Fit Knowledge

How to Treat CrossFit Hand Rips and Avoid Calluses

Whether you’ve just started out with the sport of fitness, or you’ve been heading to the Box for a few years, in CrossFit, hand rips are never fun to deal with, and calluses can be pretty unsightly if they’re not properly maintained.  

Not only can tears hurt like hell, they can impact your WODs for days to come and leave nasty scars too. And often, while calluses can be a handy (pun intended) preventative measure, not many of us love to have them.

What’s more, both CrossFit hand rips and calluses can be pretty difficult to avoid too, even if you’re a few years down the line in your CrossFit Journey. 

So, to help you avoid those super painful and annoying CrossFit hand rips, and treat them quickly so you can get back in the gym,  we’ve got you covered. And, if you’d rather keep your calluses in check, unnoticeable and smooth, we’ve also got you covered for that too! 

Perfect your hand care CrossFit people!! Check it out. 

What are hand rips? 

In CrossFit, hand rips occur when the friction of the bar on your hand causes the skin on the palm of your hand to tear. Pretty gross, and a real stinger too! 

This can happen in a whole selection of different exercises. Think deadlifts, cleans, pull ups, muscle ups and even kettlebell movements too. You can pretty much guarantee that at least one movement in your daily WOD could have hand rip potential! 

What are hand calluses? 

If you’re putting the hours in at the gym and you’ve had a couple of hand rips too, you might notice the skin on your palm, at the base of your fingers, is getting harder and thicker. 

This is the bodies natural way of protecting itself. As you continually wear this area down, you’ll find your skin will start to repair itself and come back thicker and stronger. 

Are hand calluses good or bad? 

Well, if you’re lifting regularly, then they can be a really good thing! They can provide protection to this sensitive area, and you’ll find that, where your hands used to come away red and sore, they’re hurting less and less. 

However, without the right kind of hand care, you’ll find that they can become very thick and ragged, which can cause painful hand rips which can be very sore, and can take you out of the gym for up to a week while they heal! 

So, it’s important that your hand care, CrossFit Athlete or not, is on top form! 

What Causes Hand Rips and Calluses in Crossfit? 

We know there’s a whole load of exercises in the sport of fitness that could cause a tear. But what is it about your hands that makes the skin rip so easily? Well, there’s a couple of things to consider. 

Soft, hands without calluses

Remember when you’d never lifted a barbell and your hands were all soft and smooth? Well thing’s might’ve changed since those halcyon days! 

You might remember that hand rips or sore hands in your first few CrossFit classes were pretty common. And that’s because your skin was soft and supple, without any calluses to protect them from the friction of the exercises you were performing. 

Over time, you developed calluses and these actually helped to protect your skin and avoid pain. 

Too many hand calluses from lifting

If you thought calluses were the answer, think again! It’s a real catch-22. 

With too many calluses built up, the skin on your hands can be rough and uneven, which makes it more likely to get caught on a bar and cause a tear. So, it’s important you know how to keep your calluses under control to avoid the pain that can come from CrossFit hand rips. 

How to Get Rid of Hand Calluses from Lifting

hand care crossfit athletes

If you want to avoid CrossFit hand rips, smooth down those hand calluses and reduce the visibility, then we’ve got some tips for you. 

Unfortunately, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll completely get rid of the calluses, but there’s plenty you can do to significantly reduce your calluses visibility and lower your chances of repeat hand tears! 

And, what’s more, if you’re into CrossFit and lifting in general, it’s a good idea to have a little protection in the form of hand calluses otherwise you might end up with significant tears again. So, let’s take a look at what we can do to keep calluses small and unnoticeable. 

Grips

Some people swear by using a good CrossFit Grip, which can protect against the constant friction against a bar. 

And sure enough, grips have come a long way in recent years and are generally reliable, and shouldn’t cause slips on the pull up rig etc. Sure enough, if you want the CrossFit Games, you’ll see just about every athlete with grips taped to their wrists for every set of pull ups or muscle ups. 

So that might be an option for you. 

However, we wouldn’t recommend totally relying on them. The grips don’t offer as much grip on lifts as your hands do. Therefore it could be potentially dangerous to use them for things like cleans, snatches and even deadlifts. And you definitely don’t want to accidentally launch a kettlebell halfway across the box midworkout. 

