If you’ve just started Crossfit and have been acquainted with the pull up bar, you’ve probably already seen what can happen to your hands. It’s not only the pull up bar that hates your hands, rowers and barbells don’t like your soft hands either. You’ll eventually come to a solution to stop your hands from tearing too often; but before that, you’re likely to go through the same thought process as I did.
Firstly, fear. You’ve just started and you’ve heard tales and seen the hands of some of the firebreathers at your box. Maybe you even watched some of the 2014 Games and saw what happened to Jonne Koski (and Maddox’s reaction made this my favourite moment of the Games). You start to fear for your hands and worry about how much it’s going to hurt, it might even dissuade you from continuing with Crossfit altogether.
But then comes denial. You’ve finally mastered toes to bar and your hands are still in one piece. Sure, they might be getting a bit harder in places, but that must help them surely? This is a dangerous phase. You start to get cocky and openly flaunt your new found confidence in your hands by jumping on the pull up bar after the wod, just to get in a few extra kips. Maybe you’ve even openly bragged to your fellow wodders about how good your hands are holding up. Enjoy it while it lasts, you’ll be at the next stage soon.
A crack in the armour. You’ve started to notice some pain along your rock hard calluses when you’re up on the bar. It hurts, but it’s not going to stop you. At this stage, you might start to remember some of the advice the experienced guys in your box gave you. You consider buying gloves or gymnast grips. You start to get careful but you know your time is up. You start to remember the good times atop your throne, but know that the good days are coming to an end.
It happens. And so it should. Every Crossfitter should experience this at least once. You’re deep in Filthy Fifty and just cleared the jump pull ups. You knew before you started the workout that your hands were close to the end, so you’ve been sensible enough to wear those gloves. You handled the pull ups like a pro, but you know the knees to elbow is going to be the real test for your hands. You get 30 reps in and your hands are on fire, and your grip is almost non existant now. You look at your gloves and see a deep red patch coming through. You jump back on the bar to hit another 5 reps anyway. The patch is getting bigger, but there’s only 15 more reps to go. You get 2 more but the pain is too much. You take the gloves off to see that once glorious, hard piece of skin, now loosely hanging and revealing a deep, bloodied sore. You show your coach and he makes you finish those last 13 reps as sit ups instead. But you aren’t getting out of the rest of the wod.
That last example is precisely what happened to me (see the post image). It’s interesting to find out during a workout what level of pain you can really endure, whilst trying to complete some exercise. To someone outside of Crossfit; or even Crossfitters who have yet to have this experience, it might sound mad to see how badly messed up your hand is, but still not throw in the towel on the workout. I desperately wanted there to be a way to get those last 13 KTE, but I knew I just couldn’t. In hindsight, I’m surprised I made it that far. But now that your hands have torn, what to do?
Firstly, you’ll need to treat it like any open wound and clean it as soon as you can. Beyond that, it’s time to listen to everyone at your box and take some measures to avoid tearing your hands again. Not only is it painful, you might also have to get a scaled wod to cater to your pink hands. What I’ve found that really helps for my hands, is to use a pumice stone every day in the shower. While it’s uncomfortable to begin with, your hands will soften over time and help to avoid being torn. One guy at my box has been religiously using a pumice stone and hasn’t had a tear for the last 4 months. Most won’t be so lucky, but it will greatly reduce the risk.
Some people swear by gymnast grips or wearing gloves, but it’s down to personal preference. I don’t get along with gymnast grips, and I find gloves can be a little bit slippy on the bar. At the end of the day though, it comes down to what works for you.