Using Putty for Strengthening Fingers
I am NOT a licensed hand-therapist and you should always consult a professional before doing any strenuous or intense work on your hands.
One of the most common problems for cello players starting out is finger strength. Cello students of all ages can always benefit from strengthening their fingers. Common problems can include not being able to get the string all the way down to the fingerboard. Another is that the finger will only bend at one joint instead of both forming a rounded curve. This exercise is one that I found very helpful for the double-jointed fingers that do not want to bend in all joints. I believe it helped my fingers to be strong and flexible as well with conscious effort of paying attention to how my fingers would bend. I learned this when I went to a hand-therapist myself.
Medical putty is a little stiffer and it is what I used when I was going through strength training. However, with younger kids, or people just starting out toy putty~ what I grew up knowing as silly putty, can also be effective. The idea is that you use the resistance of the putty to work the fingers into becoming more in control and more powerful throughout the finger. Pictured here is some toy putty I picked up at my local grocery store.
1. Flatten out the putty into a flat mound. Place it on a stable surface so it won’t move around. You don’t want the mound to be too thin because you will be drawing your finger through the putty.
2. Pick one finger to place at the top of the putty mound and push in for a little bit of depth. The finger should be straight at this point.
3. SLOWLY curl your finger making sure that all joints are bending and you are not letting a particular joint lock out as straight. You will be drawing a path through the putty mound with your finger.
4. Smooth out the mound and repeat finger motions. I recommend 5 times per finger. It is good to practice this even on fingers that feel strong so that you can keep building on good habits.
I hope you find this exercise helpful! Please make sure to discontinue if your fingers start to ache or you experience any sharp pains. This exercise is meant to build gradual strength and good hand shapes, but will not provide immediate results.
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