Hand Care for Athletes

If you’ve been training at Subversus for more than a couple of weeks than your hands, as well as the rest of you, have already started to adapt to the increased work. You may have calluses building up near your first knuckles where you grip a bar for pull ups,  inside your thumb where you hook grip during Olympic lifts, or in the center of your hand where you grab rings, especially with a false grip.

This is good.

Your body is adapting to protect you, toughening up the skin so that it’s ready the next time you do more work, similar to the way your muscles adapt and grow when you lift heavy weights, so that next time you are better prepared for the same work, and can do more.

You may have seen pictures on social media of proud-looking people with torn open calluses from lot of pull-ups, or bleeding from toes to bar, or even just people’s hands with thick, folded-over calluses

 Don't be this guy.

Don't be this guy.

This is bad.

Regular hand care is a must for any athlete that regularly touches a barbell or a static bar. It is not optional. This is a quick primer for keeping your hands happy, including daily and weekly maintenance, things to watch out for, and possible other methods to prevent tears and other incidents.

DAILY MAINTENANCE:

Moisturizer:

Use a moisturizer, be it a balm, cream, or lotion. Every day. I personally like anything originally intended for farmers—bag balm, badger balm, working hands, etc. They tend to be non-greasy and non-scented. Apply first thing in the morning, and possibly during the day, especially with dry and cold weather. Consider using it before bed as well. Your hands should never feel dry, tight, or cracked.

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Pumice stone:

This tool smoothes out the rough edges of calluses and dry skin. Pumice stones work best with warm water, so I prefer keeping one in the shower and/or on the edge of the sink, and giving your calluses a once-over every day. Remember you’re just smoothing out anything rough here, not vigorously sanding anything down.

 Rope not required. But handy.

Rope not required. But handy.

WEEKLY MAINTENANCE:

Callus scraper:
Once a week or so you should be using a Ped-egg or comparable product-- this acts as a grater for dead skin.  Scrape back and forth using firm pressure to work down any built up calluses, varying the angle you use—you’re trying to get around edges as well across the top.

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Callus shaver:
You can buy a callus shaver at any drug store, and would typically use it in place of a scraper. They use replaceable straight razor blades. This is a serious tool, and must be used carefully.  Always use a sharp blade, approaching calluses at a very flat angle. If the blade is sharp, very little pressure will be required to shave them down. While I personally think this is the best tool for removing significant calluses, it is also the easiest to hurt yourself with. It is possible to cut yourself with the blade using this method, so tread carefully.

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Scraping or shaving is occasional maintenance- not more than 1/week, and possibly not that frequent.

When should I shave?
If your calluses are sore when you grab a bar, that’s a sign that they’ve gotten built up too much, and require immediate attention. Don’t do 50 Toes to bar with sore hands and think it’s going to be OK—tearing your hands is a good way to sideline yourself for several days, and is always to be avoided.

Lastly, don’t post pictures of torn or bleeding hands as a trophy on social media. It’s evidence of a mistake made, not something to brag about.

If your hands are sore and you MUST grab a bar, consider using grips, taping your hands using tape grips, or just taping your thumbs, etc.

Always feel free to ask a coach for assistance or recommendations, and let this quick primer be the next step in your development— hands can be both tough and smooth, and smooth hands are happy hands!