Hand Care – Preventing the Dreaded Callus Tear

Posted: 11/11/2013 in English, Interesting Articles, Science and stuff


This article was written for CrossFitters, but it applies to anyone using their hands during workouts. If you MovNat, lift, do gymnastics, or anything else involving lots of grip work you need to learn to take care of your hands.

JANUARY 21, 2013 BY 

Three things are inevitable in the life of a CrossFitter:

  1. Death
  2. Taxes
  3. Calluses

Due to the huge amount of work we do, sometimes our calluses tear.  A quick Google search of “crossfit hand tears” will yield thousands of pictures like the one below.  Contrary to popular belief, hand tears are not a badge of honor.  They are the result improper maintenance and lead to 1-3 weeks off of any type of training involving your hands.  They are not worth the picture that you’ll probably end up posting on Facebok.

CrossFit, you're doing it wrong.

“Look what I did at CrossFit today!”

In an attempt to save you the trouble, I’ll use this article to outline the steps you should take to maintain your calluses, prevent tears, and care for your hands after you’ve torn them to shreds.

Before we get started let me make one thing clear,  you may will develop calluses.  You’ll be putting your hands through a lot and, as a defense measure, you’ll sprout a few.  You should embrace these fleshy bumps because they signify all of the hard work you’ve put in.  Every pull up, every kettlebell swing, every snatch has earned you the right to wear your calluses with pride.  Your calluses are proof that you are making yourself more awesome.

Having said that, let’s get started with the whole prevention bit.


  • Moisturize: Use lotion, any lotion, to keep your hands nice and soft.  Dry hands will crack, rip, tear, and keep you out of the gym for weeks at a time.  Buy some lotion and use it often.  If you really want to get serious, use “corn huskers” lotion.  That stuff is the real deal.
  • Shave/sand/grind:  When it comes to keeping a callus maintained, the three easiest options are shave, sand or grind.  Pick one and do it regularly.  This is the most important preventative step outside of the gym.
    1. Shave: Get a callus shaver and use it frequently.  This is my preferred method because it’s easy to use and I don’t have to take a motorized sander to my hand.This is a life saver.This is a life saver.
    2. Sand: Grab a pumice stone (guys, just ask your lady friend what this is) and scrub away.  I recommend doing this while taking a hot shower.
    3. Grind: Pick up a Dremel (or other rotary sander) and go to town.  I’ve never done this (and never will due to a natural aversion to using power tools on my flesh) but plenty of people swear by it.
    4. Bite *(BONUS)*:  It’s easy, it’s paleo and we come equipped with the necessary tools.  Despite those truths, it’s gross so I can’t recommend it as an official option.


  • Grip: Wrap the fingers, rather than the palm, around the bar.  The friction across your palms is what causes nasty tears.  The only drawback is that this grip requires more strength in the hands, forearms and especially the fingers.  You may struggle at first , but it’ll pay dividends later.
  • Is it just me, or does my left thumb look freakish large in that top-left picture?
  • No, just no. If you’re caught doing this the penalty is 50 burpees.Chalk: Take it easy on the chalk!  I cannot overstate this.  Just so we’re all clear, chalkincreases friction.  Increased friction = increased chances of you getting a tear.  Use small amounts of chalk and only use on areas where there will be contact with the bar (no need to chalk your whole body).  Also, wipe your sweat off before you chalk up.  This avoids the nasty sweat-chalk icing that never cleans up (your coaches/the cleaning crew will thank you).
  • Gloves:  As Mark Rippetoe once said, “If you insist on wearing gloves, make sure they match your purse.”  This statement, while hilarious, requires some clarification.  My opinion, and the opinion of most barbell affectionatios, is that gloves should not be worn during barbell work (deadlifts, cleans, snatches, etc).  However, I do respect the use gloves during movements like pull ups (especially the kipping variety).  The difference between the two is that a barbell will rotate with your hands and a pull up bar will not.

Times to avoid gloves: Barbell cleans/snatches/deadlifts/any other (barbell) pulling movement.
Times to think about using gloves: When a callus tear is developing or healing.
Times to use gloves (if you must): High rep pull ups/toes-to-bar/kettlebell swing/snatches/cleans.

Basically, gloves may protect your hands and they will reduce your connection with the bar.  If you really want to wear gloves, my recommendation is a pair of Mechanix-type gloves (mainly because they look more badass than the other types).  Make sure that the palms are soft leather or suede, not sticky like Football gloves.

  • Stop: If you tear your hands mid-WOD, stop!  Do not gut through the rest of the WOD slinging your DNA everywhere.  Go wash your hands with soap and warm water immediately, then wipe down anything you may have bled on.  After the bleeding is under control, go run 4x400m repeats as punishment for not following the previous steps.

To read more: http://copperheadcrossfit.com/hand-care/

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