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CrossFit - Looking after your Hands

You only have to look on Instagram to understand just how popular CrossFit is getting! Photos of CrossFit diehards proudly displaying their blistered, calloused and torn palms like  badges of honour. But even if you're can push through the pain of dead-lifts and snatches with a flesh wound, it does not mean that you should, you could be risking nasty infections, deeper tears, and considerable recovery time, and let’s face it, why would you train through it when it can easily be avoided. Don't let something as avoidable as a blister effect your form and slow your progression. Whether you work out at a CrossFit box, or follow your own training plyometric program, follow these simple tips to keep your hands in peak condition.

Moisturise Often

It’s not just for girls! Dry skin is ultimately more likely to crack and tear than skin that is kept well-hydrated. Take the time to moisturize throughout the day, especially before bed. Use a lotion that is marketed as a heavy-duty hand cream or keep things natural and use a few drops of organic coconut oil.

Fix Your Grip

Your technique when gripping the bar during movements like pull-ups and toes-to-bar may be a factor in encouraging blisters and tearing. Placing the bar directly in the crease of the hand where the palm meets the fingers prevents excess skin being pushed into a crease, which will often lead to the development of calluses and blisters. Another useful tip is to wrap thumbs around the bar, instead of using a suicide (thumb next to your index finger) or hook grip (thumb tucked under your index and middle fingers), this neutral grip will better stabilise the hand's movement and reduce friction.

Brave the Shave

Calluses are common among those who spend their fair share of gym time lifting barbells, swinging kettlebells, or rowing on an erg. On their own, calluses aren't bad. It's when they build up and start to peel that they cause problems. There are a few speciality callus shavers (you can find one in our WOD kit) on the market, but you can also use an old-fashioned pumice stone or nail file. Work on calluses after a shower when your skin is clean and soft.

Chalk, Tape, Gloves, and Grips

Those die hard CrossFitters may choose to ignore this tip, but gymnastic grips, gloves, tape, and chalk will help to protect your hands, especially when completing high-volume reps, for example CrossFit's legendary "Murph" WOD. A note on chalk, although it is definitely necessary, too much can try skin and make tears more likely. Avoid dipping your entire hand into the chalk bucket and apply sparingly to only the parts of the skin that will have direct contact with equipment.

The age old debate with blisters

To pop, or not to pop? Before deciding, consider the area of the blister, your current activity and the available resources. Remember if in doubt, intact skin helps keep the area clean and prevents against infection. So, if you can rest the affected area for a few days, there's no need to pop a blister. Same thing goes for when you're in the middle of a workout and can feel the beginnings of a blister; it's better to switch up your movement or try to cover the area with bandages or athletic tape. Proactive popping is advised only under certain circumstances.  "If you're about to go work out and the blister is in a location with high friction that will cause it to tear, it will likely be best to pop it before and cover with a hydrocolloid dressing, such as a blister plaster, or Mueller More Skin. Be sure to disinfect the area and whatever instrument you use to puncture the skin. You may also wish to use a lubricant on the area if you do not require grip, and further rubbing is likely.

Protect and Heal

If you do get tears and open wounds, keep them clean and covered. In addition to over-the-counter antiseptic creams, you can look natural healing agents. Salt water is amazing, although it may sting a little. When it comes to taping for a workout, many people opt for a multi-layer application first applying kinesiology tape (RockTape is very popular for CrossFit), then covering with Zinc Oxide to give skin the ultimate protection.

Know When to Rest

How do you know when to tape up and power through and when to take a timeout? With just one simple rule; If it's affecting your workout, you should rest or substitute a different movement. So, if you're experiencing pain a minute into a workout that's heavy on pull-ups, try substituting ring rows which are not as dynamic and create less friction. Or skip the upper body workout all together and go for a run. *Photos courtesy of Active Skills at Battle for Middle Ground.


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