Old 04-28-2015, 08:31 PM   #1
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Default How to make your hands faster with exercise science

I've been doing these two exercises for a while on top of everything else I do in the gym, hypothesizing that it would target the muscles used in games like Stepmania directly. I've been right so far.

Reverse wrist curls

These will train the muscles you'd use to jackhammer in Stepmania.

A curl, in exercise terminology, is any movement that curls something toward you. The most common kind of curl is a bicep curl but forearm curls exist too. I do multiple types of forearm training on top of my regular exercises -- support grip, pinch grip, crush grip, reverse wrist curls, and regular wrist curls.

You'd think you'd want to do wrist curls, but wrist curls will just help you with very forceful downward motions. This would be fine if the objective of the game were to press a button as hard as possible, but when you're doing jackhammers what you're really doing is a constant flex of your wrist extensors. If I do reverse wrist curls, which train the wrist extensors, and then do a jackhammer motion on stepmania, you can feel the same muscle pop out of my forearm.

Reverse wrist curls will train the muscles you would use to jackhammer or drum really quickly. I've been measuring my progress with my hands on the drumometer, which is used in the World's Fastest Drummer competition. I started at 900/minute, which you'd think is no big deal since that's just 225 bpm 16ths for a minute, but you need to hit the thing with significantly more force than you'd hit a stepmania button -- if you used your index fingers the hits wouldn't even register. After a month or so of doing this, I got it up to 975/minute. I'm hoping to exceed 1000 soon. Only about 35 people have broken 1000 with sticks, and stick speed is about 1.05x faster than bare hand speed; the bare handed world record is 1140.

My favorite way to train reverse wrist curls is to grab a dumbbell with the bar between my middle and ring fingers, put one arm sideways on another arm like a T-shape (with the arm holding the dumbbell as the horizontal line crossing the T) then bring the hand up until I can feel tension against the muscle. Alternatively if you have one of those attachable dumbbell bars you can buy from Academy that lets you change the weights on each side, you can just attach weights to one and only one side and then pull the bar up toward you, sort of like the motion guys use in fishing.

Finger extensor exercises

These should train the muscles you'd use to trill.

Finger extensors are rarely, if ever trained unless the person training them has a functional reason to do so. They're an invisible muscle area. No girl is going to think "wow, look at his finger extensor muscles." She's going to look at biceps, or shoulders, or forearms or pecs or abs but this sort of detail is beyond anyone except perhaps an anatomy researcher. For 99% of guys who train anything, you want bigger arms, chest, etc. and that's way simpler. Shit, most guys don't even train calves. Why would they train fingers?

So information is limited, but here's a good article about finger extensor training.

As the article mentions, there are several pieces of equipment you can buy to train your extensors, but frankly I think that's pointless. My favorite exercise to train extensors is static jar holds, also known as the reverse farmer's walk.

All you do is fill up a jar with something like wet sand or water and stick your fingers out against the lid, using the force of your fingers against the walls to hold it up.

Here's a picture:



This sounds really stupid, but trust me -- you'll notice the same muscles burning after a while of doing this as you would from playing a really hard spread song. You'll want to hold for as long as you can (up the weight of whatever is in the jar if it's too easy), alternate hands and do about 4 or 5 holds for each hand (8-10 total).

I only recently started doing these, but I've noticed my scores going up and fingers trilling more easily from doing these even when I didn't play the game at all and only did extensor exercises.

Plateauing and other notes

Most of us are familiar with plateauing. Stepmania and games like it are games of muscle adaptation because you are adapting your central nervous system to certain specific movements. But once you get really good, you've maxed out on how much muscle fiber you can adapt and the only way to get better is to increase the size of the muscle fiber itself by making it grow, aka 'hypertrophy'. Muscle fibers grow in response to trauma to the muscle caused by resistance; in extremely simplified terms, muscle trauma + caloric surplus + protein = hypertrophy. "Trauma" sounds bad, but all it means is that the muscle was forced to do something it didn't do before. Exposure to resistance is why weightlifting is called 'resistance training'.

