A lot of people I know are into working out hard these days. Whether it is rock climbing, rowing, CrossFit, weightlifting, or any number of other activities, your hands take a serious beating. The sensitive skin on your palms can get rough and, in the worst scenario, rip open. Rips are painful, unattractive, and a hindrance to further training.
What can you do to prevent rips? And once a rip occurs, how do you treat it?
The first step is taking care of your hands before damage occurs. Ideally, your hands would be completely smooth. If your skin is not rough and lumpy, there is nothing to catch on the bar when you are lifting or doing pull ups.
Excellent tools for shaving down your calluses are a pumice stone, a PedEgg, or a corn/callus shaver. For those with less patience and a little more bravery, the Dremel with the sanding tool attached is by far the most effective and efficient tool for shaving calluses. Start with a slow speed and work your way up as you gain confidence using it.
No matter how great the tool, it does not do any good if you are not using it. Get in the daily habit of shaving your hands. A perfect time to do it is right after you get out of the shower when your skin is puffy and soft.
Prevention During the Workout
Coming in with smooth hands is one thing, but what happens now that you start the workout? There are a few tools we can use to keep the rips at bay.
Chalk – Chalk is a double-edged sword. Small amounts keep your hands dry and help your grip. This means you are less likely to hold the bar too tight, which is a good thing as far as callus prevention. On the other hand, chronic over-chalkers may actually be creating more friction by having so much chalk on their hands. Be frugal with the chalk and use a towel to dry your hands between sets.
Grip – Think about how you actually grip the bar. Are you grabbing it way down in the palm of your hand? Or are you grabbing it more around the base of your fingers? Think about how rock climbers use their fingers more than their hands. Think about the fact you are pulling on something, not pushing. The bar should not be all the way into the bottom of your palm, it will only cause more folds of skin to bunch up and you are more likely to rip.
Leather Hand Grips – If you just have sensitive hands or you work in a profession where you cannot tolerate ripped palms, consider using leather hand grips. These are not a cure-all. They take some getting used to and it is possible to still rip even while wearing a grip, but they will help tremendously once you adjust to using them.
It Just Takes Time
Conditioning your palms is just like building up any other part of your body. It just takes time. You will go through a period of time where no matter how careful you are, your hands will rip if you hit a high enough volume of exercise. Be patient and be careful and you will get through it. Your hands will come out tougher on the other side.
Take good care of your hands, keep your calluses to an absolute minimum, do not grip the bar too tight, and use grips if you need to. This simple advice will help you get through your training with less pain and more enjoyment.
And, here is one very important piece of advice to take to heart – it does not make you cool to rip your hands. Real athletes care for their bodies and that includes the skin on their palms.