Proper Grip & Hand Treatment

Does that picture look familiar to any of you? If you participated in Tuesday's workout at CrossFit Balance, it certainly might. With CrossFit, the risk of hand rips is always present, but it's a reality we all accept.

Unfortunately, some people treat their destroyed hands as some kind of badge of honor, which is pretty much stupid. While some people think having ripped up hands is "hardcore" all it really does is delay your training and set back your progress. And while the risk of rips is always prevalent, we should take steps both to prevent them and speed their recovery. The root of the problem for most of you lies within three things: maintenance, grip, and recovery.

It's very likely that over time you may develop some significant calluses on your hands. First and foremost, this is a good thing. No offense, but none of you will be professional hand models in the near future like Ray McKigney (epic Seinfeld reference). The development of calluses shows you have tough, strong hands capable of actual work. Like this...

Bobby Goodfellow's got MITS.

Ladies, I know some of you would prefer dainty/feathery (Translation: weak) hands, but in the long run, properly maintained calluses won't even be noticeable. Besides, that's why Jon Voight invented cocoa butter. Or whoever invented cocoa butter.

The simplest way to maintain or control one's calluses is by utilizing a callus shaver, pumice stone, or razorblade. All are viable options, but the callus shaver is clearly the best bet. A pumice stone may not be rough enough and a razorblade could be downright dangerous, especially if Danielle accidentally spills piping hot coffee on you at 3PM yesterday. More info on shaving your calluses can be found in this article - I will be linking this article again so be sure to check it out.

On the grip side of things, the most common problem I see is over-gripping of the bar (or barbell). Essentially, people place the bar in the palm of their hands which leads to pulling - and eventually ripping - of the skin, especially if large calluses have developed. To better illustrate what I'm attempting to explain, here is Mark Rippetoe:

While this slight change will tax your finger/forearm strength a little more, it will decrease the chance of turning your hands into hamburger meat.

When a rip occurs, I generally offer the same prescription written in this article (told you it'd be back). It's simple and quite effective. Read it, learn it, live it, love it. I must say, however, that I do not agree with the article's promotion of hand guards. Really, unless you're doing this, I don't see the need.

In short, your hands play a vital role in the success of your training, so don't neglect them. Work on controlling your calluses, possibly altering your grip, and be diligent about nursing them back to health after "Murph" or other high-rep craziness. So until then, high fives all around!


  1. Thanks for the post, Quint! I had you tape my hands a few weeks ago after ripping them on pullups, and just yesterday I ripped 4 holes in the soft part of the palms (not the calluses under the fingers). I believe it's a function of my grip (thx Rippetoe) as well as my kipping motion causing me to rotate around the bar, so I'm going to work on both of those.

    -Chris C from Balance