Hand Care Basics

30 Sep

This is a topic that has been the subject of multiple CrossFit videos and articles over the last few years so I’m just providing a recap for the new members and a reminder for the OG CrossFitters. Given the sheer volume of pullups, knees to elbows, muscle ups, and barbell and kettlebell work, we all have ripped our hands and torn calluses at least once or twice. I understand the slight novelty of your first rip, but the reality is that if you can’t train because of your hands you’re just putting the brakes on your success. It’s not hard core when you can’t pick up the barbell or have to take 2-3 days off to heal your hands.

Callus Care

Those who are new to gymnastics, weightlifting or CrossFit in general often start with soft, callus-free hands. Ideally, to reduce the likelihood of hand tears, beginners should try to gradually build up calluses to the point where the skin on their palms and fingers are tough and thick — but smooth. Once some skin-thickening is achieved, the goal is to keep any calluses filed down. The goal is have a consistent, smooth palm surface, without noticeable ridges or fluctuating thicknesses of skin. A raised, rough callus will eventually blister and tear away from the surrounding skin, ripping open your hands and making a bloody mess. A general rule of thumb: If you can pinch a raised edge of the callus, it needs to be filed down. Constant vigilance and regular hand care is key to preventing tears. (FITBOMB)

You can use a number of different tools to keep your calluses in check, including:

  • A nail file;
  • A callus/corn shaver/PedEgg;
  • Cuticle scissors;
  • A pumice stone;
  • A dull razor blade;
  • Sandpaper;
  • A Dremel tool

Improve Your Grip

What if you could just prevent ripping in the first place? Your grip may be the problem. It’s natural to want to grab the pullup bar and barbell with your palm but if you can drop your ego for a second and try holding on at the base of the fingers, you will rarely rip your hands (including caring for calluses). I personally switched to this grip after hanging out with Mark Rippetoe several years ago. It definitely took a while to build by consecutive pullups back up but I haven’t ripped since.

Rip on Grip!

YouTube Preview Image

Here’s another article regarding this topic.

Blood, Blisters, Sexism and Pull-Ups By Pär Larsson

Next level tape knowledge

If you like to tape up for prevention or to cover current injuries, make sure you do it right and not just waste a bunch of tape. The articles below will give you the basics and beyond. All you need is some basic athletic tape to save you a few painful days of training and trying to wash your hair. If you don’t know how to tape, ask one of the Coaches and we will hook you up.

Crossfit Virtuosity went beast mode and wrote an awesome 4 part series on hand care.
I’ve Got To Hand It To You (Part 1)
I’ve Got To Hand It To You (Part 2)
I’ve Got To Hand It To You (Part 3)
I’ve Got To Hand It To You (Part 4)

The moral of the story is…

Improve your grip to prevent ripping in the first place.

Take care of your calluses.

Tape your hands when you need to or get some grips to keep safe.

Hopefully I saved you some trouble and I am proud of my restraint in going the whole story with out posting a bloody hand picture!!

  • About Courtney Johnson

    Courtney Johnson is one of the original (2006) CFO members and has been coaching for over 4 years. She is also a Registered Dietitian and has special "Paleo" powers. When not at the gym, "Coco" enjoys the beach, reading, volunteering and the island life.
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