Alternately called guitar finger strengtheners, hand exercisers, and finger exercise tools, grip and finger strengtheners are invaluable tools that can improve your playing and allow you to practice away from your guitar.
With so many grips and finger strength trainers available today, beginner guitarists can be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. What are the differences between brands, they wonder, and why do some brands offer a variety of models while others provide only one or two? And what’s with the rainbow of loud, bordering-on-obnoxious colors?
If you’re a beginning guitarist wondering which finger exerciser is right for you, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve reviewed the best guitar finger exerciser available today and narrowed it down to three choices, listing the pros and cons of each so you don’t have to.
What Is A Guitar Finger Strengthener?
A hand-gripped tool designed to fit snugly in your palm, a guitar finger exerciser is a lightweight device engineered to develop grip and finger strength. The compact device comprises five independent pistons that can be depressed individually or combined, mimicking frets on a guitar neck.
Some guitar finger exercisers, like the D’Addario Varigrip Hand Exerciser, feature adjustable resistance, while others, such as the Prohands Grip Master series, come in a variety of fixed-resistance, color-coded models.
For reasons, we’ll get into in greater detail later, our choice of the best hand strengthener for guitarists is the D’Addario Varigrip Adjustable Hand Exerciser. Designed for guitarists by a company renowned for its guitar strings and accessories, the Varigrip is the clear stand-out among grip and finger strengthening tools.
The Top Three Finger Exercisers
1. D’addario Varigrip Adjustable Hand Exerciser
It should come as little surprise that our choice of best guitar finger exerciser is the one designed specifically for guitarists by a company known for producing quality guitar strings and accessories.
The D’Addario Varigrip takes hand exercisers to the next level, incorporating guitar-minded features into the already popular hand-exerciser market.
Like most hand and finger exercisers, the D’Addario Varigrip is lightweight and eminently portable. Unlike most other hand exercisers, the Varigrip features variable resistance, allowing you to adjust the force necessary to depress each plunger.
Aside from being fully adjustable, the D’Addario Varigrip features simulated “strings” on the molded rubber finger pads meant to help build and sustain calluses.
The D’Addario Varigrip comes in two models, the standard and the sport. The sports model has a more ergonomic design and features higher tensions than the standard model; otherwise, they are virtually the same.
While critiquing the D’Addario Varigrip, there was only one con I could find, and it was one I did not personally experience.
Some users report pinching their fingers if they are not placed in the middle of each plunger. Pinching your fingers is certainly not fun, but I would say this con is actually a plus, as it forces the user to concentrate more carefully on finger placement.
2. The Prohands Gripmaster
Touting itself as “the original spring-loaded hand and finger exerciser,” the Prohands Gripmaster guitar finger strengthener is still one of the most popular finger exercisers on the market.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve owned a Prohands Gripmaster guitar finger strengthener for over a decade and still use it to this day. While not explicitly geared to guitarists (athletes and people undergoing occupational therapy use them widely, too), these comfortable, compact devices offer most of the more essential features you want in a finger trainer.
The Prohands Gripmaster, like the D’Addario Varigrip, is lightweight, ergonomic, and portable. Unlike the Varigrip, the Gripmaster comes in a range of fixed resistance levels, which are indicated by the product’s color:
Green = 1.5 lbs, Yellow = 3 lbs, Blue = 5 lbs, Red = 7 lbs, Black = 9 lbs
Intermediate and experienced guitarists can also, should the need arise, move to the Gripmaster Pro series, which ranges from five pounds to thirteen pounds. Personally, I’d recommend staying with the original Gripmaster, as more reps can always make up for less applied force.
Having owned and used a Prohands Gripmaster for years, I can’t find any cons specific to this model. Only when compared to the D’Addario Varigrip, with its features explicitly designed for guitar players, does the Gripmaster at all fall short.
While researching this article, I came across a clever hack for turning your Gripmaster into a more guitar-specific finger trainer. Affix one staple, lengthwise, across the top of each fingerpad to simulate strings and help build and sustain calluses.
3. LGD FLY Hand Grip Strengthener Kit
If you’re a new guitarist looking to take advantage of every practicing and strengthening tool, you may wish to opt for the LGD FLY Hand Grip Strengthener Kit. More than just a finger exerciser, the Grip Strengthener Kit includes a variable-resistance grip trainer ranging from 22-88 pounds, several finger-stretchers, and finger-exercise rings.
Seemingly designed more as a rehab tool than a guitar finger exerciser, the LDG FLY Grip Strengthener Kit is, nonetheless, a valuable set of tools in any practicing guitarist’s arsenal.
The most obvious advantage to the Grip Strengthener Kit, as opposed to the Varigrip or Gripmaster, is that it includes not just a finger exerciser but also other finger-strengthening tools.
Finger-stretchers can be particularly useful tools for guitarists, and the fact that this kit includes three at varying resistances is a definite mark in its favor.
