Hand Maintenance: It’s Not Just For the Ladies.

Awww fuck.  12 rounds into Cindy and you feel your hands start to give.  By round 15 you know you’re going to be a bloody mess.  Fucking flappers.  Blisters.  Vesicles.  Palmvaginas.  Whatever you want to call ’em.  When you get ’em you gotta take the obligatory post-WOD bloody hand picture and update your facebook.  Actually, that’s dumb.  Tearing your hands during a workout isn’t really all that badass.  You can get the same effect from shoveling dirt.  Shoveling dirt isn’t cool unless you were digging a grave to bury a dead hooker.  That’s a pic I wouldn’t make fun of.  It’s kind of fucking illegal though (except in Nevada).

In CrossFit rips are going to happen from time to time.  In a competition, there is a certain acceptance for the inevitable because you are too busy destrominating fellow competitors with no time to worry about your budding career as a hand model.  But during everyday training, avoid it (within reason).  I’ve had times where I’ve ripped so bad it’s affected my performance in the following days.  As time goes on, you’ll rip less.  Until then, get smarter about how to perform preventative maintenance on your hands to mitigate tears.

1. Shave your calluses.  Get a quality (sharp) knife or a callus shaver and filet the built-up gnarly shit off your palms.  Calluses build up in response to the work you put in, but they will eventually pull away from the soft underskin (especially when you do shit like butterfly kipping pullups).  Be careful not to cut too deep.  Just work at it and take off layers till your skin feels level.

2. Get one of those sandpaper things broads use to do their nails.  This is called an emery board.  Buy one when your wife sends you out for tampons and you’ll really look like a whipped douche.  Use the emery board to file down the areas you’ve just shaved with your knife.  Now your hands are like someone who is sensitive and can talk about books.  Pumice Stones work also.

3. Use less chalk.  Seriously.  What is it with our need to chalk up to our elbows all the goddamned time?  During the final event at the 2011 CrossFit Games I fucking saw Annie Thorisdottir chalk her hands before box jumps (go to the 16:25 mark on the video).  I know she’s the champ and all, but come on.  Chalk certainly has value but remember: it causes more friction on the bar.  Use it sparingly.

4. Wear gloves.  HOLY FUCKING SHIT, WHAT DID THAT PUSSY JUST SAY?  Yep.  Inspire hate and mocking from your cult peers and laugh at them when they are bitching about ripped hands.  “But Rip said, ‘If you’re gonna wear gloves make sure they match your purse,’ and I don’t wanna anger my fellow sheep.”  Mark Rippetoe is a weightlifting coach and if you wear gloves during barbell work you ARE a pussy.  However, I’m pretty fucking sure he wasn’t talking about doing a hundred pullups when he quipped that classic.  

Are you like me?  Did you watch people work out on the internet a couple of weeks ago (a.k.a. “the CrossFit Games”, a.k.a. “the World Series Of Exercise“)?  Some of the athletes wore batting gloves.  They did it last year, too.  I’m sure it was in response to existing rips or maybe it was preventative.  Who cares?  Either way, I like it.  CrossFit hypocrisy is fun.

Do they match your purse, Camille?

In CrossFit we generally don’t wear gloves because there are grip issues and reduced proprioception.  Don’t wear them during any barbell work.  Wear them if you are already torn up in order to continue training.  Wear them if you are about to do a high number of pullups and don’t want to tear.  Wear them sparingly.  You’ll get made fun of by the brainless.  I’m not one of them.

  1. #1 by Anthony Bider on August 10, 2011 - 5:41 PM

    I suggested this once at my gym..

    • #2 by EPIC on August 10, 2011 - 5:44 PM

      What, gloves?

      • #3 by Anthony Bider on August 10, 2011 - 5:58 PM

        Yea.. Then I got laughed at, and it was for pullups not barbell work!

        • #4 by EPIC on August 10, 2011 - 6:44 PM

          Obedience is necessary for mind control to occur.

