When I first started pole fitness classes, I thought it was crazy that I started developing calluses. My instructor said it was normal and to just leave them be to “toughen up” my hands. When I first started CrossFit, my hands started peeling everywhere! The sides of my fingers, the tips of my fingers, my calluses, even on the bottom of my feet.
When you first start out, it’s not uncommon to feel like if your hands are torn up, you’re a badass. Sorry to break it to you, but not so much 🙂 Yes, maybe your friends who don’t work out might think so but to the rest of the athletes in the box, they all know it’s not that “cool” to have chunks of your skin ripping from your hands. We’re sharing kettlebells, bars, medicine balls, jump ropes, ergs… just, not cool. You will NOT be able to avoid it completely though, it does come with the territory of lifting weight but there is an element of hand care that you should incorporate into your life.
Once you start building up some thicker skin, the goal is to keep any calluses filed down. You’ll want a smooth palm surface. A raised, rough callus will eventually blister and tear, ripping your hands open and making a bloody mess. You can use a variety of tools to file them; a nail file, a callus shaver, pumice stone, dull razor blade, sandpaper, butter knife or a dremel tool. You don’t need to be aggressive about it, just a little at a time. The ideal time to shave your hands would be right after a hot shower or bath.
Always moisturize your hands. Chalk and frequent washing will suck all the moisture right out. So, lotion is important (you can go for heavy-duty hand cream, coconut oil or farm staples like bag balm or udder cream). If you can moisturize 2 – 3 times a day, that’d be ideal; otherwise, at least after workouts and before bed if you can.
If you do happen to rip your hands open, treating them is very important. Slather them with antibacterial ointment, bandage them and keep them dry. If possible, leave the flap of skin in place. If you’re going to continue to train, grab a roll of athletic tape and cover the spots that need protection. Cover the tears with a band-aid first so you’re not placing the tape directly on to the skin.
If you notice you’re developing calluses or blisters often, you might need to change your grip. 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. If your hands are sensitive, consider using leather hand grips.
Conditioning your palms is just like building up any other part of your body. It just takes some time. You will go through a period of time where no matter how careful you are, your hands will get beat up. 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. But most importantly, real athletes care for their bodies and that includes the skin on their palms.