Computer gaming has become huge in the last ten years, with more and more people playing and watching professional gaming and casual players increasing too. With the many hours spent playing games and being hunched over computers, you can expose yourself to injuries that proper training and rehabilitation can help you manage or avoid altogether.
Here are a few ways how to train your fingers for PC gaming:
- Do exercises and stretches for your hands and fingers.
- Fix your setup.
- Find hardware that suits you.
- Look to gaming experts.
- Level up your skills by finding hard opponents.
As you find yourself playing more computer games, it’s best to try and incorporate these tips, tricks, and exercises to avoid long-term debilitating injury. You can then enjoy your hobby at peak performance for years to come.
1. Do Exercises and Stretches for Your Hands and Fingers
Stretches can help prevent injury and you should do them to both train your fingers and to prevent injury.
There are countless examples of injuries received from playing too many PC games. Many high-profile professional players have had to retire early or step down for a year or two to receive physical therapy to try and get them back to playing.
Hai Lam, captain of the accomplished League of Legends squad from Cloud9, had to end up quitting due to, among other things, a severe wrist injury.
Hand and Wrist Exercises
First, start with some stretches and conditioning to help with the hands and wrists.
The first is the prayer position stretch. This exercise helps increase circulation between your wrists and fingers.
Follow these steps to perform the prayer position stretch:
- Put your hands in the prayer position with your fingers together and pointing straight up, with your hands located in front of your chest. This should cause your elbows to point out to the sides.
- Hold the position for 30 seconds or so, and repeat two or three times.
- Increase the intensity of this stretch by moving both your hands downwards along the centerline of your chest.
This stretch can be reversed so that you instead press the backs of your hands together, with your fingers pointing towards the ground. You should feel the stretch across the top of your wrists, and this can be made more intense by lifting both hands while still held together.
Instead of the prayer position, you can do a single-handed version to help stretch the flexors in your arm, also known as the supine flexors.
Follow these steps to perform the single-handed version prayer position stretch:
- Put one arm out straight, palm down and then pointing all fingers towards the floor without moving your arm.
- Use your free hand to grab the fingers on the extended arm’s hand on the bottom half, near the fingertips.
- Attempt to bend your hand back towards your arm. Again, you should feel a stretch over the top part of your wrist.
You can stretch the antagonistic flexors with a slight variation:
- Instead of pointing your fingers down, point them up at the ceiling, almost like you were making a stop motion.
- Grab the tips of your fingers with your free hand, and pull your fingernails towards the top of your extended arm.
Joint circles are a great way to get some extra movement into your wrists:
- Extend both arms out in front of you, and rotate your wrists gently and evenly.
- Try about 10 to 15 revolutions for both wrists.
- Do clockwise and counterclockwise rotations.
Fingers should be stretched and relaxed as often as possible to avoid developing painful conditions.
One of the best ways is to cycle between different hand positions and hold each one for a few seconds.
To do this cycle, follow these positions:
- First, make a fist, then open your hand so that the fingers are fully stretched.
- After that, do a tabletop position, which is where you bend the fingers at the large knuckle where the fingers connect to the hand while keeping all your fingers together. It should create a right angle between your fingers and palm.
- Next, create a clawed fist by curling your four fingers and thumb, in effect touching the fingertips back onto the base of the finger itself.
- Form the next stretch by making a half-fist, accomplished by closing the fingers over the palm but not curling them under the thumb and keeping the fingers straight.
You can do further finger exercises by doing a piano stretch via the next steps:
- Start with the thumb, and reach across and touch the little finger of the same hand using the thumb.
- Then, touch the ring finger, and so on until you get to the index finger.
- Use each finger and thumb to reach across to the other side of the hand.
- Repeat this three times for each hand.
During this exercise, you should do a reverse piano as well. This is simply a matter of going back the other way, touching your index finger with your thumb, then moving to the middle finger until you finish on the little finger.
You can also hold your hand up with the fingers together and then spread each finger as far apart as you can just by using the muscles in your hand. Open and close five times per hand.
Using specific fitness equipment can also be a great supplement to your training. Amazon.com stocks the Theraband Hand Exerciser Ball, a firm ball meant to rehabilitate hand and wrist issues.
Squeezing the ball in your palm and holding it for a few seconds is a great way to strengthen your fingers and increase your grip strength.
You can also hold the ball more in the tips of your fingers and then attempt to squeeze. You will have a lot less power, so don’t worry about trying to squeeze the ball completely flat, but just enough to feel the sensation in your fingers.
The Kuosong Grip Strength Trainer (available on Amazon.com) also allows a unique means of adding resistance to a finger stretch. This is a tremendous full hand stretch by putting your fingers through the holes and then trying to stretch your fingers out.
