Written by Lauren Salerno

Whether you are new to Crossfit, have been Crossfitting for awhile but just started to get your pull-ups, or you are a seasoned veteran who is capable of high volume gymnastics, you all can be subject to a debilitating hand tear that will sting in the shower and prevent you from picking up a barbell or hanging from the rig for a few days.  “Midnite Murph” is just around the corner, and 100 pull-ups are prescribed so let’s make sure your paws are ready to go!  We don’t want you looking like this…

Preventing Hand Tears

Develop “tough” skin:  Gripping a barbell and hanging from the pull-up rig will help this.  Do not baby your hands to avoid callouses or they will just be susceptible to tears.

Shave your callouses:  Once you have developed callouses, do not let them get too thick…that is just a recipe for disaster.  After you shower and your skin is soft use a callous shaver to cut down the thick outer layer of skin.  You can get one similar to the one pictured below at CVS for just a few dollars.    You can finish them off with a ped-egg, nail file or pumice stone (even a dremel tool if you are brave enough).  The goal is for your hands to be smooth.

Moisturize:  Dry skin will tear.  Immediately after your WOD, wash your hands (to get rid of chalk) and put lotion on.  Moisturize after the shower (after shaving callouses) and before bed.  This will help keep your skin pliable and less susceptible to tears.  One product that is recommended is Bag Balm.  You can find it at places like Agway, it’s often used in the farming community on horse hoofs, cow udders, helps keep that tough skin from cracking!

Go light on the chalk:  Chalk is a drying agent.  It will help you grip the bar if used probably, but if used in excess it will just cause more friction between your hand and the bar resulting in your hands ripping.  Do not douse your hands in chalk before every rep!  And as mentioned above, make sure to wash your hands after the WOD, getting rid of the excess chalk will keep your skin from drying out.

Grip/Kip:  Gripping the pull-up bar in the base of your palm causes more skin to fold and creates friction in an area that has not toughened up.  Allowing the pull-up bar to sit at the base of the fingers will help limit your tears.  The size of your kip can also play a role in the amount of friction created between your hand and the bar, keep the kip tight and efficient and your hand will rotate less around the bar.

Wear grips:  If you know that you are in for a high volume gymnastics day, or your hands are sore from too many days on the rig/barbell, consider giving them a break with a set of gymnastics grips ( or natural grips (  Or if you are daring enough, make a pair of your own!

In the unfortunate situation that you end up tearing, here are some helpful tips to treat your hands so that you are back in action ASAP!

Treating Hand Tears

-Wash it:  As soon as you tear, wash out the wound with soap and warm water.

Excess Skin: If the skin has flapped, trim the excess.  If it is a small tear more like a blister then leave the skin to protect the new flesh underneath.

-Apply ointment:  Use an antibiotic ointment, like neosporin, while the wound is fresh to prevent infection.

-Cover:  Cover the wound for protection when working out, sleeping, etc.  See the helpful tutorial below on how to make your own athletic tape grips.

-Keep it moist:  Make sure to keep the new skin moist as it’s healing.  Using the bag balm or vaseline will do the trick.  The last thing you want is that new skin drying and cracking.  Applying the ointment generously before bed and covering your hand with a glove or sock will prevent it from making a mess.

If you have never had a significant hand tear, trust me when I say it’s worth the preventative measures to never have it happen to you!