A Note on Handcare
I’m not going to post any pictures of raw and ripped up hands (I can’t guarantee Ron won’t insert one here). We’ve all seen them, and some of us have experienced them. Why do they happen and what’s the best method of dealing with them?
Besides being a unsanitary and generally gross, a torn callus is a game changer in training or a workout. Here are some tips to avoiding bleeding all over the pull-up bar:
- Avoid using chalk, unless you really need it. Chalk will dry your hands and increase friction between the bar and skin. Add in some relative movement between your hand and an immovable object (kettlebell handle, pull-up bar) and you’ve got a situation. Olympic bars do spin relative to their collars, so the damage done from using chalk will generally be negligible. Use chalk only when your hands are sweaty.
- Increase your grip strength enough make the Rock Biter proud. “They look like big, good, strong hands, don’t they?…” Like I mentioned before, relative movement and friction lead to calluses. There are a handful of CF/training movements that can cause calluses, but most would agree that the pull-up bar is the biggest culprit. While swinging and kipping gets the job done, ideally, our hands should not be moving relative to the bar or our bodies. When they do it’s a sign of a weak grip. This also goes for KB swings, deadlifts, toes to bar, ring dips, etc. Some tips to increase raw clamping power are to only use a pronated grip while deadlifting (double overhand, more on this later), modify your strict pull-ups (uneven or flat surfaces, gripping on to a towel or rope across the bar, wrapping something over the bar to increase the bar diameter, holding on with less that 10 fingers, etc), farmers carry after your workouts. Not only will forearm strength improve, your finger strength will follow. And this will directly translate to all lifts and presses.
- Modify your movement, to build strength and decrease relative movement. Specifically, on the deadlift, use a double overhand grip on all lighter weights until it literally falls out of your hands. Even if on your final two reps the bar is hanging from your fingertips, don’t switch grips. It’s harder, that’s the point. We’re building strength here, remember? On your swings, your arms should be extended and relaxed. Your fingers should form a hook. The bell should match the movement of the arms, and not move up or down at the end of the swing. And for god’s sake, use a hookgrip on all Olympic lifts. Your arms should be relaxed prior to an Oly lift. The hook grip will allow you to relax your death grip on the bar, which will in turn speed up your turn around on the clean and snatch. If you don’t know what that is or how to do it, ask a coach.
- Use gloves…if you must. While we generally do not endorse wearing gloves, if you cannot seem to shake the callus bug, then gloves will protect your hands while you build the requisite strength. It’s also encouraged if you’re in competition, are a surgeon or a hand model. Sweet gig.
- Trim back those bear paws. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Filing down raised, dead skin will decrease the likelihood the skin catches on other surfaces. Use a pumice stone, file, pedegg (cheese grater for skin), or a razor (not for the weak of heart) to knock down the high-spots. Don’t go too deep, we’re not trying to expose supple skin, just knock down the peaks.
Hopefully, if we follow steps 1, 2 and 3, we can avoid steps 4 and 5. I personally do not treat my hands, much to my wife’s dismay. I have only torn one callus, and that was because I was a bonehead. In between sets of pull-ups or when my calluses are on fire, I’ll push my fingers together to stretch the skin. My theory is that this keeps the superficial skin pliable…but it may do nothing. It just feels good.Good luck!
Guest post from Coach Marcos
5 min AMRAP:
4 box jumps – 34″/28″