Alright, so you’ve started the gym! Great! … But your hands are hurting and the skin is ripping off of them. I don’t recommend for anyone to use gloves in the gym. I’ve had a lot of experience with accidentally ripping my calluses off, from bouldering to kettlebell work, it will eventually happen. It can be painful and you will want to protect them from happening and prevent it if possible.
There are videos of people cutting a callus off with razors or knives. This is just stupid and can quite easily lead to infections. The aim of good hand care will ensure that you can keep training happily without the risk of ripping your hands and having to stop because you’re getting blood everywhere. It may look “cool” at the time, but it won’t help when you can’t train for the next week because your skin is recovering.
I personally have pretty thin skin on my hands so I have to ensure that my skin is taken care of. I’ve had to take time off on numerous occasions because I’ve had to let a callus recover. The aim of a callus is to protect your hand and the skin on your hand by creating a thick layer of dead skin that has less nerve end blood vessels. However, this comes at a cost because as it becomes thicker, it creates more of a bump that is more likely to catch and rip.
It will also look better for you if you were to turn up to an interview or potential client with clean, good hands and not hands that are ripped to pieces and covered with bandages. This only takes a few minutes per day for the first few times! So, here is a guide on what to do in terms of keeping your hands rip free.
Wrap Your Skin
So if you are doing an activity and you can feel the skin loosen and start to tear slightly, carry some zinc oxide tape with you. This stuff is stronger than a plaster and won’t cause any more aggravation on the skin than a plaster. It will be useful to keep with you whether you are rock climbing, in the gym or even doing something that hurts your hands like cycling. Just keep the skin covered if you have any issues with this stuff until you form those strong callus’s.
Change Your Grip
If you are having troubles with your callus’s during a certain grip, change it. Instead of using your palm to grip the bar, use more of finger based grip that will avoid the calluses on your palm being compressed and potentially rip. This can feel uncomfortable the first few times you use it if you are not used to it. The easiest way I’ve found to move into this grip is to go for a thumbless grip. This places more of the emphasis on your finger grip strength. If you are doing gymnastics or calisthenics work you could try a false grip. This grip involves having your weight on the bottom of your palms. Have a look at this guide here if you are interested in giving this a try. I will warn you now, your forearms may cramp up because you are not used to keeping your weight on this.
Wash Your Hands
After your workout/whatever you were doing, where you’ve put chalk on your hands, or even just handling the weights. Wash your hands thoroughly, not only does it make sense due to the amount of bacteria in a gym environment. It is also important to wash off any chemicals from your hands that are designed to dry out the skin.
Shave Them Down
After your hands have been washed, it’s time to remove some skin. You don’t want a big layer of skin to build up in any one place of the hand as this will catch or get compressed and eventually get torn off.
I have a sandpaper sponge that I bought from Homebase. But you can use a pumice stone and get a similar effect if you don’t want to use sandpaper. Don’t use an actual razor, or a knife (as stated earlier) This is just an easy way to wreck your hands even more.
Use Hand Cream
Once you’ve smoothed your hands out, use a hand cream to moisturise the hands. Focus mainly on the palms (unless you have particularly dry knuckles or fingers). I try to reduce the number of chemicals I use on my skin, so one from the Bodyshop is pretty effective for me. However, you only want to cover your hands lightly – you don’t want to make your hands oily and greasy. Light covering is the key.
Try To Reduce Anti-bacterial cream
Anti-bacterial cream that you put on your hands instead of actually washing your hands will dry them out in the long run. It’s great if you can’t get to a sink quick enough but they should not be used as a substitute.
I’m definitely guilty of this. I will constantly pick at the skin on my hands, especially if it’s lose or peeling slightly. This is just an easy way to make your hands painful and prevent healing. Try to reduce the amount you touch your/pick at the skin on your hands. It will drastically help.
Drink Lots of Water
Your skin needs water. Your hands have skin and are no different to the rest of your body. You need to be getting in lots of water to keep the skin hydrated and to try to avoid your hands from getting dried out.
Do this 2-3 times a week depending on how often you need it. As stated above you don’t want to allow large pieces of skin to build up and potentially tear off. You want to create one big callus on the underside of your hand. This will potentially take many years to form but in the long run, it will be worth it to protect your hands and to strengthen the skin. This guide can be applied to your feet in case you are doing martial arts or barefoot work. The same tips can be applied.