Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hand Rips, They Happen

First things first: Bloody hands are not some CrossFit badge of honor. They're not cool, they're stupid. But developing a pair of tough hands is an important part of functional fitness. Building a good set of calluses takes time. It's important to do everything you can to prevent a tear, but understand that sometimes, they just happen, due to too much chalk, too much sweat, or a poor grip on the bar.


A reader asked me why I don't wear gloves or tape my hands.

Personally, I don't recommend anyone wear gloves or use tape. Unless you plan on wearing gloves throughout your daily life, at some point you will have to rely on your pure, un-assisted grip power and bare-skinned hands to do the work. Is this not why we CrossFit? To prepare us for what's out there in the real world? It seems a little silly to practice functional movements, and not treat our hands as functional tools.


While gloves are always an option, I personally find that the thick cloth hinders my grip and overall proprioception. I already have small hands, gripping a standard pullup bar or a mens standard 45 pound weightlifting bar (what we have at my gym), is challenging enough without adding a big pillow between my palm and the bar.

I've seen friends suffer even worse blisters from the fabric bunching and chafing. But by all means, if your hands are totally trashed from a previous WOD and you need full gloves to workout today, use them.


So, why don't I tape my hands? 

Taping works, to a point. My friend Stacy has crafted these ingenious grips from standard rolls of KT Tape. KT Tape works like a charm, because it's way tougher than standard athletic tape, yet much thinner than normal grips. These last her up to three months! A little spritz of Febreeze after a sweaty WOD and they're good to go again. Not bad, considering a roll of KT Tape is less than ten bucks. Color coordinate them with your tall socks, and shit, you look like a bona-fide CrossFitter. 


She first tried using grips from Again Faster and found the same issue I found with gloves; it compromised her grip strength and left her wrists incredibly chafed. And, the original way we'd been taught to tape doesn't last me (personally) through 20 rounds of Cindy or 10 rounds of Mary. This type of taping doesn't last for me, I sweat right through it.

Instead of tape and gloves, I have toughened up my hands over time. When I rip these days, mainly it's because the skin on my palms is still relatively soft skin; I recently learned to butterfly, and have not built up the callus like I have around the areas that receive a lot of friction when I kip. Two totally different hand positions on the bar when kipping and butterflying; two different areas to rip. 

I find that well-maintained calluses and chalk work best for me. I suffer from hyperhydrosis (excessive sweating that affects my hands), and we all know how much sweaty hands hinder our grip. You'll always see me with a towel, walking it from station to station, as I'm working out, wiping down my hands before chalking again. It's annoying, but I've learned to live with it.


Our hands need to be just as functional as the work we do in the gym. Don't be afraid to build up your calluses. Wear them with pride. If you're preparing for a pull-up intensive WOD, take the necessary precautions. File, shape and smooth your calluses. Don't use lotion that morning. Cover any previous rips with tape (check this tutorial out). Keep a towel nearby to wipe your hands with before re-chalking. But, don't be a chalk whore, either. Learn how to grip the bar correctly, too.


The first few times I ripped my hands, taking a shower was miserable. On those days after the gym, perhaps not washing your hair and opting for dry shampoo is the best idea.

Over time, your rips will burn a little less in the water, and honestly, I hardly notice now. Sometimes, putting lotion on stings, but I just get it over with; it only burns for the first few seconds! Forging mental toughness, hah! I don't treat them with anything, instead, I simply clip off any excess skin, and let them heal and dry out in the fresh air.


How do you handle hand rips?

Do you use any tools to help prevent them?

28 comments:

  1. Hi :) What do you mean by "shaping" you calluses? i have been building them up and i am not sure what to do with them...sometimes i pick at them,which i am sure is not good .thanks!

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    1. There are a lot of different tools out there, by shape I mainly mean file/shave down. At CrossFit Midtown, they had a small hand Dremel (works like a charm!) but devices for shaving calluses that can be found in the foot/shoe/nail area. The more intense the callus, the more intense tool you will need. I hope this helps. :)

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  2. I have built up my calluses from kipping and butterflying. In my opinion, I think it's the best way to go about it. Whenever I've worn gloves, it does more harm than good by causing more blisters and I agree, I don't have as good of a grip b/c my hands slip. I've never bothered with tape. I have also learned that your grip on the bar and how you butterfly may determine if you get bloody or not. Sometimes if I have too much "fly" in my butterfly where I let space get in between my hands and the bar, it causes my calluses to break off thus the bleeding starts. Since developing calluses I hardly ever rip.
    And speaking of being a chalk whore, you can buy your own chalk from REI in the rock climbing section for around $2. It's pretty cheap and will last a while.

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    1. Oh, I definitely have my own chalk! They also sell it at Academy Sports, for about $3 you get a big block of gym chalk. :)

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  3. when i was in gymnastics i only had my hand rip once, luckily it wasn't as bad as yours. i would probably be a big baby if it happened to me lol. just wanted to say, love your blog!! you are such an inspiration!

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    1. How long did you practice gymnastics? That's awesome!

