The Spiderwalk Exercise - okay for a beginner? Alternatives?

Hello all,

I’m into my second week of learning, and have found myself looking for stretches and exercises to limber up my fingers. I find I have my ring and index finger turning in towards each other and stretching and warming up my hands helps a bit but not a great deal. I came across the spiderwalk exercises, quite a few videos highlighting them on YouTube, and the comments are full of folks agreeing they are super helpful.

My problem is, I cannot really go further than the third string before it becomes impossible to have my fingers a fret apart, even before they start sliding together, and I cannot get my wrist anywhere near a safe angle attempting this. Does anybody have experience with this exercise? I know it isn’t part of the Justin Guitar videos, but I am really struggling with getting the D and A chord due to my fingers not wanting to stretch and that twisting in of the ring finger in particular.

I have looked around through a few topics here and at a few of the later lessons to do with stretching and finger strength exercises, but I’m just nowhere near being able to attempt them either, to be honest.

I’ve had a very frustrating time of it trying to practice today so I thought I’d see what ideas the community has.

Hi Constance, I might not be the best person to reply - I think experience from other beginners might be helpful.
However, I think the most important thing is to make sure you’re not doing anything that really hurts - it’s OK to be a little sore, but if it’s properly painful be careful - you don’t want to do anything that keeps you from playing.
I’m not really sure there should be any big stretches in the D and A chords though. I think I would continue to practice those carefully and work on trying to get those chords comfy with your wrist - Keep in mind that after two weeks it’s not supposed to be easy - these things take time.
I don’t think the spider will do any harm (as long as you avoid pain), but I’m not sure it’s going to help with D and A chords.
Hopefully someone with more recent experience will come along soon.
all the best

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If D and A feels like a stretch, I think you need to review your technique.
I’m starting to think you will need to move your complete hand up a little.
Are you trying to have the neck resting in the bottom of your palm? perhaps the issue is somewhere around there?

When it comes to stretches, I think you’re putting the bar a bit high.
If this is your 2nd week into guitar, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

Try the easiest level first and gain some fluency

find a region that suits you most with the frets closer to each other.

Example, fret 7,8,9,10

  • index finger on 7
  • second finger on 8
  • third on 9
  • and pinky on 10

fret one note at a time and move up one string.
How far up (to which string) can you get?


Hello Constance,
I don’t have any solid advice except to say I’m in my 5th month and I’m still having stretching issues with the D and E. I truly believe it just takes a very long time. I think sometimes I’m better than I actually am if that makes sense. I try to stay focused on very small advances or improvements on my journey and realize I need to embrace where I’m at today. Also look forward to tomorrow.

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Hi Constance @ConstanceClaire, fellow beginner here (consolidating Grade 2). I’ve experienced your excitement to address weaknesses immediately (and still do)! You’ve done well to post your question here; this group has kept me on the rails more than once. Rest assured that Justin will introduce techniques and exercises, especially in the beginner grades, in a well-considered order with a goal to develop hand strength and skills in a way that avoids injury and frustration.

Beginning Finger Exercises appear in Grade 1 Module 4. While you might be tempted to jump ahead and start doing those, my experience suggests completing all the work leading up to that module first. In the meantime, focus on mindfully placing your fingers on the fretboard, and forming chords, to the best of your current ability. I suspect doing that is a form of stretching exercise in itself!

FWIW, I’d been about half-way through Grade 1, following lessons to the letter, when my husband (who has played guitar for a very long time) commented that my left hand stretch had improved. :blush:

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To boil it down…be patient and don’t hurt yourself.

Remember, playing guitar is a sport, from your hand’s perspective. You are just starting so don’t try and sprint the whole length of the field yet. Ease into it, it will get easier, but if you push too hard, it will hurt and you will have to stop for a while (which becomes an opportunity not to start up again).

That said, also look at your hand positions and where your thumb is. Even a few years in, when I am feeling like I can’t reach a cord shape or note, it is often that I have left my thumb behind at the last cord and I need to bring back to somewhere close to opposite my second finger.

Guitar position also makes a difference in your reach. The standard “over the right leg” position never worked for me, it strained my bad shoulder in a way that I couldn’t position my hand to reach notes easily. Everyone is different.

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Thanks Lieven.

