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Hand & Wrist Warm-ups for injury prevention and flexibility in violin playing

It is common for athletes to stretch before and after exercise in order to reduce injury and increase performance, but why as musicians that use the same muscle groups generally not stretching? Playing a bowed-string instrument such as the violin requires complete freedom as it uses nearly all of the muscles in the upper body to be played. There are 6 basic upper body muscle groups that need stretching which are the neck, back, shoulders, arms (bicep & tricep), and most notably the wrist, and fingers are needed to keep those muscle groups loose. Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which muscles are deliberately pulled, in order to improve the muscle's felt elasticity and reaffirm comfortable muscle tone. The outcome is a feeling of better muscle control, flexibility and range of motion. Increasing flexibility through stretching is one of the basics of physical fitness. Take 5-10 minutes prior to your practice to do some of the following stretching exercises to increase range of motion and flexibility. For basic stretches, try holding a stretch position for 25-30 seconds before proceeding to another exercise.

Fingers/Hands
-A basic exercise for the hand and fingers is yoga stance where you place and push both palms and fingers together at your chest, and spread the fingers, and pull the elbows up while separating the palms leaving contact with the fingers from both hands to feel a stretch. You can roll your hand towards the pinky side to strengthen your pinky for one of the times. Hold for 30 seconds, take a breather, and repeat.

-Now try the opposite by placing and pushing the back of your hands and fingers together, with the fingers pointing at your chest, and pull the elbows downwards. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat.

Arms/neck/shoulders/back
-Raise your arms and elbows above your head, close the hand, and bring the hands to the backside of the base of your neck. Then try to scissor your elbows towards your head so that you feel the stretch. You can tilt your torso right and slightly forward for one repetition. Hold for 30 seconds.

-Connect the hands together behind your back, elbows straight and locked, and bring up to feel stretch. Tilt head back, while tilting torso the left and slightly forward. Hold position for 30 seconds.

Neck
-Relax head with your chin facing down, and slowly roll your head clockwise, several times, then reverse. The weight of your relaxed head stretches your neck. Do this for a minute or more.

There are numerous more stretches one can do to gain more flexibility, but these are some of the most important ones that as string players should address. Happy practicing!

*Note: Stretching is dangerous when overstretching, which can cause permanent damage to the muscle fibers. Make sure to still get a good stretch with resistance without any biting or sharp pain. Some of the most prone places for tension build up are the neck, wrist, and fingers, so it is is important that one make the necessary steps to prevent tension and injury. These exercises above address all of those muscle groups at the basic level.

Here is a diagram of additional various hand and wrist exercises for you to try.

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