By: Coach Calla Staads
If you have been doing CrossFit for any amount of time I am willing to bet that you have experienced the dreaded hand tear. While it is often touted as a badge of honor – “Check it out! I ripped my hand in three places!” – tearing the flesh off of your hands until you are a bleeding mess is not encouraged nor is it fun. And let’s face it, ripping your hands is an injury. Not only will it be painful and annoying, but you will have to allow the area(s) to heal, which means not being able to grip a bar for at least a few days. Avoiding hand rips allows you to continue to train and progress without interruption.
Through my own mistakes, research, and experience I have compiled 5 simple techniques to avoiding rips. I am hoping this advice will aid you in keeping all of your skin right where it belongs – on your hand!
1. Shave your calluses
Typically, when you tear, it is the built up callus ripping, which takes a chunk of your actual skin with it. It is important to not allow these calluses to build up too much. Shaving them down weekly should keep most of the hand tears away. You can use different tools for this, but I have found that only an actual callus shaver is able to get enough of the callus off to do the job. You can find these in any store such as Target or Walmart in the foot care section. They are cheap and invaluable for proper hand care.
If your hands feel like sand paper, they will be more likely to rip. Get a quality hand lotion and apply it often. As an added bonus, if your hands just kind of hurt after a workout that involved a lot of gripping, lotion will often make them feel instantly better.
3. Protect your hands
If you know you have a high rep pull-up (or any other movement that is tough on your hands) workout coming up, it is not a bad idea to throw on some added protection on your palms. You can try out different methods here, including gymnastics grips, tape grips, or gloves. There are a huge variety of these items for sale on the Internet. I personally prefer to make tape grips, as it will provide some protection without a lot of bulk between my hand and the bar. But, I only wear these rarely. In my opinion, the best grip you will ever have is always going to be just your hand with some light chalk (or in my incredibly sweaty palm situation, a lot of chalk). But wearing these items, or at least having them ready, can help avoid a tear when there are many reps to tackle.
4. Know when to adjust or stop
If you are in the middle of the workout and you can feel a tear coming on, it is ok to adjust or even (gasp!) stop that movement. Are those last 5 reps worth not being able to use your hands for three days? Another tactic, if you can’t bare the idea of stopping, is to adjust your movement. So if you are doing kipping pull-ups, for example, you could switch to strict pull-ups using more of a finger dominated grip, or even switch over to ring rows. This will allow you to finish your workout with not only your pride but also your skin.
5. Listen to your hands
If you are frequently ripping your hands on low to moderate rep workouts then it is possible that your hands are simply not ready for the volume. Spend some time refining your kip technique and working on strict pulling strength. The smaller and tighter your kip can be (which comes with increased strength and skill) the less friction you will be putting on your hands. And if your hands are already torn up, don’t be afraid to ask a coach for a substitute movement that will not hurt your hands while they are healing.
Hopefully this advice helps you keep your hands healthy and rip free. Let me know if you have found any additional techniques that have helped you. And remember, the skin on your palms is for your hands, not for the bar.
CrossFit Level 1 Trainer
CrossFit Unchained Coach