I am about to embark on the regular A & D practice stuff, but had a go at your suggestion. My fingers are cooperating a bit more at the moment, I did technically get to the sixth string. However, there was some sliding, and although I had my wrist in a good position and my thumb, my whole hand was very tense. I couldn’t really relax it at all without my pinky coming off the string and my fingers starting to slide. I also was not able to keep my fingers off all the other strings at all, although my palm was dropped and I was really trying to curve my fingers and hand to be more relaxed.

One of my main frustrations with the D chord, despite only being a one fret stretch, is that the only thing keeping my fingers (sometimes) the fret apart is pushing on the string. As soon as I let up a little bit of pressure they go sliding together, so I feel like I’m not really training my fingers into remembering the position because they can only hold it with tension created between my thumb and them to squeeze down on the string.

I keep my wrist nice and straight, but I don’t think the tension in my hand is good long-term, and as I have a slightly differently structured median nerve in my wrists, I don’t want to set my left wrist into the sort of situation my right wrist gets into, (although that was years of small movements from tiny writing). I was hoping if I could also train my fingers to stretch I could overcome this tension / sliding down the string issue faster. Patience is not my strong suit, I guess.

Thanks Judi, I will try to be patient with it.

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Thanks everyone, I’ll be sticking to the lessons for now and just working on the regular practice with the chords. I’ll report back when I see improvement!

I recall having a similar difficulty when in was learning the D cord. What helped, while also helping land all three fingers at the same time, was to slowly practice leading into the cord with the most difficult finger first.

So place the ring finger on the D (3rd fret B string) then place the index and middle. It is easier to set the farther one and pull the others back than to set the near ones and try to reach with the ring finger.

Start very slowly and purposefully and ignore that it feels awkward at first. This is good for every cord and by using each involved finger as the first to land, it really helped me land all fingers together, which is the goal.

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One of the main issues is contracting the muscles which control the fingers incorrectly - the muscles needed are the flexors (the muscles which flex the fingers in order to make a fist) BUT we don’t want the extensors (the muscles which extend the fingers, making them straight) to contract at the same time.

When making a fist, the flexors are contracted tightly, but so are the extensors of the wrist, locking a fist in place.

When playing guitar, it is often the case that both flexors and extensors get activated, and we need to learn to let go of the extensors, relaxing the hand in such a way that only the muscles necessary are firing.

a simple exercise is to touch each fingertip in turn against the thumb, something everything is familiar with. it requires no strength, no stretching, just simple coordination.

At first, keep the fingertips loosely together, and you will be able to touch the thumb with each finger really quickly - totally relaxed.
Then spread your fingers out slightly, and repeat the exercise. You’ll notice that spreading the fingers out feels completely different. Smaller muscles in the hand are fired up, as are some of the extensors. When you then touch your thumb, you will just need to relax the finger and bring it towards the thumb - no drama.

Now stretch the fingers out straight and repeat. This time you will notice that when stretching them out, it feels completely different. The muscles being activated are really going for it, and you’ll feel a stretch on the palm side of the fingers.
Now touch the thumb with each finger in turn. Again, you only need to relax the fingers in order to bring them towards the thumb.

You can repeat the above exercises, pressing hard agains the thumb each time - this is what we are aiming for.

Now you have done the exercise, pick up the guitar, and without even worrying about forming chords, just put each finger down on any string and play it. The muscles you use will be different, the hand is in a slightly different shape, but remember the feeling of the above exercise. If the feeling is the same as when you stretched the fingers out straight, you need to learn to relax them, just simply relax the hand completely until you can’t get a note out of the string.

The hand should be pretty limp. Then put on just enough pressure to get the note.
Try forming a chord, following the same rules - you should not have your hand cranked in some weird way or be tensing the entire forearm (where your finger muscles reside) but have the hand as relaxed as possible.

Even if you can’t form a chord comfortably right now, the key is relaxation. a tense hand will cause the issues you have noted (I still do it when forming a new or unfamiliar chord, or moving between unfamiliar chords)
…And as noted in other posts here, do not stretch in such a way that it hurts! Your body will fight back and you can’t win.

Just chill, and don’t stress whether it takes a day, week or a month to get a chord.

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@ConstanceClaire consider posting a video of your fretting arm and hand as you are moving between D and A chord shapes - there might be some small improvements the community can suggest that would make a world of difference. I’m thinking about where your thumb is and how straight your wrist is - and the position of the guitar neck.

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I’ll definitely incorporate this in my practice from now on, thank you! Very informative.

I’ve actually been doing this, but I’ll keep at it with the end goal of all fingers in place at once in mind.

If the tips folks have left here aren’t working, I’ll definitely post a video.