Of all the preventable injuries that occur in CrossFit, the most frustrating might be hand tearing. You know it’ll heal. You don’t need rehab or therapy, but it’s enough to wipe out most gymnastics movements for days, sometimes weeks, depending on the severity. Proper hand care and a little prevention can be the difference in a pull-up PR and cleaning your DNA off the Speal bar. Personally, I prefer to shed sweat and tears during a nasty WOD and keep my blood to myself. Keep your hands healthy with these reminders:
Shave your calluses
While you certainly want to build up some solid calluses on those mitts, equally important is keeping them shaved down. I know, shaving off what you’ve worked hard to build up seems counterintuitive, but think about this: it’s much easier to tear something off a raised surface than to rip a smooth, even surface.
You won’t be shaving your calluses completely off—just leveling them to be even with the rest of the skin. You can use a callus shaver with a blade for this—just make sure to change the blade often. Some people also prefer a pumice stone or sanding device (I’ve actually heard of someone who uses a Dremel tool for this. Try it at your own risk!).
That’s right—put the lotion on the skin. After a long day of chalking up, gripping metal bars loaded with hundreds of pounds and throwing your body weight around on a rig, your hands need some love. Dry, cracked hands are prime material for rips, so you need to keep the skin smooth and supple. Use a non-scented lotion, cream or salve on your hands throughout the day and definitely load them up at night if nothing else. Look for shea butter, coconut oil or beeswax based products and salves made for healing “working hands.” If it’s good enough for rugged farmhands and auto mechanics, it’s should work wonders on the one-hour-a-day CrossFitter.
Correct your grip
If you’re taking proper care of your hands and still tearing, you might want to check your grip. Swinging with the bar smack in the middle of your palm pushes skin into the crease and creates a lot of friction in a vulnerable area of the hand. Grip the bar where the fingers meet the palm and, especially for newer athletes, keep your thumbs wrapped around the bar. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it keeps the hands and wrists in a more stable position and reduces friction in areas that are likely to tear.
I tend to be more of a purist in this area. I believe that if you take good care of your hands and practice proper grip, you shouldn’t often, if ever, tear your hands. Therefore, you really shouldn’t need anything extra to keep yourself on the bar other than a little chalk. With that said, there are plenty of professional athletes and gymnasts who swear by grips, tape and gloves to keep them on the bar longer and their hands protected. So, experiment with different options: leather grips, padded neoprene and everything in between. Keep in mind that CrossFit HQ updated the standard for hand protection in 2018: Athletes may either tape the bar or use some kind of hand protection, but they cannot use both. While it’s unlikely anyone is keeping tabs on this during the rest of the year, you may want to go ahead and get used to it if you’re planning on competing in The Open.
A quick word on chalk—a little goes a long way. Chalk should be used sparingly, simply to reduce excess moisture on the hands. Too much chalk can actually lead to more tears due to drying out the hands and creating a buildup of friction. So cool it, Lebron.