  2. #5 by Sean on August 10, 2011 - 5:49 PM

    First off Camille can do whatever she damn well pleases and it cool with me, except cry.

    Another way to prevent tears is to grip the bar properly. If your palms are tearing your gripping the bar wrong. By grabbing with the palm of your hand you expose the center of your hand to lots of friction and you are pinching the skin near your fingers also increasing the chances of tearing.

    A better way is to grip the pullup bar the same as a properly gripped barbell. Make the contact with the bar first with your hand where your fingers and palm meet, then wrap. This grip prevents as much friction because your hand isn’t pinched off and your hand can adjust.

    Yes this grip burns your forearms. But its have sore and eventually stronger forearms, or torn hands and have to shower like edward scissorhands; your call.

    • #6 by John Lohry on August 10, 2011 - 6:25 PM

      Thanks Sean…your advice about proper grip and avoiding getting the skin pinched off against the bar has helped a great deal. I know I tore during “Tillman” due to poor technique. My grip has gotten stronger over the past couple months based on your guidance, though I did tear on the inside of both thumbs during yesterday’s Clean & Run WOD. I guess it was mostly from lowering the bar while gripping the hell out of it. So, still some room for improvement in my technique.

    • #7 by EPIC on August 10, 2011 - 6:51 PM

      Will give this one a go. I usually change my grip to the one you’re talking about after I’ve already ripped. Then I just end up ripping in different spots. Vicious cycle.

  3. #8 by John Lohry on August 10, 2011 - 6:13 PM

    Excellent tips. When I first started CF earlier this year, I was a bit curious about the ripped hands thing…I didn’t quite understand why everyone treated it as some sort of rite of passage. It was a badge of honor to be displayed proudly. It was probably a couple months before I experienced my first tear. Prior to that, I was beginning to wonder if I was doing something “wrong”…as though I weren’t pushing hard enough, however misguided that sounds. But I was still new and it just seemed like something that was expected. Anyway, my first tear occurred during the last round of pullups in “Tillman”. I finished, though gripping the bar wasn’t the most pleasant feeling. I felt proud and snapped the standard Facebook bragging pic. But I soon realized the negative side of tears…it was difficult to give some WODs 110% for a while after that until the big gaping hole had healed. Since then, I’ve tried to avoid tears as much as possible while not wimping out on any WODs…it’s happened a couple more times since. I just feel, and agree with you, that my performance and intensity is more important…if I have to tape, or the day ever comes where I need to wear gloves, I’m going to do so. Better than being sidelined from an unnecessary tear. Thank Epic.

    • #9 by EPIC on August 10, 2011 - 6:48 PM

      Yeah, the shit is going to happen, but my point is it’s tough to put forth great effort in the days to follow when your palms are screaming. One of the things I learned while researching this is that some people rip less than others. You are one of the lucky ones, John. I am not. My palms are made from labia skin.

  4. #10 by volgawv on August 10, 2011 - 8:15 PM

    I wore gloves when I did Murph and still tore. I understand Sean’s rationale for a diffrent grip but those of us who are just getting the hang of the kipping are holding on to that bar for dear life. Erik, what are your thoughts about the grippers that gymnast use? Since the gloves failed me I am looking for plan B. I agree with John, ripping interferes with you following work outs and plus makes you yell F#*K when you wash your hair! Love the blog and laughed my ass off!! Keep them coming! You are devolping a cult following!

    • #11 by EPIC on August 10, 2011 - 8:24 PM

      I bought those gymnast grips in 08 when I first started CF. They caused me to tear in different spots (mid-palm vs. upper palm). Callus maintenance and the grip Sean suggests is probably the only way.

  5. #12 by Dan Daugherty on August 10, 2011 - 9:03 PM

    I’ve started using the bigger pullup bars and stopped using the taped sections until absolutely necessary to pull off the last 1-2 pullups for a set. Bigger bar gives me more surface area to spread the force around and I was able to bang off 30 pullups on Monday without any issue at all.

