A hand tear is an injury, and as with all injuries, we do our best to avoid them.
Psssst… If you’ve already torn your mitts, read: So You Ripped Your Hands
Your CrossFit friends may post pictures of their torn up palms as a badge of pride, but make no mistake: Hand tears are an injury that can throw off your training just like a sprained ankle or a tweaked back. Hand rips happen to just about everyone, but luckily there are things you can do to keep them at bay and keep your WODs on track.
Tame Your Callouses
If your callouses build up, it’s just a matter of time until they tear. You can maintain your mitts daily with a pumice stone like this one, preferably while you’re in the shower, so your skin is soft and pliable.
If your callouses build up faster than a pumice stone can handle, you’ll want to bring out the big guns: A razor-based callous remover. Don’t let the razors scare you, it’s difficult to take off too much skin. A few words of wisdom: Use it after you’ve showered, take off only a thin layer of dead skin at a time and replace the razor frequently.
It cannot be emphasized enough: You must work these methods into your daily or weekly routine. Shave your face/legs, shave your palms.
Now that your palms are baby smooth, let’s condition your palms so they stay supple instead of building into dry, calloused ridges.
A good pick for this would be a shea butter- or beeswax-based formula that will really seal in moisture. Nothing runny or thin here. CrossFitters swear by the W.O.D. Welder Solid Salve (available at Rogue Fitness in a handy kit). We’re also big fans of Trader Joe’s Head to Toe Moisturizing Balm, and at a pocket-friendly $3.99, you can feel free to slather it wherever the sun shines.
Check Your Chalk Addiction
Ahh, the chalk bucket. Is there a brighter beacon of hope in the depth of a nasty WOD? Most CrossFitters would say “hell no”.
Sorry to break it to you, chalkophiles: Over-dependency on that white powder could be causing some of your palm problems in the first place.
Chalk creates friction, which is awesome the moment your sweaty palms are trying to stick to a slippery pull-up bar, or attempt a new snatch PR. But over time, with many reps, that friction tugs at your skin, adding to the likelihood you’ll tear.
Chalk is excellent at attracting moisture, including sucking it right out of your skin. As we mentioned above, the drier your palms, the more callous build-up you’re likely to experience. When you’re done with your WOD, wash your hands. Even if your hands don’t look powdery, the chalk is still in the tiny cracks and crevices of your skin.
If you suffer from super-sweaty palms (who doesn’t?!), use a towel to dry your hands between sets, before you hit the chalk bucket.
Loosen Up (Your Grip, That Is!)
If you’re death gripping the pull-up bar, you’re creating friction that will pull on your skin further and further with each rep, building the mountainous callous ridge that makes people cringe when you shake their hand. On pull-ups and toes to bar, make sure you’re leaving a little room for movement, especially if you’re kipping. (This will also keep your grip from prematurely fatiguing.)
So how does one go about creating a secure grip that won’t create callouses? Next time you hop on the bar, a small tweak could make all the difference:
Palm protection used to be considered “whimpy” in some CrossFit camps. But most of us are not welders, and we can’t wander around in our professional worlds, shaking our rough, burly hands with clients. “Do those gloves match your purse?” a meathead may taunt. Hell yeah, they do.
See also: What CrossFit Equipment Do I Need?
There endless options to protect your hands, but we’ll cover some of the most popular here. It’s worth clarifying: These methods are useless if you don’t take the above steps to keep your skin in good shape in the first place.
Just the Palm, Please
In the CrossFit9 Pro Shop, we carry The Natural Grip, a quick option for people who like to tape their palms. Flexible, soft, thin, and far more durable than tape grips, these will last a few months with regular wear. Our packages come with a roll of tape included, perfect for taping the bottom of the grip, and also taping thumb knuckles.
Another option gaining popularity is the WOD JAW. No tape necessary, these secure with a velcro strap, and feature a comfortable, flexible fabric palm. These are perfect if you’ve tried traditional leather gymnastics grips and found them to be too thick, uncomfortable, or hard to break in.
If palms-only protection is your jam, your thumbs might get the raw end of the deal. We like Scary Sticky Goat Tape for taping the thumb joint so it doesn’t rub during a full grip on the bar.
Whole Hand Coverage
There are some definite upsides to keeping a pair of gloves in your gym bag. They’re faster than fumbling with a roll of tape, and they’ll pull double duty when you have to push a hot sled or grip a cold barbell.
If you’re all about convenience, check out the HumanX by Harbinger Wrist Wrap Glove, which caught our attention thanks to the built in wrist support. A hardy, cheap option: The Mechanix Glove, available in men’s and women’s sizing. No bells and whistles, but they’ll last for many pull-ups.
If Worst Comes to Worst…
You can take care of your palms, use chalk responsibly, grip the pull-up bar like a champ, and sometimes a tear will happen anyways. We know, we know. Life’s not fair. Not to panic… we’ve outlined the steps for rehabbing your hands real quick here.