Hands can take a beating in any sort of lifting workout. In my neck of the woods (CrossFit) they can take a severe beating and, unlike a lot of other CrossFitters out there, I don’t think it is cool when a callus rips or my hands bleed…I don’t take pictures to commemorate the event or act like I am hardcore...I get angry because I know I have limited my potential for the next day.
Bottom line, you need to take care of your hands! Hand care is something that is often ignored for long periods of time, but it will eventually catch up with you. Take care of your hands and they will take care of you!
I have to give a shout out to Donny Shankle for this post. It was his video and some of my own additions that made for this step-by-step hand care guide.
Hands can easily get over-dried through the use of chalk (too much chalk), constant friction of the knurling on most barbells coupled with any amount of moisture can create hand problems. This leads to protruding calluses on your hands and cracking and peeling of the hands. Contrary to popular opinion, you do not need massive calluses on your hands to lift or workout. Hands will toughen themselves. These calluses will just cause you pain, if not right away, eventually they will.
What not to do:
- Shave your hands with a razor (yes, some do this)
- Use regular hand lotion
- Apply massive amounts of chalk on hands when it is not necessary
Step 1: Wash Your Hands
I feel like an elementary school teacher telling a class to be sure and wash their hands…But seriously, wash your hands after every workout, especially if you use chalk. Chalk can get stuck in your hands and will make them incredibly dry. Not to mention all of the dirt and other things that you collect from a workout.
Two main points:
- Use hot water
- Use dove moisturizer soap
If part of the problem is overdrying from the chalk, you don’t want to overdry from the soap. Using dish soap or other regular bath soaps tend to dry out your hands an incredible amount. Use a soap that also acts as a moisturizer. Also, make sure the water is hot, so says Donny Shankle.
Step 2: Apply Bag Balm
What is this stuff?
From their website:
Bag Balm was born in 1899. The salve was created to help milking cows be comfortable. Look where that’s led. From baby bottoms to quilting bees…from hard working hands, to feet that can go the distance. From outdoor adventures, to furry friends at home. Bag Balm, it seems, is everywhere – and working as hard as ever. These are just a few of Bag Balm’s many uses.
When I first bought this stuff I was a little thrown off by the set of cow udders pictured on the front, and even a little more thrown off when I read the directions that mentioned massaging cow udders.
However…this stuff is a miracle balm…you’ll see.
If you are in desperate need, apply liberally. But you have to know this stuff is similar to motor oil, and you have to let it soak in the take full effect. For regular use, just apply a small dime-sized amount and you will be fine. Rub it on your calluses and then work it in on the rest of the hand…that simple.
Step 3: Administer Callus Remover
You want to get a callus remover like the one pictured above. Most of them will be a grater on one side and a pumice stone on the other side. This kind is perfect and will be exactly what you need.
You can do this before or after bag balm, but my preference is while the bag balm is on the hands. Bag balm will soften the hands and make the callus removal very easy and pain-free. Gently get all of the dead skin off of your hands then use the other side, the pumice stone side, to smooth things out.
Don’t overdo it! You don’t want to put your hands in worse shape than they were.
Step 4 (optional): Gloves
Gloves, gloves, gloves…
The kind of gloves you don’t want:
- Non-Fingered gloves
- Thick padded gloves
- Most all “weightlifting” gloves out there…
What you do want are a cheap (around $14 for Adidas) pair of batting gloves. You could get the ridiculously over-priced “Reebok CrossFit” gloves, but they are $60 and not a bit better than the $14 pair of batting gloves…
Batting gloves are designed to protect your hands without losing the feel of the bat. This is exactly what you need for lifting. You want protection, but you want to be able feel the bar. Padded gloves can actually bunch up and press on your calluses and make things a lot worse, and non-fingered gloves should only be worn with a matching fanny pack.
My two cents:
The reason I am even sharing this post is because of how absolutely amazing this little routine is for your hands. I finished a tough week of workouts about two weeks ago and my hands were completely thrashed. I had a day off and thought to myself, there is no way I will be able to touch a barbell tomorrow. I did this routine ONE time and I was back on the barbell the next day!!