This can fit hands of all sizes and is suitable for both sexes, while also convenient and small to carry around with you to be able to use anytime you want to exercise your fingers.
You can also check out the videos by Dr. Levi Harrison, who gives many great video tutorials on how to do preventative stretching and stop the pain:
2. Fix Your Setup
All modern games allow you to change the settings for both the mouse and keyboard. This means adjusting the sensitivity or responsiveness of the mouse and the layout of the controls.
Sometimes not much thought is given to ergonomics when the developers pick control layouts. Many games have specific commands on keys just because they start with the same letter.
One of the most popular competitive games of all time, Starcraft: Brood War, makes you constantly hit the “M” key to build one of your most important units, the marine. Having to stretch and contort your hand to hit this key continually is not ideal.
If you have your configuration setup to reach all the keys you need quickly, you can be more effective with your keystrokes and take the strain off your fingers.
3. Find Hardware That Suits You
Your peripherals are going to play a big difference in how you play. If your mouse is too big or too heavy, or your keyboard is not responsive enough, it’s going to be hard to get your fingers to do the right thing.
It can be hard to tell from pictures whether something will suit you or not. However, the dimensions will be available, so you can take some measurements of your desk, hand, and current equipment to compare to other offerings on the market.
Mice and keyboards listed as being ergonomic may offer higher levels of comfort and ease of use. This gives your fingers a great resting place while still operating all the functions necessary.
The humble keyboard has come a long way, and many manufacturers offer gaming keyboards that come with various features (or explicitly come without those features).
Tenkeyless and mini keyboards do away with many underused keys and are compact to give you more space to maneuver and combine with your mouse and mousepad.
A tenkeyless keyboard does not have the number pad, usually found on the right of the keyboard. The HyperX Alloy Origins Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboard (from Amazon.com) gives excellent tactile feedback while only 14.5 inches (35 centimeters) long.
To go even further, keyboards listed as 60% size do away with everything right of the Enter key. These are perfect for smaller desks or so that you can get the keyboard at the ideal angle for your fingers.
The Razer Huntsman Mini Gaming Keyboard (also available on Amazon.com) comes in at a tiny 11.5 inches (29 centimeters). The keys are much closer together, enabling you to hit keys all over the keyboard without having to stretch very far.
Mice have many variations, ranging from a simple, wired mouse to a gaming mouse chock full of buttons, wheels, and other adjustable settings. Some mice are very flat; others push your hand up from the back or the front, depending on the size of the hump.
One of the best things to do is to get down to a location that has a bunch of mice on display so that you can try them out individually and see what feels good. Computer stores and big retailers like Best Buy will often have entire gaming sections to browse.
The Logitech G Pro Wireless Gaming Mouse (from Amazon.com) has an exact sensor, rewarding precise inputs and preventing lousy tracking.
This takes the pressure off your fingers, as it has an ergonomic and ambidextrous layout designed to fit a variety of hand shapes and sizes.
4. Look to Gaming Experts
Esports has become big business, with televised events reaching millions of people covering the major international tournaments.
Watching these past broadcasts will expose you to various setups that professional gamers use to earn big money. You can see how the pros sit, how they place their hands on their keyboard and mouse, and what keybindings they use to get the most out of the game.
Just because a professional gamer does something does not mean that you should do it too. But it can give you some great ideas about how you can change your setup to suit your characteristics better.
Watching the pros compete also gives insight into what is possible in a game and further motivates you to keep training and practicing.
Check out the following video by former professional Counter-Strike player Ron Kim that considers different sitting styles for professional players over the years:
5. Level Up Your Skills by Finding Hard Opponents
If you constantly play against the same players, you’re unlikely to be challenged much once you learn their tendencies and style.
Try and match yourself up against players who are better than you. This means you get punished for bad tactical mistakes or poor execution of your strategy every time. That then forces you to learn to stop those mistakes or continue to lose.
Trying to make all these decisions about strategy and gameplay will come thick and fast. By practicing these moves repeatedly, you will build up your confidence and dexterity in your fingers to execute the plan when you want.
Suppose your opponent isn’t good enough to really pressure you, and you can lazily push buttons to win. In that case, this will not lead to improvements in accuracy, reaction speeds, or other aspects of being successful at a game.
Training your fingers for PC gaming has more benefits than just improving your gameplay, but will also likely help avoid injuries that can affect your fingers, hands, wrists and arms.
Here are some things you should do to take care of your fingers and get them better:
- Do physical exercises and stretches for your hands and fingers.
- Ensure your setup is conducive to get the most out of your fingers.
- Find hardware that suits you.
- Look to gaming experts.
- Level up your skills by finding hard opponents.