A lot of good players expose themselves to resistance unconsciously by playing really hard songs. Playing really hard songs is an inefficient but nonetheless effective way to add resistance; over one song, you might not have much resistance. But if you play until the point where you feel a burn in your forearms, that's a good level of resistance. Combine this with a decent diet and you'll grow the muscle fiber. You don't even really need to be 'healthy', you just need calories (not tons, just more than your maintenance) and protein. Lots of people, even athletes, unknowingly orient themselves toward foods that are good for this sort of thing, so it's not something that is that complicated.

Just remember to eat lots of protein -- ideally 0.8g per lb of bodyweight, so if you weighed 100lb you'd get 80g/day, if you weighed 200lb you'd get 160g/day, etc. Most people probably do this anyway, but you'd be surprised how many people who don't know about this stuff get way too little protein in their diet.

I recommend actually lifting weights also just because once you understand this you understand the basic principles of how to lift weights and get results, but that's up to you. If you are interested though, feel free to check out the health & fitness forum for more info.
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Old 04-28-2015, 08:56 PM   #2
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

Helpful as always. Thanks Arch. Any other forms of hand exercises other than just these?
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Old 04-28-2015, 09:09 PM   #3
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

Not sure how strengthening muscles would help with speed since I would argue that's more economy of motion and involving the nervous system. If anything these exercises would help with stamina and maintaining a pace.

Suggesting to lift weights as part of the advice is almost laughable but w/e you took a lot of time to look this up it seems
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Old 04-28-2015, 09:45 PM   #4
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

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Not sure how strengthening muscles would help with speed since I would argue that's more economy of motion and involving the nervous system.
Only at your absolute fastest, i.e. your fastest burst speed. Sustained speed for even 5 seconds will involve muscularity.

When you think of speed you probabably think muscles weigh you down or whatever, and to some extent that's true, but it's getting it the other way around.

Here's a quote from the fastest sprinter in the world: http://www.gq.com.au/fitness/sport/g...lt,20309?pos=2

“A lot of people can bench-press 250kg; I probably bench 140kg. I just go heavy enough to develop the muscles. What really matters is what you do out on the track.”

Note that 140kg is 308lb. The average man can 1 rep max like 135lb. Here is an article on the rarity of a 300lb bench. And his sport is sprinting.

I'm mentioning this because a lot of things are responsible for fast performance other than economy of motion.

When you're trilling really fast, what you're actually doing is muscular endurance. Your fastest trill for 2-3 seconds is not at all your fastest trill for 60 seconds. But what if you could trill for 60 seconds like the bursts you do for 2-3 seconds? You'd be a monster.

When you burst, you're exerting all of your explosiveness at once. You might compare this to exerting all the force you can to lift your 1-rep max (the heaviest amount of weight you can lift only once). If you've never lifted weights before this is probably anywhere from 60lb to 135lb. But imagine if you could lift 135lb 30 times, or 60 times, or 100 times. Some guys can do that.

When you build muscle you're also building muscular endurance. That is what helps you turn the speed you can burst into the speed you can do for entire songs.

Last edited by Arch0wl; 04-28-2015 at 09:47 PM.. Reason: first sentence needed clarification
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Old 04-29-2015, 11:42 AM   #5
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

Great thread, never thought of this!
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Old 04-29-2015, 11:49 AM   #6
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

Finger extensor exercises are a really good way to avoid getting CTS from gaming.
Coincidentally for people already doing a fitness diet, the standard big plastic jugs that whey protein usually comes in are perfect for filling with sand/water for these exercises.
For people like me who are fat and unhealthy, you're not out of luck: I found that a lot of random Asian food (supermarket kimchi, pork sung, etc.) comes in similar plastic containers.

Also consider self-massage of the hands. Warms up your muscles in a natural way, feels good, and you can do it any time.
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Old 04-29-2015, 06:45 PM   #7
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

Great thread
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Old 05-13-2015, 02:46 PM   #8
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

Update: have substituted jar holds for playing Stepmania/FFR and noticed scores go up / hands becoming more dexterous.

The increase per training session* isn't dramatic, but it's noticeable -- I'd say about half a letter grade, maybe. (Stepmania letter grade, not FFR letter grade.)