  6. #13 by Tim on August 10, 2011 - 11:26 PM

    I started ripping my hands when I started rowing in 1999. To a certain extent, it was a rite of passage for us because there really was no way around it. We didn’t take pictures and put it on Facebook because Facebook was still a glint in Mark Zuckerberg’s snarky, overly-entitled eye. To be honest, I’ll never wear gloves. None of my coaches ever allowed gloves. I tape up after I tear my hands, but I’ll never wear gloves. My freshman year of college, a kid showed up to rowing practice with gloves, and the coach sent him back to the dorm. It’s one of those things that’s sort of in my mindset: Gloves are simply not allowed. Blisters in rowing, like Sean alluded to in regards to pull ups, show if you’re gripping the oar correctly. Your point is well taken, though. Don’t be dumb. Watching your hands rip as you go through a workout would be like watching an Achilles tendon rupture as your progressed through a workout. You’d fucking stop at some point.

  7. #14 by Sean on August 11, 2011 - 8:48 AM

    Something else I thought as I was taking another fine citizen to the ER at 5am.

    A person’s kip also affects their hands. A more efficient kip will allow you generate more force without requiring so much a of large swing, which I believe is the cause of the tearing. Girls are usually the biggest culprits of the giant swing on every pullup. Spend time focusing on having your hips aggressively open and use that drive to go up instead of the the horizontal force created by the swing.

    Also a tight core and legs will allow for the force that is created by the swing and hip opening to be more effectively translated to the bar. So no power wasted. No wasted power = smaller kip=less tears= angie is now your bitch.

  8. #15 by volgawv on August 11, 2011 - 9:57 AM

    Dead on Sean, guilty as charged. My biggest problem is I feel like I need a huge kip to get my chin over the bar, plus, I am missing the kick when I do my pull ups. Oh vey, so much to assimilate for one exercise. Will work on this. Thanks for the tips!

  9. #16 by Trinity on August 11, 2011 - 12:02 PM

    My hands rip every single time we do anything on the pullup bars. I don’t get it. I have started using the grip Sean talks about cuz he told me too and I ripped my fingers. The skin on my hands just suck ass. i have always done the care of my calluses too. I’ve never tried gloves and I never tape til after I tear. So what do you do when yoou’ve honestly tried it all? I still stick with the finger grip even though I feel like I’m going to fall off the bar and pullups r much tougher, takes more strength with finger grip. My hands are just so small. I have even tried the big bar. I do have a habit of using chalk cuz I slip so bad on the bar, I guess I need to stop that. I have tried doing them with the grip tape on the bar and without, it doesn’t make a difference I still rip and that shit hurts. I HATE IT!!!!!

  10. #17 by Judy on August 11, 2011 - 10:49 PM

    I use a pumice stone on my hands every 3 days or so and have ripped only once in 6 months of CF training. When I did rip, I didn’t bleed. I guess I been blessed with pull up friendly palms. Yay, for my girly soft hands!

  11. #18 by Drywall on August 20, 2011 - 5:30 PM

    Deadhangs. Problem solved.

    • #19 by EPIC on August 20, 2011 - 8:06 PM

      Your logic is arresting.

  12. #20 by Matt Brenton on August 25, 2011 - 12:52 AM

    Here’s link to a video Donnie Shankle did about hand care if nothing else his voice will lull you into a sweet sweet sleep.

    • #21 by EPIC on August 25, 2011 - 10:54 AM

      Thanks for the link, good stuff on there. I found his voice to be creepy then a mufucker. It’s pretty much Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs.

  13. #22 by Cabeson (@Cabeson) on October 5, 2011 - 11:47 AM

    I have the definitive solution forwarded to me by Coach Rut over at Fitness Conduit.
    Dremel your hands once a week. Ever since I took this up I have yet to tear, even with 150+ pullup sessions.


    • #23 by EPIC on October 5, 2011 - 12:06 PM

      Power tools vs. calluses? Fucking beastmode. That is awesome. +1 to Coach Rut.

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