The LDG FLY Grip Strengthener Kit (available on Amazon, as are the Varigrip and Gripmaster) comes with a convenient carrying bag for easy storage and portability.
An included handheld grip strengthener is another pro, as forearm strength certainly plays a role in guitar playing. I would counsel not getting too hung up on building forearm strength, though; it will come naturally as you strengthen your fingers and your grip through playing and practice. You need not be a muscle bound weight lifter, after all, to be a guitar virtuoso!
The LDG FLY Grip Strengthener Kit is an excellent option for the beginning musician or one struggling to recover from an injury. For the seasoned guitarist, though, this offering may represent just a touch of quantity over quality.
For example, the actual palm-held finger exerciser offered does not have variable resistance, and it only comes at a fixed four-pound resistance. It should be mentioned, too, that finger-stretchers are not necessary, as a few thick rubber bands will serve the same purpose.
Do Finger Exercisers Really Help?
In a word, absolutely. Developing grip and finger strength is absolutely essential to becoming a better guitarist, and knowing how and what to play will avail you little if you don’t possess the grip strength to execute.
Anyone who’s played a few live sets of rhythm guitar can attest that holding barre chords for the length of a three or four-minute song can prove a feat of endurance and that requires proper athletic ability.
Having played guitar for almost twenty years, I can say with certainty that any practice you can get is invaluable. Turning downtime away from your instrument into valuable practice can make a tremendous difference in your playing, and a guitar finger strengthener lets you do just that.
How To Use A Finger Strengthener?
A guitar finger strengthener can be used every day, as often as you like, so long as you don’t experience any discomfort or pain. Finger muscles, like any others, can become fatigued and even strained. Having used a guitar finger strengthener for years, I have never run into such issues.
Incredibly versatile, guitar hand exercisers can be used to improve grip strength and finger speed, practice switching between chord forms, and practice different fingering patterns. While you can significantly improve your grip and finger strength by simply depressing the pistons simultaneously, try some of the following tips to get the most out of your guitar finger strengthener:
Guitar Finger Strengtheners And Finger Strength
When using your guitar hand exercise tool to develop strength, don’t finger the plungers as though you were playing your guitar. To improve finger, grip and hand strength, depress each piston, in turn, for about five or six seconds. Repeat this process for as long as possible or is practical.
To focus solely on grip strength, depress all the pistons at once. Again, hold them down for five or six seconds, then repeat.
Guitar Hand Exercisers For Speed/Coordination
Aside from building finger and grip strength, hand exercisers help improve your finger speed and coordination. When you’re working on speed and coordination, finger the pistons on your guitar finger strengthener as though you were playing a lick on your guitar.
Some guitar finger exercisers come with numbered pistons, but you need not worry if yours doesn’t. Simply designate your fingers one through four, your index finger being one, and your pinky being four, and you’ll be off to the races, so to speak.
As you practice for speed, you’ll want to depress the plungers of your guitar finger strengthener with no more pressure than you’d use fingering a string on your guitar. Begin slow and increase speed as you go.
To improve coordination, practice depressing the pistons in different patterns. Keeping in mind the numbers we’ve assigned our fingers, practice varying combinations (3142, 2213, 2214, 3124), beginning slowly and gradually increasing your speed.
Guitar Hand Exercise Tools And Practicing Chords
While invaluable for working on finger speed and coordination, you can also use your guitar hand exerciser to practice fingering, and switching between, chords. For example, to practice an A chord, depress plungers one, two, and three. For a G chord, it would be one, two, and four.
A guitar hand exerciser can also be used to practice fingering barre chords. I have to admit, this is one of my favorite uses of my hand strengthener and the one from which I’ve benefitted the most.
Practicing barre chords with a hand exerciser requires holding your guitar finger strengthener differently. Rather than resting it in your palm, hold it so your thumb rests lengthwise against the bottom piston. Then, with each finger, in turn, depress all the pistons along the top of the exerciser. Depress and hold for five or six seconds, then repeat for as long as is practical.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to build finger strength for guitar?
There is, of course, no straightforward answer to this question. Every guitarist progresses at their own speed, and how long it will take to develop finger strength will depend mainly on how often you practice.
What is straightforward is that you’ll develop finger strength faster using a guitar finger exercises tool than you will otherwise. For one thing, you’ll significantly increase your amount of available practice time if you can strengthen your fingers and grip even when you don’t have access to your guitar.
Will a guitar finger exercise tool work for forearms?
As touched on earlier, finger and grip exercises will strengthen your forearms, at least to a degree. Keep in mind, though, that building forearms don’t necessarily translate to better guitar playing. Too much muscle may even impact the speed with which you can finger notes.
If you’re looking to build up your forearms, there are better tools on the market than a guitar finger exercise tool, and if you’re looking to improve your playing, there are more important things than bulging guns.