Too Legit to Rip: One man’s guide to torn hands.
If you’re in the CrossFit world, or do any number of pull-ups for that matter, then chances are you’re familiar with ripped hands. As a CrossFit gym owner/coach I see ripped hands on a weekly basis and I often get asked what I do personally to avoid tearing my hands. I’ve been doing CrossFit since as early as 2005 to train for sports, and since then I can count the number of times I’ve ripped on both hands…no pun intended! So today I’ll try to go over the basics of my hand maintenance and how to avoid a rip.
But first: What is a ripped hand and who is at risk?
A rip or tear in your hand/palm happens when friction from a pull-up bar causes your top layer of skin to separate from the layers underneath and eventually tear open. This is very common with athletes doing a high volume of bar work like kipping/butterfly pull-ups and muscle-ups. Right now you’re thinking, “Daniel, you do a lot of high volume bar work..why don’t you rip very much?” Well, I’m glad you asked!
There are certain hand conditions that make a rip more or less likely. This right here is really the key to avoiding torn hands! Hands are more likely to tear if they are either very soft with little to no calluses, OR, if they are very hard and callused with a lot of ridges and raised layers of skin. The best situation is somewhere right in-between with deep but smooth and pliable calluses. Proper hand maintenance is how you can ensure you have the right hand conditions to stay rip free and training hard!
My maintenance methods:
Keeping your hands in the right state is the main key to avoiding a tear. If you do CrossFit, or any strength work or manual labor for that matter, then you will develop calluses. Thus, having hands that are too soft or callus free is usually not the issue we run into..it’s the opposite! It’s true that CrossFit will get you an amazing body..but it will also give you the hands of a seasoned lumberjack! I can’t lie..there have been times when my hands are so rough that my wife can’t even stand to be touched by me..and times when she just cant stand to be touched by me in general (but that’s a whole other topic). So when this happens it’s usually a sign to me that I am about to rip and need to do a little maintenance. I have three things that I go to on varying levels of frequency to keep my hands at just the right spot between “banker” and “lumberjack”.
These three tools are a good hand cream, a callus scrubber, and a callus shaver. The hand cream is something I uses on a nightly basis. Because I have a reputation to uphold and do a good bit of hand shaking and kettle bell swinging I don’t want to walk around with slick greasy hands. So I wait until night before bed and I use a good dose of “O’Keeffe’s Working Hands” hand cream (link below). This is by far the best hand cream I’ve found and it surely gets all the credit for keeping my calluses nice and supple for the next workout. The second tool that I use a little less frequently but still on a weekly basis, is a callus scrubber or a pumice stone. The one I like has a metal “cheese grater” surface and is great for rounding out and smoothing out the calluses and rough edges I get on my hands from a typical week’s workouts. (link below) This tool is something I keep in my gym bag and use from time to time throughout the week to keep things smooth. Lastly, on a much less frequent basis, I’ll employ the use of a callus shaver. (link below) This tool has a guard and a thin razor blade that actually shaves off the top layer of a callus without cutting the skin underneath. I’ll only use this if I’ve been slack and really let some serious callus build up occur. When this happens I’ll bust out the shaver (to my wife’s disgust) and go to town until have taken off the major rough patches, yet still leaving a good layer of callus behind. After that I’ll use the scrubber to smooth things out and then some hand cream right before bed. Using these three tools I’ve managed to almost entirely avoid tearing my hands for years.
So what’s next?
Right now would be a good tome to look down at your hands and see what you’ve got going on. If your hands are soft and have no calluses or pads at all then I’d suggest getting in the gym and getting to work! If you’re working out hard and pushing yourself with a barbell, kettle bell, and pull-up bars then chances are your hands should be a little rough. If you look down and you see massive calluses and your hands are hurting then I’d suggest following these links below or heading to your local Walmart/Target/drug store and picking up some hand cream and a callus scrubber and get to work daily on smoothing out and softening those calluses before the pull-up bar decided to tear one off for you!
Regardless of what you do and how well you maintain your hands the occasional tear is going to happen. Look at it as a right of passage into to the fitness community and do your best to heal it up and get back on the bar as soon as possible. Always remember that when you’re in the gym you are “training” or “practicing”. It’s not a full blow competition. A lot of rips and tears can be prevented by just feeling one coming and hopping off the bar a little early. If you’re in a competition then by all means, tear and worry about it tomorrow! But if you’re just training in the gym then the idea is always to “live to train another day” and a big tear will make that hard. So be mindful of your hands, get the tools you need to keep them right, and stay in the gym day after day! Follow the links below to be like me and live rip free….
Callus Scrubber: https://www.amazon.com/uxcell-Turquoise-Plastic-Scrubber-Remover/dp/B00CQK6XYY/ref=pd_day0_121_5?ie=UTF8&dpID=4107oDKzgzL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR160%2C160_&psc=1&refRID=NE9JESRE0BHM722VDQF6