When you got your first hand tear, did the gym break out in applause and slap your back in hearty Congratulations, raise you upon their shoulders chanting “ONE OF US! ONE OF US”? No? Was that just me? You probably had a similar experience though. The hand rip has long been held up as a Rite Of Passage for a CrossFitter. And while it’s kind of true (there’s always that period of “toughening up your hands” for beginners) it’s still an actual injury that can affect your ability to perform for days and weeks after both in and out of the gym. If you intend to have any kind of longevity on a barbell or pull up bar, hand maintenance should be as much a part of your routine as washing you knee sleeves. You DO wash your knee sleeves, right? Sure you do.
The best way to handle a tear is not to tear. There’s a few ways you can protect your hands on the day-to-day that have varying degrees of efficacy. First is skin maintenance. A pedicure tool with a razor and a rasp or a pumice stone are excellent ways to whittle down that bunched up skin on your palms just begging to rip open on the next set of kipping pull ups. You don’t want to file it raw, but keeping it as flat and smooth as possible prevents that additional friction and reduces the likelihood of tearing the palm. Taping thumbs or other digits that get roughed up is also a good idea. Cloth athletic tape or the newer thumb tape are great options. A secondary benefit of the thumb tape on the length of the thumb is that it also creates a more secure hook grip due to the texture of the tape. Win – Win.
At CrossFit Optimistic we also have a stack of yoga mat squares that give you a little sliver of protection between the bar and your skin. They’re a little soft, they’re a little grippy, and they can help reduce the friction on your hands. Usually folks use them for pullups, but a few like them for barbell work as well. You have to fuss with them a bit since they’re kind of loose gear, but it’s not a huge hassle.
There are a myriad of grips available as well. Everything from the leather gymnastic grips to the newer brands designed with CrossFitters in mind. People seem to become pretty attached to the grips they like, so talk to your fellow Gym Rats about what they use and why they like them.
Lastly we have workout gloves. Whether full hand or fingerless, they tend to offer a little more overall protection, but the rub is that it is generally at the expense of grip since the padding adds bulk to the palm and the gloves are rarely skin tight enough to prevent any friction or movement. Again, some people love them, so to each their own.
Last Bit of Hand Advice
My final bit of advice is “respect the blister”. If you can FEEL the tear coming or a blister starts to form… SCALE. If you’re doing a competition, or you’re at the end of Murph, yeah okay, suck it up. But for a random Thursday WOD, it’s never worth the injury. Your hands are pretty important and treating them kindly will ultimately serve you better.