Hand Care for Crossfitters

crossfit hand care

Some of the best athletic physiques belong to professional CrossFit athletes.

High intensity training supported by a clean, nutritious diet results in the aesthetic, “CrossFit body” that motivates so many people to get started in the sport. You won't get six-pack abs after your first week of CrossFit, but you will see how hard it is on your hands.

Many of the exercises performed in CrossFit can cause the skin on your hands to rip open.

The pain is temporary, and the skin heals to be good as new, however in the moment it can be a nuisance when you're training and in your day-to-day life.

If you want to prevent hand tears from affecting your training, read on.

Why is CrossFit so hard on your hands?

Ripped, cracked, and overly callused hands are an extremely frustrating obstacle that can prevent you from exercising or even get in the way of day-to-day activities.

The biggest offenders are usually gymnastics exercises but gripping especially hard on barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells can also provoke hand woes.

Calluses aren’t exclusive to CrossFit, many people who work with their hands also get them.

They form when we repeatedly engage in activities that cause a lot of friction and pressure on our hands. As a protective measure, the top layer of skin becomes denser and thicker.

In fact, many CrossFit athletes would argue that calluses are necessary as they work like a protective barrier when training with equipment:  it's like having a built-in gymnastic grip.

The problem usually comes when callus skin gets caught on the bar’s surface, rips and exposes the more sensitive skin underneath.

heal hands crossfit

This is especially annoying when it happens right in the middle of a WOD. 

With great iron comes great responsibility.

The more proficient you become at bar work (like barbell cycling or gymnastics exercises like ring or bar muscle up), the more vulnerable your hands will be to these offenders.

You'll also begin to realize it's not just your hands that face the brunt of the work. it's also typical to rip on your thumbs, between fingers, and even wrists.

If you want to continue to progress while keeping your skin intact, you will quite literally have to take matters into your own hands.

How can I prevent rips?

It's a vicious cycle. You rip your hands, so you painstakingly avoid the bar, they finally heal, and when you go back to training, they rip again.

If you want to get the most out of your training, you’ll need to protect your hands from callusing, ripping, and opening.

The best offense is a good defense. With proper regular care, you can minimize hand tears. Here's how:

Arm yourself with the proper equipment

There are many accessories that Crossfitters use to safe proof their hands.

There isn't a strap, wrap, grip, or glove that can protect your hands 100%, however these are useful for avoiding wounds.

Everyone has their own preferences especially when it comes to gymnastics grips so you'll have to try a few before you find what works for you.

When you're not swinging from the bar, lifting straps can help save your hands when snatching or deadlifting, and for everything else you can engineer something out of tape.

Remember, these are all temporary solutions for prevention or to ease the pain of training with already ripped hands.

crossfit calluses

Having all of these accessories can come in handy (excuse the pun) but it's not essential providing that you regularly take care of the skin on your hands.

Become an esthetician

When parts of skin get caught on the bar, they peel back the skin further, resulting in a tear.

The key to not ripping your hands is keeping them smooth.

Examine your hands regularly, looking out for sharp edges, oversized calluses, and skin that sticks out.

Use a pumice stone or nail file to sand them down and keep them smooth.

The best moment to do this is after getting out of the shower, when your skin is more supple. 

We all know that for CrossFit athletes, chalk is life.

We love it for its drying effect that absorbs sweat from our hands, but it also makes the skin rough and brittle which increases the likeliness of it peeling and getting caught.

Keeping hands moisturized is also important for preventing tears. Invest in an oil-rich salve or hand cream and use it at least once a day.

crossfit pumice stone

How can I treat my ripped hands?

If you have any dangling skin from a rip or tear…

Depending on the severity and shape of the skin, you can use a clean pair of nail scissors to remove the excess skin.

hand treatment crossfit

The other option is to leave the skin on and use it to cover the exposed layer. In either case, wash your hands with soap (and yes, it'll burn), use an antibacterial ointment on the exposed area and wrap your hands.

Keeping them moist will boost the growth of new skin, and you'll be good as new in no time.

if you have a blood blister…

Blood blisters are a common result of over-gripping.

Instead of the top layer of skin ripping open, the bottom layer splits, causing blood or pus to be trapped under the callus.

Wash your hands thoroughly and then use a clean needle to poke a small hole in the “bubble” to drain the fluid out.

Apply antibacterial ointment to help keep the puncture clean and keep your hands wrapped so that they stay clean as they heal.

These measures may seem to be a nuisance or even gruesome, but just like everything, you get used to it.

No one does CrossFit to have sexy hands.

Conclusion

Everything comes at a price, and the unfortunate caveat to being a proficient CrossFit athlete is working around sore or open hands.

By using accessories like gymnastics grips while performing high volume exercises, you can reduce the friction that causes the skin to tear.

Regularly using tools like nail files to leave your hands smooth and hydrated will also decrease your risk of tearing. With practice, caring for your hands and working around rips will become easier to navigate.

In fact, as you continue in CrossFit, opening your hands will feel like a mere minor inconvenience. Hand models beware.