Play Better Guitar: The Finger Gym Exercise

Welcome to the community Seyed
Here is a direct quote from Justin on the website
“The Finger Gym exercise is not a speed competition; it’s not a speed training.”
Then repeats by saying
“Again - this is not a speed exercise, but it’ll get you playing faster once you get things right in the first place! So, keep in mind: accuracy goes over speed in this exercise!”

So to answer your question. Never


Welcome Seyed,

Stitch as always has given the perfect answer. A lot of what Justin says and writes in his lessons can sometimes inadvertantly be overlooked.
When you are absolutely confident that you can gain nothing more from this exercise, or if you’re just bored with it then by all means exclude it from your routine and use the time to practice something else. That is something only you can decide.

I can get the hammer-ons to the same volume as my picking on electric, but not on acoustic. Especially the pinky. Is it better to practice this exercise on acoustic or electric?

JK, I would practice on whatever you are going to play!

The hammer ons will be easier on electric but certainly doable on the acoustic.

I find that a lot of the volume comes from getting a clean strike to get the string ringing. Make sure finger ends are coming in perpendicular to the frets so that the tip of your finger does the striking, not the fleshy bit.


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Hey everyone-- when I do this exercise with the 2&4 and 3&4, my index finger comes all the way up, pointed directly away from the fretboard (“flying”). I can’t figure out how to keep it from doing that. Justin’s is flat against the fretboard as if he was doing a barre chord.

I comment because Justin’s minimum movement exercise said that the goal should be the keep the fingers from lifting too far away from the fretboard. So seeking two pieces of advice from the community:

  1. is it ok to do this exercise without giving too much worry to what my non-engaged fingers are doing?
  2. if not, any advice for keeping your index finger from “flying”?

Welcome to the forum Joe. Try Minimum Movement exercise. It will get your finger under control. Minimum Movement Exercise |

Welcome to the community Joe

  1. Yep. Dont stress about it, but be mindful of it. The Finger Gym’s aim is basically about building strength

  2. The Minimum Movement’s aim is to get those flying fingers under control, and close to the strings. SLOW is the key with this one, and it really does show results over time.

So its about being focused on the aim of a particular exercise, whatever it is, but being mindful of other skills that are being developed.

Cheers, Shane

Thanks Shane! This makes sense, and what I thought based on Justin saying to always focus on the goal of the exercise. But I wasn’t sure if this was meant to build off of the minimum movement exercise, or if it was entirely different.

Thanks stitch–I’ve done that lesson, which is why I was confused! I appreciate it.

Hi, I don’t have too much trouble achieving the hammer-ons, it’s just that my free fingers, main culprits being fingers 1&2 fly right away from the fretboard. A real effort to keep them tighter to the fretboard. Is that not good practice?

Try the Minimum Movement Exercise Stitch mentioned above. I had flying fingers myself so can attest to how well it works to get them under control. It didn’t take all that long either.

I’ve been doing the Finger Gym exercise for a few weeks now, but have not seen much benefit in my overall playing (which is mainly strumming chords…not doing much single note stuff yet).

I know a lot of you have gotten great use from this exercise. What tangible improvements do you see in your playing?

Finger strength primarily, as well as finger independence and improved accuracy. All three are helpful for chords, and super helpful for finger style. At least for me.


Don’t think weeks. Probably several months and more. Takes a while to build up strength in muscle we hardly know how to engage.

My index finger wants to lay on its side, my middle and ring finger get upset if their tips are more than 2mm apart and my pinky likes to bend in a sudden jerking thunky movement, rather than smoothly.

I am making progress, but wish I had started paying attention to this a year ago.


@tyfelin Andy, as Dave has mentioned, going back to revisit the Module 4 Beginning Finger Stretching Exercise lesson would be helpful. I have put some tips in the discussion section that might be helpful.

I’ve noticed that my pinkie curls in some when I curl in all of my finger joints. If I keep my pinkie extended and just bend (as much as I can) at just the first joint near the tip of my pinkie I can tap down my pinkie straight on or perpendicularly.

Bending the pinkie at the big joint at the base of the pinkie though curls the pinkie under the ring finger or 3rd finger.

Notice how flat Justin’s hand is when he is hammering-on on the first or thinnest E string (at 2:15 in The Finger Gym Exercise video). He is only bending the 1st and 2nd joints of his fingers.

@Tbushell Tom, I’m just starting this exercise, but as a rhythm guitarist I would think it would eventually prepare you for more advanced hammer-on chord embellishments when you strum. (I am thinking Hendrix/John Meyer)

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I’m also hoping this exercise will help with fingering for some of the more advanced chords such as sus4 barre chords.

@Tbushell I am continuing to go through all the grade 1 and 2 song video lesson, since Justin throws in some intermediate techniques. I was just playing through the song Budapest this morning and in the more advanced version of the song, Justin uses a hammer-on in the strumming pattern for the G chord.

@Tbushell Tom, I’m sorry that I didn’t answer your question directly. I was just responding to the suggestion that finger strength and hammer-ons was primarily for single note stuff.

I thought of one other great example. Take a look at the intro for the JG song lesson for Long Train Running, a Doobie Brothers funk rhythm song from the 70s (originally listed on their album as Long Train Runnin’). It is a Grade 5 song, but it has Gm7 barre chord with 2 fingers hammering on a the same time. It is surprisingly not hard to do since it is at the tenth fret with the 2 fingers hammering-on an Am7 chord shape. A friend of mine showed me how to play the first chord rhythm, back in the 70s before I even know about barre chords.

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