So, we would recommend a nice mixture. Protect your hands on those high volume pull ups and muscle ups where needed, but don’t let your hands go soft either. Use bare hands for your lifts and the skin on your hands should toughen up enough to avoid rips in the future too. 

Maintain your Calluses

As we mentioned above, too much callus build up can lead to more rips and tears. So, the best way to avoid that is to keep your calluses in good shape – literally. 

You want to avoid any edges or ragged areas by using a grindstone (or pumice stone) that leaves a smooth surface behind that’s unlikely to get caught on a bar or a piece of equipment, therefore reducing the likelihood of future tears. 

By regularly paying close attention to your calluses and keeping them in shape, you’ll find it much easier to achieve that sweet spot of having your hands protected by them, without huge tears forming. 

When you feel an extra thick callus forming, it can be super tempting to grab some scissors or some nail clippers and go at it. Hold off on that for just a moment. 

Using scissors and clippers often leaves ridges and sections of skin sticking up at sharp angles, which is just shouting out for further tears or even infections to form. 

Instead, a grindstone will gently break down the callus, while smoothing out any of those rough or ragged edges. It will look and feel so much better and your chances or repeat tears will really be reduced. 

Instead of flaps of skin sticking out, you’ll have a smoother softer hand – who doesn’t want that?! 

Moisturize your hands regularly

This is also part of callus maintenance really. By regularly moisturizing your calluses, you’ll find it much easier to keep them soft, supple and less likely for ridges or ragged edges to form. 

This will continue to reduce the chance of the skin catching on something and tearing again, which is exactly what you want. 

How to treat CrossFit Hand Rips

So, as we’ve highlighted above it’s great to avoid too many rips and calluses or you end up in a vicious cycle of rip-callus-rip-callus etc etc. 

But, at the same time, the safest thing to do is use your hands on those complicated lifts, so getting a few hand rips in CrossFit is pretty much unavoidable. 

So, how do you treat hand rips? Let’s take a look at our top tips. 

  1. Keep it clean. Our first and top tip for a quick and easy healing process, without infection, is to gently clean the area around your hand rip as soon as you can with warm water and soap. Don’t use anything too harsh like hand sanitiser or anything alcohol based as this stings like crazy, and can damage the already very sensitive skin. 
  2. Safely trim the skin. It’s kinda gross, but grab a pair of very clean/ sterilized nail scissors and trim away any skin that might be hanging from the wound. This will help to reduce infection and risk of further ripping or aggravation. 
  3. Take a Break. It’s important to avoid getting bacteria into a healing wound, as it will cause an infection, inflammation and more pain which will only set you back. So, if you can, try to take a few days off training and give your hand time to heal. 
  4. Moisturize. A great way to support a faster healing process and protect your early tear during it’s most vulnerable time is to moisturize it. We really recommend Quick Fix from RIPT Skin Systems. We find it helps to provide a protective layer to the wound too, which is essential when it comes to promoting healing and avoiding any further tears. 
  5. Let it all grow back. It can be tempting to head back to the gym when you’ve seen the WOD and your hand rip is still a little tender. Try to avoid this because not only does it increase the risk of infection, it’ll pretty much take you right back to day one in terms of healing. Instead, wait for your skin to fully grow back before you go to the gym. 

Once you’ve followed these five steps, you should be ready to go back to working out safely and securely. 

Our key takeaway is to ensure you’re always staying on top of your hand care. Crossfit has a reputation for being hard core, and we’ve seen many an athlete pushing through muscle ups with blood running down their arm. 

But, if you want to keep training pain free, and put your best in at every WOD, the best approach is to keep your calluses in check and avoid those hand rips as much as you can. 

As we’ve said, it’s not always possible to avoid rips completely, but with the right hand care, CrossFit classes become less about hand pain and more about hitting new PBs. 

Try out these maintenance methods and let us know how they go for you! Leave your thoughts in the comments, we’d love to hear from you! 

gymgirlfit

gymgirlfit was created by health and fitness enthusiasts, with backgrounds in powerlifting and writing. We've written for a number of well-known fitness publishing companies.

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