You’re on your last set of pullups, only 3 reps to go. All of the sudden you feel a weird stinging sensation on your right hand. You drop down from the pullup bar and notice a gash on the palm of your hand. It finally happened, you got your first rip! You look around.. you look for your coach. Now what?!
Hand tears may seem inevitable in CrossFit, and maybe they are. But I’m here to tell you that there are several good ways to prevent rips from happening. All it takes is some diligent hand care every so often.
Let’s start with why rips happen in the first place. Rips are caused by friction between the bar and the skin on your hand. When you are just starting out you might have soft hands without any calluses, but it doesn’t take long for calluses to develop. Once you have them, that ridge of dead skin can cause big problems for your hands. The friction between your hand, the callus, and the bar, with the added weight of your body, will eventually cause the callus to rip off. This open wound might bleed a little, and it will definitely hurt! The good new is that with proper care, it will heal within a few days and you’ll be right back to working on your toes-to-bar.
How can I prevent rips from happening?
The first and best thing you can do is shave your calluses! The best time to do this is when your
skin is soft. Try shaving your calluses after a shower, or you could soak your hands in warm water for a minute or two. Using a callus shaver with a fresh blade, apply just enough pressure to take off the top layer of dead skin. Repeat this 3-4 times on each callus until you have a smooth(er) feeling hand. Then you can use a pumice stone to further smooth out your hand. Finally, apply some lotion to your hand to keep your skin soft and healthy. Note: avoid applying lotion right before working out – this makes it difficult to hang onto a barbell or pullup bar!
You can also look at how you grip the bar. Wrapping your thumbs around the pullup bar is the
best grip for preventing rips! Using a monkey grip with thumbs over the bar increases friction and your risk for hand tears (and falling off the bar!).
Another way to prevent rips from happening is by using hand grips. These take some getting-used-to, but may be worth the investment if you are plagued by hand pain and tears. I recommend either Victory Grips or Bear Complex Grips. Wod-N-Dones are great in a pinch too!
Now lets talk about what to do if you do in fact get a rip.
First, it may sound silly that I say this, but stop doing whatever you were doing that made you rip your hand. If you keep doing pull ups with a fresh hand tear, it will only get bigger and deeper, and blood will get everywhere. You don’t want this to happen. So stop!
Next, go wash your hands. I will even spray the wound with Bactine, an cleansing spray. Leave the flap of skin on your hand for now. Put some antibiotic ointment on the wound, and cover with a bandage. Keep the wound moist by applying more ointment periodically over the next couple days. After 24 hours, you might want to cut the flap of skin off with a nail clippers. After 2-3 days, your skin should have healed enough to go back to training as usual!