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Coaches Corner

Hand Care: Guest Post by Jeff Decker

For this installment we have a Guest Blog Post by Jeff Decker.

While I might not stack up to the fighting houseplant, he has graciously allowed me to share something with all of you that I hope comes in handy.



courtesy Crossfit Downey

Just about everyone has torn a callous off or had a bad blister pop up during a workout that ruins the next few days of training, not to mention making everyday life harder. While some might think of this as a badge of honor or right of passage, there is nothing good about tearing your hands. Chances are it is going to happen to you at some point, but hopefully I can give you some insight into preventing it as much as possible and recovering as quickly as you can. No one wants to wash their hair with a big open wound on their palm. No one.


Most of us started Crossfit with pretty soft hands, and all the pullups, kettlebell swings, and barbell movements (as just a few examples) can exact a hefty toll on the mitts. It’s going to take some time to toughen up, so being smart with your grip during workouts is key. This is a good video on grip for high volume work, and something that will take time to develop.


Once those callouses start to form up, it’s important to keep them under control. If you can pinch them up, it’s time to go to work. Personnel preferences vary, but I recommend buying a callous shaver (–Professional-Remover-Reomver-Plastic/dp/B008MWOUJK/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1387235078&sr=8-9&keywords=callous+shaver your local pharmacy should have them in stock) and using it regularly. I find the best time is on rest days after showering or doing the dishes. Be careful to not cut too much off, as creating an open wound during hand maintenance defeats the purpose. Change the blade regularly, and keep in mind that the fresh blade is going to cut a lot deeper and a lot easier than that old one. Take the first few swipes a little easier than normal with a fresh blade. A pumice stone or Pediegg ( can be extremely helpful in cleaning up the rough edges. Some people find that those tools can be enough on their own, and others use a double edged razor, and some people go as far as using a dremel (yes, that’s extreme. No, I don’t recommend it). No matter what tools you use, be careful. The other important part of taking care of your hands is keeping them moisturized and soft. Regular washing and all the chalk we use in the gym can dry your hands quickly, so get some quality lotion and keep your hands soft. This will greatly decrease the likely hood of your hands cracking and/or tearing. By regularly shaving my calouses and keeping my hands moisturized I have been able to avoid tearing for over a year and a half. Of course now I’m screwed and will tear next week.


One of the biggest causes of tears is using to much chalk. I know you’ve all heard someone say that chalk makes you stronger, and if you’re going for a 1RM deadlift, clean, or snatch, by all means, chalk up. This is too much chalk . If you’re doing pullups and can see chalk on your hands, you’re probably using too much. I know what you’re thinking, “but Jeff, I sweat a ton and will fall off the bar otherwise”. Well newsflash, when its 95 degrees and 95% humidity here in lovely Virginia, we all sweat too much, but that doesn’t change the fact that you don’t need to coat yourself in chalk. Wrist bands work great to keep sweat from running down onto your hands and give you a convenient place to dry your hands mid workout. Then you should use just enough chalk to keep your hands dry. I mean pat the loose chalk in the container, rub your hands together, and get moving. Don’t be afraid to keep a towel around to dry the bar and your hands, and don’t worry, those extra 15 seconds are worth being able to grab the steering wheel on the way home.


Now what happens when you do tear? First and foremost wash your hands well with warm soap and water as soon as you can. It’ll be painful, but worth it. Some people swear that the best thing to do is grab some hand sanitizer, take a few deep breaths to prepare for the pain, and rub away, but I think soap and water works just fine. The next steps depend on you and your tolerance for pain, but there are several options. Many people swear the soaking a tea bag in warm water and then holding it in the hand with the tear helps healing. Others use vitamin E or some fancy cream. Me? I use neosporin and a bandaid to keep it covered and usually heal up within a few days. Just don’t let it dry completely out and crack, that won’t help. The other decision you have to make is what to do about the lovely flap of skin hanging out. I prefer to trim most of it off with scissors or nail clippers, but others like to leave it as a cover to the wound until the healing starts and the flap completely dies, but that really is up to you. The only thing I would recommend avoiding is just ripping it off, as this will likely cause a larger hole. Don’t try to trim all the way to the edge initially, I’ve found this to make it more painful and take longer to heal, so I trim off whatever is loosely flapping around, and as skin dies take care of the rest of it.


Don’t be this guy.

If you tear and are worried you won’t be able to workout at all for a few days, just ask the coach about substitutions or ways to get around the grip issues. While it might prohibit you from doing the days workout as prescribed, you’ll still be able to get some work in. One of the biggest things I can say is make sure it is fully healed before trying to do any significant work with your hand, as many people struggle with a tear that just won’t seem to heal because they keep reopening the wound. Take the time to work on some weakness not involving grip while you heal and remember to take better care of your hands next time. Lastly, if you’re in the middle of a workout and you know your callous is about to tear, stop. Talk to the coach, cut back on the portion of the workout that is causing the issue, and live to fight another day, especially those of you that work with your hands. Gutting through a workout just to say you finished isn’t worth the time off the bar, and a few more pullups doesn’t make up for the potential lost or lower quality work you’ll end up with when you can’t function like normal. Unless it’s Memorial Day and you’re doing Murph. Then finish it with pride, wash it off with a cold beer when you’re done, and be grateful you’ve got the opportunity to workout.