but fast forward ten years this Janry guy is now about to have his training under Gold’s Gym for his trainer certification and YES he now lifts weights more than he plays guitar and he yes, he now looks younger than he was ten years ago but he ate his words when I asked him “he dude, how was it – did lifting weights make your fingers slow” and his reply was “yeah, quite, not sure – but only a little; actually it is INSIGNIFICANT”. That came from a guitar major guitar geek. And it was obvious on his part that he just never had enough practice nowadays to begin with.

On my end I never played guitar for over two years now but at one time there was this blues-head named Andrew who was about to start his own live-band bar getting drunk with his fellow musicians in a way that I love (which is with a few instruments and playing good music) and so I, having nothing else to do at that time, decided to sit in. And this guy Andrew decided that he was to drunk to play decided to hand me his guitar and jamming with everyone else.

Off course I declined at first saying that I don’t have no practice whatsoever but, man that guy was hard to convince! He argued that I am good enough and the other guys would be too drunk to notice anyway. Well at least that was an opportunity to mess up without pressure, so I played the only song that I could recall playing: “Smoke on the Water”.

Man that was tense but it turned out that they loved how I played it. Sure I missed a lot of notes but as I lost myself in the music, my own scaling took over ( and yes I missed a lot of notes) but with regards to hand speed, I felt that I lost but only a little. And the finger speed that I lost wasn’t due to lifting per say but was due to not having any practice at all for years. Surely playing Aria again would get back my speed and my “musical senses”.

And that is not to say that the first time I played and learned guitar (my best years) were also the times when I was also lifting weights. Did my lifting hinder my playing? Surely not!

And sure thing we also had many myths such as these like “lifting hindering height gain”, “Lifting weights affecting your basketball skills”, “lifting weights shortening one’s lifespan”, “lifting weights affect this and that” and all of these have been proven STUPID and false and the only reason why they exist is because some pipsqueak punk wanted to find solace in his lack of physical activity. And off course there are MILLIONS like him thus they embraced these myths as one and nowadays they ring onto the hearts of commoners as fact.

But like this myth that we are blasting today, they have NO scientific basis whatsoever. In fact you can ask several pro-guitar players about their experience with regards to weight training, here’s one of these threads:

Greetings!!

I’ve seen it has happened to several musicians and friends of mine, even my brother. The fact is that after they develop a thick muscle mass, skill and speed of his fingers disappear almost 80%, if not 100%. without mentioning that they will gradually grabbing more to taste weights, and less on his guitars or basses. I saw with my own eyes, how my brother couldn’t do fast figures on his bass, and that previous months could do.

We prefer to spend more time practicing at our instruments, that going to the gym, you have realized that most of the musicians aren’t muscular frame! So what? we can’t have both things? muscles and speed can not live together? I am a little bit fat, and some time I want to do exercises, is that there are other methods that don’t require weights, jogging or swimming, but let us be honest, muscles looks good, and girls like it! but I don’t want to lose my abilities in the bass, so there is a way to solve this?? exercise the entire body except the forearm, (I think in this part of the arm tendons are working the movement of the fingers, and bigger muscles in that area means give them less space to move freely, I am not sure..) I think it would not be good idea.. What do you think?

Thanks!

Elpelotero:

Mark Tremonti, John Petrucci, George Lynch, and Michael Angelo Batio shred on guitar, and the lift weights.

Furthermore, I’ve been lifting weights for about 6-7 years…I can’t shred 😥 , but whenever I practice a lot, I notice my fingers move with ease and get much faster…

In other words, your brother lost his speed because he doesn’t practice anymore.

 

And to be honest, I don’t think that Zakk Wylde gets slow every time I hear him play, especially with “Swan Song”.

zakk wylde big muscles

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Man, that dude looks like he’s lifting some weights, don’t he?

And I love G3 and the freestyle heroes like Batio; sure he’s not huge but it’s obvious that his body gets some exercise. But take a look at this guy, Maxxxwell Carlisle

Maxxxwell Carlisle

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

and looking like that he shreds like he came from Warhammer. Here’s a small excerpt of his interview with Guitar World:

You’re an avid body building enthusiast. Does it affect your playing? Was it harder to play when you were competitively training?

