Protecting your tools

Protecting your tools

Protecting your tools

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about what the best way is to avoid tears, repair them if they happen, and just general maintenance of the most important tools we have: our hands! I thought it be a good chance to throw it way back and revisit some sage advice.

Who doesn’t like winning an award in recognition of an extraordinary accomplishment?  A gold medal, a trophy, bags of money, the respect and adoration of your contemporaries, ripped open hands

…wait, come again?  That’s right; it’s almost become a badge of honor or rite of passage in CrossFit to rip your hands from being up on the bar.

We all know how we rip our hands, right?  A little too much friction for a little too long and you’ve got a sheet of flesh dangling from your palms or fingers.  The separation that occurs is generally due to the epidermis (upper layer of skin) staying in place while the lower layers are moving back and forth causing the friction.  The space in between will then fill with clear liquid (plasma) to cushion the lower layers and protect them from further damage.

The name of the game is reducing friction between layers of skin.  Many people will use chalk which you find in buckets all over High Voltage.  While this works well in the short term, in the long term it actually can sometimes work against you.

Chalk will dry out any moisture around it (which will give you better grip!) but as the area dries it obviously will increase the friction. This is why some people choose to use tape as a barrier between their skin and the bar, while others opt for gymnastic grips or full gloves.

There are some out there who might give you a hard time about wearing any hand protection. In my opinion though there is absolutely NO shame in wearing gloves, particularly during long or high rep WODs.

The fact is, your hands are your tools. You should want to have the best tools available, protect them from damage, and care for them after use.

Nobody wants to worry about their hands ripping or being so sore from calluses that they can’t hold the bar.  They want to focus on doing the next rep properly, and having both the grip & strength to do it.

If one carpenter has a hammer to put a nail in a board, and another has his bare fist, you wouldn’t fault the one with the hammer for working smarter and using the better tool.

Even WITH gloves you can still tear, although blisters are less likely since the friction is reduced.  That being said, less aggressive friction over longer periods of time can cause calluses.

There are some advantages to building calluses in opportune places to aid in protecting your hands, however formation of calluses are also a possible chance to tear.

A blister is only a very thin layer of skin and will heal relatively quickly, whereas a callus is a thick hardened patch of skin that if torn open can be deeper, more painful and slower to heal.

As your calluses build up you need to manage them by either shaving them down with a callus shaver, or grinding them down.  You can use an emery board or coarse file to grind them down, or you can also use an electric rotary tool (a popular brand is Dremel).

Let’s say after all of these precautions you still tear your hand, or in some cases, it splits in between or on a callus. What now?

First, using very sharp cuticle scissors or nippers you need to cut away all of the torn skin. Really make sure that you cut all of the skin away right to the edge of the torn area.  Any remaining skin will be in danger of tearing further whether it dries out or not.

Next, you need to clean the entire area really well with soap and water.  Finally, I recommend applying something to aid in the healing process that also keeps the area sealed and clean.

I personally swear by the Climb-On hand bar which is available right in our shop at CFHV. CrossFIXe is also a great option that we carry and comes in a convenient push-up stick model.

Try to keep the wound open to the air (but clean!) as much as possible so it will heal quickly.  If you keep it covered with a bandage, it will stay too wet and take much longer to heal.

If you read this far, I hope you found this informative and helpful. Please don’t hesitate to ask me further questions. Good luck out there, and happy CrossFitting!