The need for improving the overall condition of the hand was what got me started exercising my fingers. "Finger Fitness" actually started while I was working on my degree in Music Education at Miami University (Ohio). The music education program required that each student play and teach every instrument from the simplest to the most complex.
As musicians, we soon found that in order to accomplish that goal we needed to combine three basic skills from three different parts of the body:
the BRAIN with its mental capability to process rhythms, harmony, and melodies,
the EAR with its audio capability to distinguish different tones, and
the HAND with its physical strength, dexterity, and coordination capabilities needed to actually play the various instruments.
The audio and mental skills were taught and mastered in ear training and music theory classes. However, mastering the physical skill of playing an instrument was a different story.
Very few of us could master the physical skill in the limited classroom time available. For the majority of us that meant sore hands due to the lack of strength, coordination and dexterity required. It meant that we all had to find additional time outside the classroom to practice and master playing each instrument.
It proved to be a challenge finding that additional time. I found it similar to athletes trying to find the time to work out and practice in addition to attending classes, studying and of course playing their sport.
After talking with many athletes, I found that they spend an enormous amount time working out in order to strengthen and condition their bodies. Why? Because it is enhances the ability to play stronger and longer. For many, it even meant less stress on their bodies, fewer injuries, and quicker recovery time from those injuries.
I wondered why musicians did not use this conditioning approach. After all, we are "small muscle athletes" who need to use the same athletic approach for improving our hands ability to physically play an instrument better and decrease the pain and stress we often experience.
Initially, I started doing simple splitting and bending exercises with my fingers and found that it did help me limber up my fingers and made it easier to play an instrument. As time went passed, I expanded on this idea. I added more exercises using the natural movements of our hand such as tapping and folding. To really challenge myself, I would do the exercises by isolating individual fingers, followed by combining different exercises and than having each hand do the opposite of the other.
After talking and demonstrating the exercises to hand surgeons, physical and occupational therapists, as well as sports medicine professionals, I found that, although there were rehabilitation programs for hands, there was none for advancing the ordinary hand to a higher level of strength and coordination.
In 1988, with the help of my wife, Lorraine and Certified Hand Therapist Meg Robinson I organized the exercises and published the book and video "Finger Fitness: The Art of Finger Control" to introduce others to this new approach to building finger coordination, dexterity and strength.