Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hardening The %*#$ Up And Trying To Do The Same For Your Hands

“Man my hands look rough, but they definitely scored me some SERIOUS tough guy points!”

Some of you have seen just how bad my hands can get, and for the rest of you, be sure to have a bucket handy!

I always thought that the best thing to do during a pull-up workout was to chalk up: eliminate the sweatiness and clamminess from my hands. It was over 10 months later that I realized that chalk just MIGHT be the culprit for my massacred, mutilated monkey meat hands.

I've tried a few things, some having its pros and cons:

Taping Up

This works very well, but at the same time, the sweat build-up underneath the tape caused a lot of moisture to get trapped, and thus creating more blisters. The next step [during a workout] was to throw chalk underneath the tape in an attempt to prevent anymore sweat from building up. This works for well but not for very long. However, tape is good to use on heavy days, or days where you aren't doing pull-ups but are hindered by the mild soreness from your previous workout. The tape creates a barrier between the blisters and the bar, allowing you to do other exercises including cleans or deadlifts, for example.


Gripping the bar harder is better. Before using this method, I was lightly gripping, which allowed for my hands to rub against the bar too much, causing friction and tearing. This may or may not apply to you, but through my own experiences, a firm grip made for less blistering.


You may notice at your gym when people are doing their kipping pull-ups they are either swinging like monkeys or have very good control over their core. If you're a so-called 'monkey,' try working on controlling your core from swinging all over the place; this will substantially decrease your battle wound count and it will also cut time out of your workouts, as well as save your grip.

Taping Up The Bar

Some people prefer to tape the actual bar up as opposed to taping their hands. If I were doing a workout using tape, this would be my choice. Your hands are free from the constraints of having the tape wrapped around your hands. Instead, the tape is wrapped around the bar, giving your hands a chance to breathe. I still sometimes jump onto the bar and use the taped up side, but since I have really sensitive skin I opt for the bare bar during workouts.

So through trial and error, I have found the solution to the problem: no chalk, no tape, nothing. Have a towel near you, or simply wipe your hands on your t-shirt or pants before re-gripping the bar. Since this method I have gone from ripping at as little as 30 pull-ups to only slightly ripping at 110 pull-ups.

Methods For Hand Repair

Polysporon is a great way to repair your hands. Make sure to clean thoroughly before applying, and apply. If possible, apply the Polysporon and leave it unbandaged to allow it to be exposed to the air. Applying Polysporon directly to the open wounds will NOT hurt you

New Skin

One word: OUCH. If you're brave enough to use New-Skin, I commend you. I guess I'm a bit of a wuss since I've seen many people apply this to their wounds and not make a peep, but it is definitely an option you can try if you haven't yet.

Burt's Bees

Burt's Bees is the most popular of methods at CrossFit Mississauga. It's a natural product, made in Canada, consisting of ingredients like honey and bee's wax. There are no added perfumes, which can sometimes sting open wounds. Give it a try, find it on Ebay or go to your local drugstore and pick up some of their products. It's definitely worth trying!


This stuff is the SH*T! Pardon my [almost] foul language. It is my personal preference, I swear by it, and I don't know what I'd do without it. Initially, what this stuff is for is cuticle repair; but it does WONDERS to cracked calluses on your hands. It's super sticky, super gummy and it stays on. If you're like me and don't use band-aids, this is the product for you. Unlike Polysporon, this QTICA product won't wipe off and creates a really thick barrier. Give it a try and DON'T be deceived by the small container - I've had mine for about 6 months now and there is over half a jar left. Check it out!

Ped Egg

I was talking to a friend of mine last night, Rachel Medina, who told me about this strange product called Ped Egg. It was my first time ever hearing about it, and I don't know much about the product yet, but it works as a callus remover. It's cheap ($10.00 US), and apparently very effective. Check your local drugstores as well as Wal-Mart. I'm not sure how readily available the product is in Canada but in the US it is available at drugstores like Wallgreen's.

If you have your own personal methods for hand repair, leave them in the comments section for others to try out!


  1. Good post Melissa.....I have pretty hard hands, so even just starting CF in August I never ripped anything until I hit a WOD with over 100 pullups. That still sucked and I'm still healing haha. Although, as my grip strength as improved it's happened much less frequently. Also, gripping the bar open (thumb behind with the fingers) helps alot. Especially if you make sure to get the bar in the crease where the fingers meet the you don't have the big chunk of palm squished up there. Then It's just a matter of the skin on the 1st segment of the fingers. There's a good video explanation by Rippetoe in the Journal if you haven't seen it already. It's called "Rip on Grip"

  2. Awesome! Yes, I forgot about that video, thanks for mentioning it! And good point on the 'thumb behind with fingers.'

  3. I totally agree with the Ped Egg suggestion. I've got one and use it all the time to file down the really thick calluses. I alternate between the Ped Egg and a pumice stone. the trick is to have just the right thickness of callus, you need some toughness, but not too thick, or it'll be more likely to rip and will be that much more painful when it does rip. However, IMHO, no need to grip the bar tightly. When doing kipping pull-ups, I use chalk, keep the grip light and very slightly let go of the bar and regrip at the top of each kip. I feel like it gives my grip a break and my palms feel less sweaty - plus it's Jeff Tucker approved. At first, he goes "Why are you pausing like that up there?" and I go "I'm regripping" and he goes "thanks for bringing that up, let's talk about regripping the bar..." and goes on to to discuss its merits... I also prefer thumb behind with fingers, however, Tucker's penalty for such things during the gymnastics cert is burpees, so I'm trying to remember that we evolved with opposing thumbs for a reason. Another great resource is the 3 part series on hand care over at CrossFit Virtuosity (check the archives, it's from last year I think)

  4. Umm, I wear gloves, not sure if that's manly or not, but all I've ever had are little mini-blisters... nowhere near as bad as your pic.

  5. Excellent suggestions T! I'll have to check out that 3-part series.

    jgrantmarshall: I've never done a workout with gloves, not sure if that's manly or not :P but I do have a pair that I found lying around at my old gym. Maybe I'll give it a try and see how they feel, but typically I like the bare hand-to-bar contact. If you haven't done a workout bare-handed yet, try it out sometime and see what happens :)

  6. I think these two products works best to heal my hands. Check it out. m/

    Hand Jam from Mountain equipment co-op

  7. I think hands first invisible professional gloves moisturizer is the best solution to protect our hands. I use this moisturizer on my hands, it provides a invisible layer of moisturizer which helps my hands to remain soft.