Tuesday 2.23.16

Love Your Hands

by Grace Lin

Many of us have experienced (or will experience) the pain and annoyance of ripped hands from gymnastics movements on the bars, and even rings.  There are several ways to prevent torn hands, and one of the most important ways is hand maintenance.

Our body is extremely adaptable to its surroundings.  As a natural way of protection, it forms calluses on our hands.  A callus is an area of the skin where skin has gotten thicker and harder due to repetitive friction or pressure (e.g., from pull-ups, toes to bar, barbell work, etc.).  These calluses are designed to toughen up the skin and protect your hands from blisters and tears.  However, many people do not like the idea of having rough hands, and may choose to wear gloves to prevent calluses from forming.  But be careful, there are several disadvantages to wearing gloves:

You cannot feel the bar.  It may seem silly, but being able to feel and be connected to the barbell or the pull-up bar makes a world of difference when executing the movement.

You are more likely to slip.  The barbell is more likely to slip out of your hands, or you are more likely to slip off the pull-up bar.

It increases the diameter of the bar.  Since there is another layer between your hand and the bar, this increases the diameter, which will tax your forearms quicker during a workout.

You won’t develop the natural safety feature of calluses.  Who cares if your hands are a bit rough!  Your peers should love you regardless of your hand texture.

For those who do wear gloves or are thinking about wearing them, I strongly urge you NOT to do it.  Calluses are your body’s natural way of protecting your hands, so let it adapt to its surroundings!

For those who already have the lovely calluses, hand maintenance is essential for preventative action against rips.  The care and upkeep required for calluses is pretty simple.  We can’t let them build up too much because the more raised they become, the more likely they will tear.  So, here is some hand maintenance 101:

Keep your calluses filed down to the same(ish) level as the rest of your palm.  This will prevent them from “catching” the bar and “popping off.”

Use a pumice stone, nail filer, sand paper, or another rough surface to file them down.  I use Pedi-Paws, which is essentially a mini sander – it’s easy and automated

To shorten the filing process, you may need to cut away some of the skin beforehand.  Just be careful when clipping the callus – you don’t want to cut too deep and break the skin.  Once it’s clipped, then you can smooth out the rest.

Some people like to shave calluses after showering because your hands are the softest after being soaked in water.

Finally, moisturize your hands after filing them down!

So, I take care of my hands on a regular basis, but what if I rip??  First, cut off the excess skin.  Keep the exposed skin moist, so it does not dry and crack.  A great idea to speed up the healing process is to rub Vasoline on the tear and wear a latex glove overnight – this will prevent it from drying out while you sleep.  Finally, cover it up with a bandage or athletic tape while it’s healing. Some athletes like to use liquid band-aid (or New-Skin) to prevent further cracking during a workout.

One final note on preventative action against hand tears: if you see a workout with high volume gymnastics bar/ring work, then you can grab a pair of grips to prevent tears.  When I say high volume, I mean 60+ reps (or 30+ for bar muscle ups).  However, please do not use grips for every WOD that has bar work!  We don’t want to end up using them as a crutch.  They are a great way to prevent tears in high volume WODs, but they’re not to be used all the time because there are still disadvantages associated with using them (refer to #1-3).

To sum it all up, stay away from gloves!  Stay on top of your hand maintenance.  Take care of tears that occur.  And, as a last resort, use hand protection (i.e., grips) for WODs with high volume bar work.

A. Every 3 minutes for 15 minutes:
10 walking lunges
10 banded good mornings

A. Every 3 minutes for 15 minutes:
back squat x 4-6 reps
B. For time:
Front squat 10-8-6-4-2
push ups 20-16-12-8-4

20-30 minutes of mobility
Rest up for Friday

For time:
50 push-ups
50 DB box step overs (55/35#) (20")
50 DB rows