New lifters often regard ripped hands as evidence of their hard work, proudly displaying them in social media posts or parading them around the gym for everyone to see. More experienced lifters, however, know that damaged hands just slow you down. When the hands are torn or tender, barbell work becomes painful and difficult to sustain.
To keep the Gains Trains rolling, prioritize hand care just like you prioritize nutrition, sleep and training. Here are a few pointers to improve your hand health:
Keep the Hands Clean. Wash your hands before training to keep germs from spreading in the gym, especially if you share equipment with other lifters. Wash your hands again after training to remove the chalk. Magnesium carbonate, a.k.a. chalk, dries out the hands, making it a fantastic solution for sweaty palms during weightlifting. If it stays on the hands for hours, though, it can lead to chapped or cracked skin.
Shop in the Foot Care Aisle. The hand care aisle of your local store will not carry the products you need for your hands. Why? A weightlifter’s hands are like the average person’s feet—full of rough skin and callouses.
Instead, proceed to the foot care aisle and look for . . .
- Callous Softening Lotion: Rips occur when the top layer of skin shears away from the bottom layer. Large callouses can get caught on a moving barbell, ripping off the skin. Callous softening lotion can be used with a file to manage callouses, either completely removing them or filling them flat so they do not catch on the barbell.
- Rough File: Foot files range from tools that look like large fingernail files to ones that look like cheese graters. Avoid the more aggressive “cheese grater” files; they may take off too much skin or make your hands bleed if used too frequently or aggressively.
- Pumice Stone: Pumice forms when hot lava mixes with water and hardens. The porous, abrasive pumice stone is great for removing excess dry skin.
Shower Smart. Each time you shower, spend a couple of minutes scrubbing your hands gently with the pumice stone. This should remove the roughest patches of skin. Allow your pumice stone to dry between uses so that bacteria does not grow in the pores. Over time, the stone will wear down, and you will need to replace it.
Moisturize and File. About once a week, use your callous softening lotion and file. First, apply a thick layer of softening lotion and give it about 5 minutes to absorb. Next, use your file to sand down any thick layers of skin. Pay special attention to the areas where you normally rip.
Tape. If your hands regularly rip in the same spots, such as your thumbs or fingers, tape up the problem areas before your workouts to give them an added layer of protection. Regular athletic tape will suffice, but many lifters prefer stretch tape because it sticks to itself and not to the skin, and it has a padded feel.