CrossFit movements require a lot of grip: pull-ups, KB swings, toes-to-bar, snatches…the list goes on and on. It seems you’re always holding on to something. That constant gripping action can take a big toll on your hands. Let’s talk about ways you can keep those all-important grippers in tip-top shape.
WHAT CAUSES HAND TEARS?
The more we use our hands, the more calluses are formed. Calluses build up on soft skin to meet the demands of a new workload. Their job is to harden and protect the skin (good!), but they can also cause a bit of unintentional ruckus (bad!). The callus itself builds up tall and strong, but the skin around the callus is still soft. When you tear your hand, it’s not actually the callus that tears – it’s that delicate skin around it. Putting pressure on your hand – say, via kipping pull-ups – causes that big, strong callus to pull to one side, tearing away at the soft skin next to it. BOOM. Rip.
So what can you do to minimize the chances of ripping?
1) First and foremost, SHAVE DOWN THOSE CALLUSES! You want your calluses to be inline with the rest of your hand. Use a pumice stone, ped egg, file – anything to get rid of that excess skin so your calluses are not resembling rocky mountains on your palms. I personally prefer a callus shaver – it’s an actual razor that you can use to just slice the callus right off. Sounds scary, I know, but trust me: it works! The day I discovered callus shavers was life-changing in my CrossFit world. Best. Thing. Ever. And they’re really cheap. You can buy one from the beauty department of any convenience store for around $5. Stop by CVS on your way home next time you’re at the gym. Definitely worth the investment.
2) Keep your hands hydrated, as dry skin is much more likely to crack and tear. Using chalk is also more likely to dry them out, so be consistent about washing your hands well after each workout and applying a healthy dose of moisturizer. Using a moisturizer right before bed can also help with hydration.
3) Increase your grip strength. Tears are caused by friction on the bar – the more you swing around the bar, the more likely you are to tear – so work on keeping that grip firmly in place. Many things can contribute to a stronger grip: farmer’s carries, kb swings, or even just hanging from the bar for as long as you can. Build up those forearms, and you can alleviate the pain of a bloody hand! (If you’re regularly coming in to CrossFit classes, you’re already unknowingly working on your grip strength. Be patient; it won’t happen overnight, but it will get stronger!)
4) Fix your kip. As in #3 above, friction causes rips. If you are swinging excessively from a loose, exaggerated kip, friction will occur. It’s time to practice those hollow body positions! We as coaches don’t just make you do them because we’re mean; hollow bodies are actually the best way to move and to prevent injuries. Here’s a video of Carl Paoli of GymnasticsWOD.com demonstrating a perfect kipping pull-up. You should work to keep your pull-ups as tight and controlled as these.
5) If you feel your hands about to tear in the middle of a workout (or if you actually get a small tear), STOP!! Don’t continue that movement. It’s not worth it to tear your hands to shreds to finish this one workout Rx. A hand tear will set back your training for maybe more than a week. We’re all about longevity here; we want you to be able to keep improving in all aspects of your fitness without anything hindering that progress. So unless it’s a competition or a benchmark WOD that you really want to test yourself on, don’t feel bad about scaling down to ring-rows or V-ups. Nobody will think less of you.
AFTER THE RIP
As much as we’d like, prevention tools are not 100% effective, and you WILL probably tear your hand at some point. Below are steps to follow in case of a rip.
1) Wipe down any equipment you were using with a disinfectant. Please don’t spread your blood germs around to everyone else in the gym. 🙂
2) Wash your hand with soap and water to minimize the risk of infection. I know it stings, but ya gotta do it! Tip: Don’t put hand lotion on a fresh rip.
3) Keep your wound covered with an antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin. You don’t want to let it dry out – as mentioned above, dry skin is more likely to crack, which will prolong the healing process.
4) Keep coming in to the gym. We can work around your hand tear just like any other injury that happens. We’ll offer you modified movements so you can keep getting your workouts in without further destroying your hands.
5) Let your injury heal. As in #5 above, don’t try to be too quick to get back to Rx movements. If you try to use your hands too soon after an injury, you may re-injure the bad area, which will only make all the healing take longer. Be patient!