When we do high friction movements like kipping and we begin to work on getting movements out of our finger tips, new calluses will start to form and/or blisters will appear when we push it just one step farther than our hands are ready for.
Here are some things I recommend for taking care of our hands as we continue on trying to improve our gymnastics!!
Before we talk about techniques to prevent tears and maintain our calluses, we have to make sure we aren’t always creating new points of contact!
Our bodies will always adapt to new stimuli. It’s what helped make us the dominant species on the planet. We always want to encourage this growth, which is why we always push the boundaries in our workouts and change up what we work on. When it comes to our hands we want to do the opposite. We need to make sure we have 1-2 consistent hand placements and stick with them (the 2 is there because we should also work on false grip).
The reason we do this is that it will create consistent wear patterns on our hand, making it easier to just maintain one set of calluses instead of having to take care of the whole hand every time we do our maintenance routines. Rather put out 1 fire, rather than 20.
The best place to put our hands on a bar is to have the bar as close to the center of the hand as possible rather than the finger tips. The reason being that we can focus more on using our lats rather than our biceps (always use the bigger muscle to move). Another reason is that if we tear in the center of our hand, we can still go about our day using our finger tips. If ya tear your fingers, you will be grabbing everything with exposed skin and we all know that ain’t fun!
The best way to take care of our hands is to make sure that we don’t tear in the first place! The best way to prevent a tear, is to protect your hands!
We always recommend using grips/gloves!
The main thing about using grips is that you can grip the bar, protect your hands, and it is long enough to get a mechanical advantage on the bar. For all grip manufacturers we recommend getting 1 size bigger than what they recommend, this will give you the option to play around to figure what you actually like to do for grip placement rather than going with the manufacturers intent, which may not be your style!
For gloves we want to make sure they fit, have proper ventilation, and can absorb chalk! Gloves do a better job of protecting your whole hand but you will lose some mechanical advantage compared to the grips. I like to personally use these for rope climbs, a place where grips fall apart and roll.
Recommended Grips: Victory Grips (Tactical and X2), Bear Complex (Carbon Grips), and Rogue V2 grips.
Recommended Gloves: Mechanix (The Original Gloves)
As we do more and more gymnastic movements, we will begin to develop calluses due to the friction we create between our hands and the bar. These calluses will build and start to get really gnarly and raised. It’s at this state that you are at a greater risk of ripping these open, creating a tear!
Tears can happen with or without calluses, it just takes creating more heat or force than your hand is ready to handle at the time. These tears usually occur for CrossFitters through volume and using way too much chalk on overly callused hands!
(Chalk Tip: Don’t be like LeBron on this one. You should still be able to see your skin! Also, applying via scraping rather than crushing ensures a safer amount of chalk coverage).
So how to we manage these calluses to prevent a stray one ripping open? Pumice stones.
You’ll usually hear a callus shaver be mentioned as well but I feel that when people use these, they take off too much removing all the hard work your body put in to protect your hands!
Any pumice stone will do. I use the cheap Walgreens branded one, but as long as it is gritty and you can control the depth of your sanding down, it’s good for the job!
Make sure that when you do this that you wear it down enough to remove the raised edges without removing the entire callus. Shouldn’t take more than 10 second per finger with the main focus being on the big knuckles of every digit but the thumb). Also, do this while your hands are dry. Your hands being wet for a shower is nice because you can remove more quickly, but it also means you are more likely to remove way too much callus!
THE INEVITABLE…Repairing a Hand Tear:
Even if you do all of this, you will tear your hands. It’s inevitable. You will want to kill a workout or just do one too many pull-ups and your dermal layer will become exposed.
What the heck do ya do?
First, make sure you always clean out that wound. Disinfect and clean the wound then wrap it. It’s recommended you put the skin flap the tis created from a tear down over the wound to help improve recovery time. But, every one I have ever seen tear their hands just cuts it off. If you are gonna cut it off, use a sterile pair of scissors.
Great, you performed general first aid. Avoid putting the tear through a high friction situation till the skin heals.
Here’s the thing, you won’t stop moving the whole time you have to heal. Your hands are always in use, which means that your hands can start to crack! If this happens it can be painful to grab on to a pull-up bar for weeks. The way to help heal these cracks faster is to moisturize your hands daily. What we recommend to moisturize is No-Crack Creme. It helps lumberjacks so why not us! The brand we recommend is Duluth Trading Co’s No Crack Creme. When ever I use this stuff my cracks have healed faster than when I didn’t use it. We have had the same tub for 6 years and only used a quarter of it, so it’s a worth while investment if you just like lotion in general. (A little goes a LOOOOOONNNG way).
It’s A Combination:
The thing to remember about hand care is that it is a combination of all the topics covered. I wanna leave y’all with these two clichés. “Buy nice or buy twice,” is only the case to a certain extent with grips, once you get to about 5+ pull-ups in a row, you will start to wear through cheaper grips. The other cliché I would like to use is, “take care of your hands and they will take care of you!” If you are into CrossFit and love gymnastics, you will use your hands a ton. If they always tear, it means you will be doing less work. Invest time into your hands to make sure you can do more of what you love! It’ll take at most 5 Minutes a week and will pay off in the time you go without tearing!
If you do tear, take care of yourself! It’s better to switch to banded strict pull-ups than force your way through kipping pull-ups to push yourself. You will improve either way, so why prolong any unnecessary pain.
Now go have fun with your gymnastics, protect your hands, and let’s aim to have as few hand tears as possible!