* "per training session" means about every 3 days. my workouts are structured in an on/on/off/on/on/off/off fashion, in that I will work out one day, work out again, then rest, then do the same day but add an additional day of rest. I will typically do jar holds on a rest day, so this means I do them about 2x/week.

Another thing worth mentioning is that you don't really need to even be playing the game to have resistance. You can, for example, load up a song on YouTube and hit out IOPOIOPOIOPOIOPOIOPOIOPOIOPOIOPOIOPOI to infinity until you notice a burn in your arm, then repeat this for every major finger combination.

So, I suspect the following things would be true:

1. Piano players who have played up to the point of advanced pieces will be at a massive advantage for games that involve finger-to-finger movement like Stepmania spread, Stepmania solo, O2Jam, IIDX and so on, because they will have spent years effectively resistance training their extensors.

2. Drummers will have a similar resistance-trained effect for jackhammering and hand-to-hand trilling (up/down trills if you're playing spread, or any kind of index trill) but this probably only applies for people who played drums in marching band, orchestra or some other kind of competitive drum setting, because recreational rock drumming can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be and unlike piano there is no standard curriculum that necessitates resistance over time.

Last edited by Arch0wl; 05-13-2015 at 03:41 PM.. Reason: formatting
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Old 05-13-2015, 07:51 PM   #9
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

Hopefully this will help me quad wristjack at over 30 kps lmao.
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Old 05-15-2015, 08:39 AM   #10
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

update: went up by 200 rank spots in a single score (specifically on little god ch@nnel), and I played that song yesterday

to date I don't think I've had that much of an improvement in a single day, except for when the scoring system changed or I played a song I hadn't played in a while, but I play little god ch@nnel and a few other songs almost every day to measure progress.

also, shoutouts to PrawnSkunk and all others who made the switch to raw scoring. tracking progress has been so much easier this way.

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Old 02-26-2016, 11:35 PM   #11
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

Bump.

I understand this is mostly for training the forearm muscles, but have you seen any mass gained in the fingers themselves? Or do you have any suggestions to gain mass there?
I have taken up magic as a hobby and I have what are called "windows" between my fingers. So when I hold my fingers out straight there are gaps between my middle and adjacent fingers. This makes flashing a palmed card or even a coin a problem. Is there anything you know of I can do, or am I kinda just screwed by thin fingers?

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Old 02-27-2016, 01:59 AM   #12
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

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Bump.

I understand this is mostly for training the forearm muscles, but have you seen any mass gained in the fingers themselves? Or do you have any suggestions to gain mass there?

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You could lift.
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Old 03-9-2016, 07:17 PM   #13
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

Yup this post has truth.

When I was playing piano more, I was streaming better on FFR.
When I stopped playing, my fingers got weaker and made playing more difficult.

I also notice a big improvement if I stretch my hands, wrists and fingers before I play. If you get your strength up and your flexibility up, you will see much improvement!

I do similar stretches when I played violin and piano:

-Raise your arms above your head and rotate your wrists while keeping your fingers outstretched then alternately making a fist and rotating your wrist (you'll feel the pull mostly in your wrists and forearms)

-Use opposite hand to pull your fingers back towards your forearm both up and down

-Stretch your fingers as wide as possible by carefully using your opposite hand

-Stretch each finger individually up and down as far as it will go without pain (be careful with thumb)

-Use opposite hand to twist your wrist sideways as far as it will go without pain

-Massage the tendons in your forearm and on the bundle where your hand meets your wrist as this will help prevent tendinitis

-Bring your arm across your chest as far as it will go and increase the stretch by using your other arm (using your fingers and wrists a lot also makes your shoulders and upper back tense)
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Old 03-9-2016, 09:55 PM   #14
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Default Re: How to make your hands faster with exercise science

Pulling the fingers back towards your wrist and stretching that way is a good idear, recently started doing this and it helps keep everything loose.

Also lower ya damn heart rate, I've noticed a huge difference in control/stamina if I focus on relaxing, can be difficult but try it, sometimes going all out isn't the best weapon.
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