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FingerWeights: Gimmick or Goodness?

The one-line review: I recommend these. 4/5.

The FingerWeights concept seems too simple not to work: You use weights to improve the performance of other muscles, so why not use them on your fingers?

Then again, the idea also seems a little outlandish and silly. It’s one thing to lie down on a weight bench, grab a barbell, and blast your pecs – but your fingers? Really?

It was too interesting for me to not give them a try.

What are they?

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FingerWeights are, predictably, weights for your fingers, intended to be worn during your guitar practice sessions. They may be worn on either hand or both hands. According to their ad copy, FingerWeights are “guaranteed to improve flexibility, dexterity, and strength in the fine motor muscles of the hands”.

How are they used?

Besides being marketed to musicians, they’re also promoted as a tool for occupational and physical therapy. Indeed, the exercises in the enclosed pamphlet seem geared in that direction, offering a variety of strength and range-of-motion exercises, as well as instructions for varying the exercises’ resistance in a controlled, progressive manner by changing the number of attached weights and altering their placement on the finger.

I eschewed these exercises in favor of going through my regular practice routine with the weights. I may yet go back and try the prescribed exercises, but really, in sports, music, or anything else there’s no better exercise to prepare you for a task than the task itself. Typically, I’d go through a set of 10 drills with the weights, then ten more without. If I happened to be working on a melody with quick or difficult fingering (most recently, the opening of Heart’s “Crazy on You”), I would practice it wearing the weights until I got tired – and I did get tired with an ounce of steel strapped to each fretting finger – and then remove the weights and continue for a bit longer.

Are they any good?

My experience with FingerWeights was positive overall, but there are some down sides. I’ll address the negatives first:

  • The fit feels weird at first. My hands are of average size, but I didn’t feel that the claw-like closures were made to fit me. They didn’t seem strained to the breaking point or anything, it just didn’t feel like they went on smoothly or fit very naturally. That said, they don’t pinch (despite how they look in the photo to the right) and they do stay put, and I got used to the feel quickly enough.
  • They tend to catch on the top string when you’re playing. This can be positive in that it encourages you to arch your fingers and practice good form, but it can be a twangy annoyance if you aren’t on top of it. I wasn’t worried about breaking the string, but if you’re playing on .008s or with fragile strings generally, you might have a different experience.
  • Some finger configurations are less reachable than when you’re not wearing the weights, but I only found this to be an issue with a few uncommon reaches – most open chord shapes and melody fingerings presented no special problem for me.
  • Forget about barre chords if you’re wearing them on your left hand.

So, assuming that the weights are compatible with the kind of practice you’re doing, how well do they work?

In terms of strength and range of motion… I’m not sure I can say objectively. I work with my hands a lot, and they feel pretty strong and limber generally. It’s tough to say whether that has improved due to a few weeks with FingerWeights. I can tell you unequivocally, though, that after taking the weights off, my playing was faster and cleaner.

Now, that may sound obvious – of course I’ll play faster without weights than with them. But there’s more going on here – I find that my form is better and my playing cleaner. I don’t necessarily attribute this to strength gains (though that may be a factor), but to the fact that FingerWeights force you to pay attention and put more effort into doing things right.

This effect – coaxing the player into extra effort and better form – is the whole point of practice, and as soon as I realized that the weights were helping me in this way, I stopped getting annoyed with the clumsy feel of my burdened fingers and started focusing on playing cleanly with the extra impediment. Because, after, all, paying attention and doing it right is the whole point of practice, isn’t it?

I should note that while I focused mainly on left-handed fretting, I also got the effect for right-handed fingerpicking. Both activities benefit from the extra care forced onto your playing by the added resistance.

Your experience may be different from mine, but I’m going to keep using FingerWeights as part of my regular practice, and I am recommending them to anyone that asks.

If this review has interested you in FingerWeights enough to buy a set, I hope you’ll consider using this affiliate link to do so.

Keep practicing!