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  4. My hands have ripped terribly in the past, so I'm doing a pullup challenge this month, regularly doing pullups after each WOD to toughen up the skin (ie: "man hands"). I use an emery board or dremel to keep the calluses flat, lotion to keep them soft, so they don't bunch up and tear off. Hoping these things head off the tearing issues! But I also bought "b!#ch mittens" (actually softball gloves) to use on really heavy pullup days, but I'm not really used to them yet.

    Love the KT tape idea, as this seems better than the gloves.

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    1. That sounds like a great way to work on your grip and grip strength. Don't forget things like heavy deadlifts, farmer carries and cleans to really tear up your grip, too! ;)

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  5. KT tape is expensive to be using as a "grip". You can make the same thing with standard J&J athletic tape. Used it all the time with my rowing athletes. Freshmen get a lot of blisters when they finally get on the water.

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    1. I'm not familiar with J&J tape. I know the normal athletic tape doesn't hold up as well as KT tape does. I can only speak for KT tape and what my friend Stacy uses. One of those grips lasts her 3 months; A roll of KT tape is less than $10 bucks and makes a LOT of grips.

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    2. J&J is just the Johnson & Johnson brand of normal athletic tape :) it tears into pieces better than Mueller :)

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  6. I JUST ripped the shit out of my hands on Wednesday, went in again for another wod on friday, Ripped them again and have been miserable! Mental toughness is right - taking a shower SUCKS after ripping your hands! I just went to the store and bought a bunch of athletic tape without knowing ANYTHING about it haha! I wish I had been able to read this two days ago ;)

    I'm interested to know what you shape your hands with?

    I use a pumice stone in the shower on mine... once again I know NOTHING about this and am still a newb!

    p.s. Thanks for always being so informative and interesting! I can only aspire to be like you one day!!

    xoxo
    Dani
    thatfitnesschic.blogspot.com

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    1. Ouch! Just remember, it happens to us all! I use a shaver from Dr. Scholls for heavy duty calluses (I think it's made for feet). Ped Egg isn't rough enough for me. This thing is like a cheese grater!

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  7. I maintain callus shape with a ped-egg. When the occasional rip happens, I sleep with band-aids with neosporin on them for the first night, and the next morning use liquid band-aid (warning: stings like a b*tch.) This helps them heal much faster than normal, at least for me. Hope this helps!

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    1. Ooo, Liquid Band Aid, that's a good idea!

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  8. Thanks, Courtney! I have managed to avoid ripping my hands to the point of bleeding, although I have some gnarly callouses. I 1) use the correct bar grip discussed in the video you link to and 2) I can only do a few pull-ups/toes-to-bar at a time.

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  9. I read this post yesterday but preggo-brain made me forget that i work as an athletic trainer for 3 years during college and do know something about blisters. LOL.
    When we saw blisters (usually TONS during training camp), we would slice them open with a sterile razor blade (but seems like the bar will just kindly open them for you!) and then pack them full of zinc oxide (found in tubes in the first aid/baby section at target) because it dries the skin out underneath (helping it feel like "regular" skin instead of sensitive skin sooner).
    To soothe the sting of blisters, the best thing to use is actually Preparation H (yeah, that embarrassing to buy hemorrhoid cream). It helps with inflammation...just cover the tube with J&J athletic tape and write "blister ointment" on it and you can take it anywhere and no one knows :)

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  10. I'm so glad you wrote about this! The hubs and I just started crossfit about 3 weeks ago (finally!) and I've been trying to build some calluses with practicing my kips. Thanks for the tips!

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    1. Be patient! The (hand rips) are the most frustrating aspect of CrossFit, but it's an essential part of becoming a CrossFitter, I think. :)

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  11. Thanks for the blog :-) after ripping my hands (3 weeks into crossfit) i vowed to never let it happen again... yaaa right. Now I chalk up and grip the bar differently. It made a HUGE difference.

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  12. Rips are gonna happen, but really important, to wipe down and sanitize those bars after it happens! Not seeing anything about that.

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  13. I got my first rip yesterday so this post came at a PERFECT time for me! I am really nervous about the next few days and my WODs though!Do I tape or suck it up....gah!

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  14. Any chance I can get some instructions on how to make those lovely hand wraps from KT Tape? I just ordered some rolls in great colors and would love to make some wraps. Love your blog!

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  15. can you please post the steps for making the KT grips your friend Stacy makes. I really need them.

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  16. Good Post. I think prevention is key and great hand care. I can't stress enough that you need to keep your hands moisturized with a quality hand slave 2-3x a day if you can - at least after workouts and before bed. Try Corn Huskers or even something more tailored like Monkey Hands over @ http://urban-vitals.com

    This is going to help keep rips to a minimum and workouts at a maximum.

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    1. Here's another article regarding the same thing.

      http://urban-vitals.com/5-tips-to-preventing-and-treating-hand-rips/

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  17. When you tear.. Pee on the tear in the shower.. It's gross.. but it takes the sting away... trust me.. ive done it.. you have to try it to believe it.. And they say peeing on your hands regularly, helps them tuffen up! :)

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