Other than posting a disgustingly cool Instagram photo, there are no positives to ripping your hands. Anyone who has done “Cindy” knows ripped hands are a pain in your behind. That first shower after the workout will leave you screaming and questioning every life decision that you have ever made. For all those who have shared this experience with me, I am here to say, “There is hope.” With just a few steps you can reduce your chance of ripping substantially. This will lead to less pain, and more importantly better performances at the gym. Please read below about tips that you can use before, during, and after you work out to avoid ripping your hands as well as hand care techniques you can use to help ease the pain after you rip.
You rip your hands for two reasons: you either have soft hands with little or no callus build-up, or you have too much callus build-up that makes ridges and bumps on your hands. As with most things you need to find a good medium. The goal is to have smooth and supple calluses that will protect your hands but remain intact when you put in the work.
1. Before your Workout
Pumice Stone – You can find these at most convenience stores and they are your first step to filing down your calluses. I am not a big fan of these for consistent maintenance, but this is an easy tool to carry around and use in a bind.
Dremel – This is by far the most effective tool I have used for filing down calluses. Some people are scared to use power tools to file their hands down. I stress that this is the quickest and most effective way to file your hands down. Here is a link to the Dremel I use. It is less powerful than others and it works well. If you decide on this option to file down your calluses (which I highly recommend) use the SLOW SPEED setting.
Cuticle Clipper – This is my last attempt to sooth some painful calluses and the blisters that pop up underneath them. If my calluses hurt to the touch I cut them off and start all over. Be warned that the first few days at the gym after you cut your calluses will hurt as your hands develop calluses again, but after 1-2 workouts they should be back to normal and feel good.
Misc- Other tools I have heard of people using are knifes, razors, and scissors. Yup, shaving your calluses can look like a scene from “Dexter.”
You should shave down your hands daily, especially after a workout where you are on the rig for an extended period of time. The best time to do this is right after your shower when your skin is nice and soft. After you shave your hands (and throughout the day) you should put moisturizer on your hands. Keeping your hands hydrated and soft will allow them to mend more and rip less.
Expert tips about Moisturizer:
- Put moisturizer on when your hands are still damp. This way the moisturizer is trapping the moisture still on your skin. Skin shouldn’t be soaking wet so pat yourself dry with a towel to get rid of excess water before applying.
- Avoid moisturizers with perfumes and alcohols. Buy a mild moisturizer – the cheaper stuff is usually better than the high-end products.
- Use a heavier moisturizer before bed so the moisturizer will penetrate the top layer of your skin as you sleep.
A general rule of thumb that I follow is to take your nail and run it over your callus. If your nail gets stuck you need to file your callus down more.
2. During the Workout
Take a moment and actually think about how you are gripping the bar. What hurts? Are you gripping the bar in your palm or on your fingertips? Take a look at this video on how to grip the bar properly. Instead of gripping the bar in the middle or your palm try and grip the bar across the base of your fingers, and remember to use a HOOK GRIP. When grabbing the pull-up bar you should also grab the bar in a false grip using a gymnastics hook grip, which simply means putting your thumb over your fingers. Please see parts one and two of this video that breaks down how to grip the bar to save your shoulders and your hands.
Chalk can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to your hands. Small amounts keep your hands dry and help your grip because you will be less likely to hold the bar too tightly. On the other hand, too much chalk creates more friction and excess drying which will quickly lead to ripped hands. Unless my hands are dripping with sweat I try and avoid using chalk when I am on the rig because I find it leads to ripping very easily. BOTTOM LINE: USE CHALK SPARINGLY.
Your hands are going to rip when you first start out. No matter how careful you are you will still rip. Be patient. Your hands will continue to toughen up. Keep these steps in mind and take care of your hands. Go easy on the chalk. Don’t walk into the gym with mounds of chalk on your palms and you will be able to get away with a lot of work before you rip. Remember ripped hands mean less training and less results. Sacrifice a few likes on Instagram and take care of your hands for better performance.
3. Ripped, Now What?
Wash It Out
The first thing you should do when your hand rips is clean it well. It’s going to burn, but you need to wash it with warm water and soap. After washing your hands try to use a moisturizer to add moisture back to your skin and replace the natural oils that you have removed.
Trim Excess Skin
If the skin is torn in a way that it is going to catch and rip further, use sterilized scissor or a cuticle clipper to trim the excess skin away. If the tear is small, or a burst blister, leave the skin to protect the healthy flesh underneath.
Bandage, Keep Moist, and Cover it Overnight
The key to promote quick healing and minimize pain is to keep the area moist. Use a product with Vitamin E, especially Neosporin. Keeping the rip moist will prevent it from drying and tearing further. Cover the wound with a small bandage or tape. This will allow the balm (Neosporin) to do its job overnight to keep the area moist and prevent infection.
4. Training With Ripped Hands
Gloves or Leather Straps
I personally don’t like gloves. I feel they obstruct my grip on the rig or the bar. The excess movement of my hand within the glove actually causes my hands to rip more easily. Having said that, for a bad rip, gloves will feel a lot better than a cold steel bar.
Applying New Skin will create a tough layer over your rip. I have tried this and it worked well for a little, but it rips off after excessive pull ups or bar work. It also burns when you apply it.
If you can master the technique of properly taping your hand, this is probably your best bet. Here is a link on how to properly tape your hands after you rip. This method will use a lot of tape so please bring and use your own tape. The video basically shows these steps:
1. Measure out a piece of athletic tape from the end of your finger past the base of your hand (longer is fine; too short and you’ll have to start over) and then double that length before cutting it.
2. Fold the tape in half, length-wise.
3. Fold this piece back on itself to make a loop large enough for your finger to fit through.
4. Cut a second piece of tape to secure the seam between the folded tape, still leaving the loop exposed.
5. Place your finger through the loop and lay the strap across the palm of your hand (covering the rip); secure the strap to your wrist with more tape. The grip itself should be loose across your hand.
Suck it Up
The best approach is to take all the steps possible to prevent ripping. This means filing down your calluses, keeping your hands moisturized, focusing on grip, and using less chalk. If you feel like you are about to rip get off the bar. Next time you grab the bar change your grip slightly. Even with all this preparation you will still rip at times. Sometimes the only thing we can do is get through the workout, or shower, the best we can. Hit the Wod as hard as you can with no equipment, and just deal with it until it heals. Just remember if you have an open wound you need to clean anything you touch, and the cut, after you work out. Fighting through terrible Wods, and terrible rips, is a great way to build mental strength and help create an inevitable BAD ASS.
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