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WOD Hands: Preventing Rips

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No matter what your physical pursuit of choice, your hands will take a beating. Calluses, blisters, and eventual skin tears/rips on the hands are a part of using your hands for work. This applies to more than just CrossFit, whether you are digging with a shovel, playing basketball, climbing a rope, or holding onto a pull up bar, hand friction is a result of living life to the fullest.

Hand Conditioning

If you let calluses build up over time to create large mountains of thick skin on your hands, its is only an inevitability to when your hands will rip. But ironically, conditioning your hands is the first necessary step in preventing hand damage. If your hands feel softer than lambs’ skin, you may need to spend more time in the gym, holding onto weights and visiting the pull up bar. So, when you’re practicing your pull ups, don’t think of it has having to do the movement, think of it as hand conditioning, that just so happens to make your muscles stronger in the process.

Hand Maintenance

After several weeks in the gym, without treatment, your hands should now favor a replica of Mount Rushmore. This is when you must groom and treat you calluses. There are several different ways to approach this, with either pumice stones or skin shavers. There are several companies that make tools specifically designed for hand-care post WOD to prevent ripping. As a rule of thumb, no matter how great a tool may be, if you aren’t using it, it won’t do you any good. So right after the shower, post gym, when your hands are soft, get to town on those calluses.


The next step in daily care is making sure you moisturize your hands. This is something I like to do daily to avoid perpetually dry hands from overuse. There are several companies that make ‘lotion, moisturizer, or healing salve’ creams for daily hand use, in the event of major callus removal or even faster healing post hand rip. A simple, not brand label way to moisturize your hands is with the use of vitamin E oil, which can be bought over the counter at most drugstores in the form of a gel capsule or in an oil bottle. With the gel capsules, you can break one open and squeeze the oil out on your hands to softened. This may not smell as amazing as a hand lotion but does wonders in a pinch and may be cost effective.

During WOD Prevention

Now that we’ve discussed what to do pre/post WOD, lets look at some of the competitive techniques you can use to prevent hand damage during a bout of long pull up bar holding.

Grip- How you grip the bar determines everything. This goes for not only how well you will perform the movement, but how much longer you can hold on while cycling reps, as well as how likely your hands will tear and in what place they will tear. All ten fingers must be wrapped tightly around the bar, with the wrists not directly under the bar with knuckles facing back, rather, the wrists slightly behind the bar with the knuckles facing forwards. This will put the pull-up bar in the middle of your palm, not on your fingers. Think Hook Grip for the pull-up without wrapping the thumbs under the fingers. More contact in the palm will be made with the bar, making it easier to hold on and maintain a stable grip, as well as pulling the wrists out of the way of whatever movement you’re performing.

Chalk– Chalk is both good and bad. A small about can keep your hands dry from sweat and allow you to grip better on the bar. As a result, you will be less inclined to death-grip the bar, preventing calluses from forming. Yet, too much chalk, and you may be creating more friction for your hands than necessary. There has been multiple times where I have personally over-chalked where it looks like I dipped my hands into a powder-sugar bucket, only to have my palms grip into the bar too much and rip. Be frugal with use and use a towel or a dry spot on your clothes to dry hands before use.

Hand Grips- Hand grips are a great way to be able to add a larger amount of volume on the bar without fearing a tear. While tearing while wearing hand grips/guards are still possible, it mitigates the chance without them greatly. Be careful, as brand-new hand grips may be slick or soft, and as a result, can cause slippage on the bar. Hand grips SHOULD NOT be used as a long-term solution to hand softness, lack of hand conditioning, or avoiding hand development/strengthen. If anything, they are necessary per WOD and should be used in the event of a healing hand or when WOD reps may result in a hand rip. While using the hand grips, maintaining proper hand placement on the bar is necessary to benefit from their usage. Hand grips come in a multitude of materials, with softer cloth to thicker leather and everywhere in between. This is a personal choice and depends on where your hand conditioning lies.

This is a process that takes time, constant effort, and continual conditioning of hands. A pro-tip is, if you are concerned with your hands hurting during workouts, continually show up for class. Overtime, not only will the discipline of maintaining class regularly help strengthen your body and mental focus, but your hands will condition as a result.