by Erik Castiglione
Well, 17.2 has come and gone, and it’s likely taken some skin from your hands in the process. If the Open were predictable, I would have published this last week, but such is life. Before we get in to how to take care of your hands after they’ve torn, let’s talk about general hand care and how to prevent them from tearing in the first place.
First, it is painful to hang from the bar if your hands are not tough. This makes kipping movements impossible. If you are a complete neophyte, it’s important to condition your hands by building the amount of time you spend hanging. For workouts involving large numbers of toes to bar or pull-ups, break them up into the largest sets that your grip allows. Remember this number and try to beat it in the next workout that requires hanging. Eventually, you’ll get to a point where your hands are tough and hanging is not painful.
When you have reached this point, you will have callouses on your hands. It’s important to keep these callouses for your own protection. However, if they get too big, they can get hooked on the bar and tear. To maintain your callouses, you will need two tools: a callous/corn shaver, and a pumice stone.
Use the shaver to trim the callouses to a manageable height. Don’t cut them off completely, or you’ll be starting over again as if you were a newbie. Try to keep all callouses the same height. You can use the pumice stone to sand down any uneven callouses to make sure they are even.
Prior to a WOD with a lot of hanging or kipping, it is important to warm up your hands. Even in the summer months, wash them with soap and warm water to prep the skin. If you are accustomed to their use, feel free to use gloves or gymnastics grips (personally, I hate them. But to each their own). Use chalk SPARINGLY. Chalk increases the friction between your hands and the bar. Some friction will prevent you from slipping, but too much will actually increase your likelihood of tearing (take note, chalk monsters! You know who you are!). Finally, try to keep a relaxed grip on the bar. In hanging movements, particularly the kipping variations, your hands will naturally shift on the bar. If you squeeze the bar in a death grip, you’re going to stick and eventually tear. I realize this is easier said than done, especially if you’re tired. That being said, the longer you can maintain a relaxed grip, the longer you’ll go without tearing.
If you do end up tearing, it’s important to tend to the rips post WOD. Wash them out with soap and warm water, and cut away any loose skin with nail clippers or a callous shaver. When you’re not training, keep them moist and covered. I recommend Neosporin or something similar. When it’s time to train again, use an acrylic coating like New Skin, and some tape to cover the tears. The tape may wear off, but the acrylic will keep the rips protected. Be aware that the acrylic tends to crack during workouts, so post WOD you should once again cover your rips and keep them moist. Repeat this cycle until your hands have healed.
I hope you found this post helpful. Put in the time to take care of your hands, and you’ll be much happier in your CrossFit journey. You should all now be prepared to tackle “Angie” next week! Just kidding, or am I…