People ask me all the time, “Doesn’t lifting weights interfere with your playing?” The answer is no. I have heard about other people having problems, but I’ve never had any issues. I do make an effort to not beat up my hands, like I don’t do boxing or anything like that, but as far as weight training, even heavy stuff, I’ve had zero problems. I’ve been doing it a long time too, like lifting and playing for 15 years each. If anything there are actually a lot of parallels between the two. The way you build up a muscle over time is very similar to developing a technique or developing speed in your playing. They both take a lot of time and consistency, and they’re both fun as hell. Plus, there are chicks at the gym, chicks at shows, so it’s all good.

Take it from the pros. Here’s another dude from another forum:

sounds like crap if you ask me. if you´re stronger, you have more stopping power. this means that after picking the string, you can stop the pick faster and turn the direction around to come back, and so tremolo picking and fast and precise stuff in general improves alot.

when you have more muscle, you also get more stability in your hands.

i think it depends on what you´re trying to achieve when you train though. if you´re after that “big-ass muscles” look, then that doesn´t equate to more strength. that´s just your muscles being large. if you´re after strength, however, your muscles won´t be as defined and fashionable-looking, but you´ll be strong as a ….ing bear

i´m planning on getting a Powerball to exercise my wrists and arms, so i can have more to go on when playing. also, those things are fun.

Some people just want to blame something else, hell that is why they wrote the song: ”Blame it on the Rain”. But in fact the only reason why they lost their mojo was:

LACK OF PRACTICE

Yeah and truly they had to blame it on something. Off course I would link you up to the Guitar Master thread here to see what the experts are saying.

jafomatic
post Nov 21 2009, 12:12 AM

It’s a misunderstanding of how the muscles work. Folks that never dabbled in body building don’t always understand that in order to build muscle, you have to tear it and provide your body with the fuel to rebuild it. Further, if I get this right, the periods of fatigue after someone first gets started with exercise will be longer until they are more used to the cycle of tearing/rebuilding.
So, and again: if I understand it fully, there may be some slowness after exercising the first few days while the muscles are fatigued and torn. Once they’ve been built up you will be in better shape so those periods will be shorter AND you’ll have done it from a stronger base of muscle.
The “legend” comes in when people suggest that it makes you slow forever which is (as you suggest) ridiculous. That part of the legend is nonsense which appears to have been fabricated by scrawny guys who wanted to believe that they truly had some hidden physical advantage without any training.

But in my humble opinion losing your skills in guitar or in anything else is no different than losing your “Love” and passion for it.

Think about this, when you leave a certain chic, and went with another one; you would say “You know my new girl was just better, so I had to leave Jenny”. It’s just like that. Perhaps you just fell in love with weight lifting and then you completely ignored guitar playing. Then you play one time and then everyone asked you why you sucked, you say:

“Well, you know, I am lifting weights now”

Bullsh¡t! Everyone (well except the ones who are “idiots” AKA majority) knows that you simply DON’T PLAY ANYOMORE. And definitely there is no reason for you not to have both killer guitar skills and killer physique.

Stretch your fingers:

We guitarists always stretch our fingers by the frets by putting the guitar neck in between each and every one of them. You must practice this religiously. And right after working out especially on days when you completely tax your forearms, don’t expect your dexterity to be at 100%. Off course you need to rest a bit, athletes don’t expect 100% performance after a lifting session, (for obvious reasons of recovery and muscular inflammation) and they lift weights for athletic performance. And Lifters don’t expect 100% performance in their 1 Rep max lifts immediately after a workout, duh!

 

And for you as long as you stretch your fingers and play regularly, lifting weights will NEVER have any long term effects to your musical dexterity. In fact it will make you an even better musician a someone who has great mind and body connection is also someone who has good mind/spirit connection. And another plus is that you will hook more groupies.

The only physical activity I can think off that can possibly harm your guitar skills and fingers LITERALLY would be any regular combat sports that strain your hands like boxing (obviously) and some method of training martial arts. But to be honest I have trained like that for quite some time without effects whatsoever, but that’s just me.

Scientifically speaking hammering your fists to a solid body regularly will do a number on your hand speed and will possibly affect you in your grandpa years. So with that I can certify that you would indeed have to choose between being a great guitar player (or even a 40wpm keyboard typist) and breaking bricks.

But if you really love what you are doing, and you love two things that seem to be contradicting – whatever other people or even science says: HELL! Just do them! Eat your eggs, people!

A-Lifter- Don't forget to leave your comment/feedback below.  If this article was helpful, I am sure our book Real Talk Muscle will help you even more in your quest for muscle gain. Check it out you can read the first few chapters as well.
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