Ripping your hands in a workout — for some CrossFitters it’s a rite of passage, a painful trophy representing their dedication to pushing themselves beyond the comfort zone. For others, it’s perceived as a painful injury they want to avoid at all costs, the fear of which inhibits their intensity. But whether you see it as a rite of passage or an injury, most of us can agree that it’s never fun to have blistered and bloodied hands. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep your hands in good working shape while still pushing yourself to the limits.
Don’t chalk up — moisturize!
Many people make the mistake of thinking that chalk is there to prevent ripping and blistering. It’s not. In fact, it may just increase your risk of ripping your hands. That’s because while chalk will make your grip more stable and reduce your chances of sliding around on the equipment, it will also dry your hands out, and dry hands create more friction which is a factor in ripping. So, ideally you want to use as little chalk as possible. Instead, to prevent ripping, you should be moisturizing regularly. I recommend moisturizing every night before bed and once or twice throughout the day. Use what ever product you like best.
Barbell work and gymnastics movements make callouses inevitable. And while you can’t avoid them, you can (and should) give them a little TLC. (You should never let your callouses get too big as this makes it more likely that they’ll rip or catch on things.) My suggestion is to buy a hand file or pumice stone to smooth out your callouses and keep them on the small side.
Adjust your grip
Your grip on the bar can make a real difference. I find that if I hold the bar at the base of my fingers rather than in my palm I significantly reduce the number of blisters and rips.
Protect your hands
There are a ton of products out there to help to protect your hands, including tape, grips and gloves. Each of these products have their pros and cons and you may have to experiment to see which ones work best with your hands. Personally, I use tape to cover up the parts of my hand that seem prone to ripping. It is way better to wear hand protection then have to stop and exercise or modify because of a rip.
At the end of the day, and no matter how hard you try to maintain your perfect hands, they still may rip. When they do, make sure to clean them properly with soap and water — and don’t forget to clean the bar you were working on, too. If your blister is intact, try and keep it that way to prevent infection. If it has popped, apply an antibiotic cream like Polysporin. If you want to finish your workout, I suggest covering the rip with tape or a bandage before continuing and to modify your workout to avoid further damage. But don’t keep going if you’re in pain. It is never worthwhile to keep punishing your hands to finish your workout.
Broder McNeill is a coach and co-owner of Alchemy CrossFit.