Hand Care: A Practical Guide

So you’ve joined the gym, you’re fallen in love with CrossFit, have discovered the pull up bar… and suddenly you’ve been introduced to a world of chalk, calluses and the infamous hand-tear!

It ain’t pretty.

BUT… it doesn’t have to be that way! We’re bringing you a short guide on hand-care, and crucially, how to prevent palm-ageddon (sorrynotsorry).

So here we go – 5 practical ways you can look after your mits to keep them intact for good.

1. STOP BEFORE THEY TEAR

Seriously – we’re not kidding! This is the number 1, stand-out, all time magic solution for looking after your hands. Stop. Before. They. Tear. Unless you are in a competition setting where coming down from that pull up bar will be the difference between you making it to the CrossFit Games or not, just stop. 

What can I do?
Switch the offending movement for something less grippy, or something with less friction. EG – switch kipping pul ups for ring rows. Switch your last few Toes to Bar for V-Ups. Thos few missed reps will be a drop in the ocean in your lifetime of fitness, and grinding through at the expense of your hands is simply not worth it.

“If you’re ever faced with high volume gymnastics or similar and are doubting your hands, have a back-up option up your sleeve. Mention it to the coach before the workout starts, so they can help support you if you fee your hands are on the verge. Make this choice before the workout starts so you know exactly what to do mid-workout if you need to drop down from that bar!”

– Coach Adele

2. Keep calluses at bay

It might seem excessive, but a quick daily check of your hands before you head to the gym is not a bad idea at all. Calluses will inevitably form as a result of using barbells, doing hanging movements, rope climbs, kettlebell swings etc, and are a normal part of the training process. To some extent they are very helpful, and simply a product of your body adapting to the training. However, they become unhelpful when they rip.

What can I do?
Look out for any particularly raise calluses with rough or sharp edges, as these are most like to get caught and tear. The best way to do this is by filing them down. If you’re looking after your hands regularly, a normal nail file might be rough enough to do the job. Otherwise, try a pumice stone and gently file away the edges to leave a smooth, rounded surface. Be careful not to file too much though! For any very jagged edges or really tough calluses, you can use nail scissors to give it a trim, or better still – a callus shaver (yep, they exist!) but even they can sometimes leave a bit of a sharp edge so consider filing a little after you’ve finished with the weapons! 

3. Moisturise regularly

Keeping your skin hydrated and supple will play a huge role in preventing rips and tears. We suggest going for a natural salve made from ingredients such as beeswax, peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils. There are specific products on the market which also help shield your hands from bacteria and fungus (such as the WOD Welder Hand Salve), but everyone’s skill is different, so use that works for you! 

What can I do?
Moisturise once or twice a day. After a workout, when your hands are sweaty and chalky, give them a thorough wash and follow with a good old moisturise! Avoid moisturising just before you work out – slippery hands do not mix well with barbells!

“For hands on the verge, I use Blistex. Yep – the stuff meant for chapped lips! A little goes a long way, and has helped prevent lots of almost-tears for me.”

– Coach Gareth

4. Check Your Grip

The way we grip the weights or pull up bars will vary from movement to movement, and individuals will often have slightly different hand positioning depending on their technique and hand size. If you’re always tearing in the same place and can’t work out why, ask a coach! It might be they can offer some advice for optimal hand positioning, or perhaps when in the movement to tighten (or loosen!) your grip.

What can I do?
On the barbell, try hook grip! Ditch the weightlifting straps, and don’t mix-grip… the latter in particular could present a whole range of problems in itself, but imbalances aside, it won’t get you any better at double-overhand grip! Use the barbell as an opportunity to actively improve your grip for other movements.

For gymnastics, check out the recent reel on the SCFIT page regarding ‘re-gripping’ on hanging movements. If you find yourself re-gripping at the top of your kip swings on kipping movements, then this one’s for you! The main takeaway is to stop re-gripping, and instead build the strength to keep a consistent grip on the bar. If you feel like you’ll lose hold of the bar, scroll back into the Movement Highlights on the SCFIT Instagram and check out the grip strength movement video – there are a bunch of grip-building and strengthening exercises in here that will help!

5. Experiment with Grips and / or Tape

Not everyone gets on with leather grips, and the thought of applying tape to your thumbs every session might sound like a huge headache if you’re used to working out bare-handed, but if you’re finding yourself regularly nursing blisters and tears, perhaps it’s time to try some grips out. 

There are tons of different styles on the market and ultimately it comes down to personal preference. You’ll see variations of gloves, leather straps with and without finger holes, single use tape hand wraps, as well as rolls of tape where you can decide how to apply. SCFIT stock and sell zinc oxide tape on site, but you can of course also buy online.

What can I do?
Try some out! Ask a coach or friend when you’re next in the gym – they might be able to lend you a pair to try for a workout! It might be you come to adopt a couple of different techniques – perhaps finding your favourite pair of leather grips for gymnastics, then taping your thumbs for hook grip in olympic lifts. Do what you gotta do!

“If you’re going for tape, use those long martial-arts-style strips secured at the wrist rather than around the palm (because that will just rub off!).”

– Coach Joe

The takeaway?

Prevention is ALWAYS better than cure. It’s really time we moved away from torn hands being some kind of badge of honour. A ripped hand could stop you from training ‘normally’ for a couple of weeks, not to mention make showering and washing your hair a total nightmare…and open you up to infection. So, do yourself a favour, and invest a little bit of time in your hands on a regular basis. A few minutes of effort will go a long way to promote longevity.

Looking for a friendly, inclusive gym to join? Get in touch to book your free No Sweat Intro to find out what we are all about at SCFIT!

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