One of the things that almost everyone in the Crossfit community can relate to, whether they are a beginner or an elite athlete, is damage to their hands.
We can all remember the first time we tore our hands. So many things happen at once. You realize you’ve ripped and you know it hurts but at the same time you are somewhat overcome with joy because you feel as though you’ve unlocked the first level of Crossfit! Forget the pain, you are now officially a Crossfitter! You are so hardcore that you bled while working out, now go grab your phone to take a picture and post it to social media (because if not it doesn’t count, right?). Now it’s time for a shower. Not so happy anymore are you? Pain starts to sink in once again, probably along with the thought of how you are going to do anything the next day. So, celebrate your victory tear, but let’s try to keep it to a minimum from here on out.
It’s going to be hard to protect your hands from tearing without knowing what the causes are. In this article, we’ll go over some of the things that will cause your hands to tear during a workout and what to do to avoid it.
First up, chalk.
Yes, chalk. It is a double-edged sword because while its helps dry up sweaty palms allowing for a better and longer grip on the bar, it does just that – DRIES up your hands. Dry hands are more prone to crack and rip, so don’t ditch the chalk completely but try not to rely on it as much. More chalk doesn’t always mean you will be able to perform more reps.
In addition to using less chalk make sure to wash your hands after your workout so the chalk that is left doesn’t continue to soak the moisture out of your hands. Another good idea is to keep a moisturizing lotion in your gym bag or car to be able to replenish the moisture you may have lost throughout your workout.
Although moisturizing will significantly help keep your hands a little smoother, you are bound to form calluses on your hands (another badge of honor, I know). Like chalk, calluses can be helpful but can also work against you. A healthy callus toughens up the skin and protects it from rips or tears. If you don’t take care of your callus, however, it can over develop and as they get bigger so do the chances of them getting caught on the bar and ripping. You want to regularly file your calluses so that they remain level with the rest of your palm; this way there is a lower chance that they will be caught on the bar.
A great way to remember to do this is to keep a pumice stone in your shower. That way it is right in your face when you shower and will be an easy step to add into your routine when your calluses have softened from the steam and water. The Mr. Pumice bar is a great choice because it is very course and can be used wet or dry. It can be found at Sally’s beauty supply or amazon for less than $5. If your calluses have grown to be very large, prior to showering you can use a cuticle cutter to cut away some of the dry skin and then follow up with the pumice stone. Just be careful not to cut too deep.
The last cause we are going to talk about will be harder to fix than the other ones because it has to do with the way you may be gripping the bar. At this point you are probably comfortable with the way you grip the bar but switching it up a little bit could help prevent tearing. When gripping the bar, try to place the bar where the palm of your hands and your fingers meet. Having the bar in the middle of your palm pushes excess skin into the crease which will lead to more calluses as well as stress on calluses you already have.
Keep in mind that when you first begin building calluses you will tear… and tear… and tear again! Even after you feel like your hands are finally up to the challenge of what you put them through they will still tear. It truly is unavoidable, but if you take proper care of your hands you will go longer periods of time without ripping.
Aside from the above-mentioned precautions I would highly recommend gymnastics grips of some sort. Everyone is different so test out different protective gear to see what you prefer. Natural Grips are a great choice because they are thin enough that it doesn’t feel like you have anything between you and the bar. Again, calluses can be healthy so if you are someone who wants to get better at all things Crossfit, wearing thick gloves may not be the way to go. Gloves not only create a thick layer between you and the bar making it harder to grip, but they prevent those healthy calluses from forming.
When the inevitable happens and you rip the first thing that must be done is unfortunately to wash it with soap and water, and yes, it WILL sting. Just think that it’s better to deal with a little stinging than a lot of infection. Then, using a cuticle cutter cut away the portion of skin that is tragically no longer attached to your palm. Don’t worry about getting all of it, just the main piece. You can get more precise when the skin dries up and is less sensitive. Apply a generous amount of Neosporin to the open wound and cover it with a band-aid so that it stays moisturized and free from infection. The Crossfit Journal recommends using vitamin E oil, which is a good option if you have some at home.
So remember, while the first rip may be a monumental right of passage, it really isn’t cool to have to put your training on pause because you didn’t properly care for your hands. Just as you would warm-up before a WOD or take a rest day to recover and prevent injuries. Taking proper care of your hands is just as essential.
Be good to your hands and they will be good to you!