I missed a day this week so the workout section of this post will be short and sweet. Then we’ll tear into a problem a lot of CrossFitters have when they spend a heavy workout on the bar doing pullups: calluses. I’ve been having some problems with calluses when we’re on the bar a lot and sometimes it’s just annoying, sometimes it’s full-on painful. I’ll dig into some solutions in this post.
Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:30 are when you can find me at the CrossFit Nanaimo box (fancy term for a CrossFit Gym). This week life handed me another schedule. I was all ready to hit the gym up when we I had to change times for meeting the lawyers to complete on a house I just bought. So naturally I would go to the 6:30. Nope, I was doing a demonstration for a new website application for work. Ok, so no CrossFit for Tuesday.
Luckily Thursday swooped in and saved the day. I get a bit twitchy if I don’t get outside and burn off some energy at some point during the week and Thursday’s workout quickly squeezed that extra energy right out of me.Here’s Thursday’s Workout :
21 – 15 – 9
Burpee Bar Hops
Back squat (no rack) (rx: 135, z1: 115, z2: 95)
I’ll do a quick once over on the workout and then tell you what it was like. It was a timed workout. You go as fast as you can until you’ve done the required reps for each exercise. The 21-15-9 part is how many of each exercise you have to do. For this one, it’s 21 of all 3 exercises, then 15 of all three, then 9. After you’ve finished the 9 backward skips, you’re done. The sweetest feeling.
Burpee bar hops are burpees and then a 2 footed hop from one side of your barbell to the other side. We had barbells beside us for the back squats. A burpee is a bit of an evil thing. It’s like a pushup and then a jump with a clap over your head. It’s definitely an arm workout. And you need to those arms to get that bar over your head for the back squats.
Back squats are a squat with a bar on the back of your shoulders. Normally you’d do them off a rack so you don’t have the extra effort of getting the bar off the ground, up over your head and then down onto your back. But today we got to play with getting the bar up off the ground. When you’re legs are shaking from all the jumping, skipping and squats and your arms are shaking from burpees and lifting the bar over your head (95 pounds in my case, I was doing zone 2 weight), lifting that bar above your head is a harrowing experience. Efficiently lifting 95 pounds above your head as fast as you can is not an easy tasks. I was as focused as I could be. I realized half-way through that I would visualize the lift before doing it and then execute. Thankfully we only had to lift the bar off the ground once per set of backsquats.
Then backward skips. It’s amazing how set we get in ways of doing things. If I was thinking about it, my body instantly would try and skip forward like I have all my life. I had to really focus hard on all the pieces so I could get the rope spinning backwards properly. As split second off focus and I’d fall back into habit and try to spin forward.
For being so tough, this was one of my favorite workouts so far. I’d love to try it with heavier weight but I don’t think it would have gone as fast. Burpees would have been very slow in the last set. I got 6:02 for the workout which was pretty quick so I probably should have stepped my weight up to 115.
Now that we’ve talked about a few exercises that really have nothing to do with hanging off bars and doing pullups, I’m going to talk about calluses. They’ve been a big problem in some of my workouts so I wanted to look into prevention so that I have fewer and fewer bad workouts because of torn calluses.
Callus Correction – What to do with calluses in CrossFit
I was going to start this section with the loud exclamation, “Calluses suck!”
I guess I sort of did because there is it there.
The truth is though is that calluses are only a problem if you let them become a problem. The problem is when they tear.
Calluses are from friction on your hands between the skin and the bar. The skin needs to protect itself and builds up layers of skin where it rubs more and more. So how come calluses are bad if they’re protecting your hands. The problem comes out when the calluses become too thick off the palm of your hand. When they get too thick and form ridges and rough edges on your hands they’re going to catch on the bar when you use it. When it catches on the bar, your skin tears off the bar.
Holes in your hands from tears suck. If you haven’t had them yet, do everything you can to prevent them. If you’ve had them before, you know how much they suck. They are very painful for doing the rest of your workout and they suck for a couple days while they heal. I don’t recommend it.
If you’re holding onto a bar and it’s spinning in your hand, there’s a buildup of friction when your hand touches the bar. If there’s enough friction you might get a blister under the calluses you have. There’s a good chance that callus is going to tear with a blister under it.
So if calluses can lead to tears (very soft, new hands can be prone to tears as well), what can you do to prevent them? Well you can’t do much about calluses. They just show up because there’s friction between your hand and the bar. But you can take care of them so they won’t tear.
From all my awesome correction connections (links) from below, I’ll touch on a couple good methods for keeping your calluses in check. Most of the methods revolved around grinding the calluses down regularly. You can use a knife, blade, emery board, pumice stone or even a dremel sander to scrape the extra skin off. You’ll want to do this any time the skin on your calluses gets a little raised above the rest of your palm. They’ll have rough edges or little ridges above the rest of your skin. That’s when they need to be ground down a bit.
After a hot shower is a great time to do this. Your skin is soft and it’s easier to see where the extra skin is that you can get. Don’t go too hard on them, you don’t want to rip all your skin off. You need some of those calluses there as some padding against the bar. Your skin does that for a reason. It might take some practice to find out exactly how much you need to go. Most of the sites recommended trying to get to level with the rest of your palms. Anything raised might catch and tear.
Outside of that, make sure you keep your hands moisturized outside of the gym. Dry, cracked skin is more likely to tear.
This part doesn’t have as much to do with lifting a bar as it does for managing your grip while doing pullups. Kipping pullups can be one of the worst things for tearing calluses. Some workouts are huge numbers of kipping pullups and the weight on your hands combined with all the movement just creates ripe conditions multiple tears.To hold a pull-up bar so it doesn’t lead to as many tears, you have to let it go a little bit and let the bar slide into your fingers a bit more. You want the bar in your fingers than in the meaty part of your hand. If you look at your hand from the side in a normal grip it would be a circle around the bar. With this different grip your hand and first part of your fingers will be straight with the rest of your fingers curling around the bar. This awesome article on calluses on FitBomb has a video in it about the grip.
The last important part to this part about changing your grip for pull-ups is that it’s harder. To hold your hand like this it takes more forearm and finger strength. One of the authors calls it the training grip. He calls the easier full-hand type the “business grip”. He uses the training grip as much as possible because it leads to less tears but for tests or competitions he often uses the “business grip.” It just sounds cool too.
With kipping pull-ups there’s usually a lot of movement going on to get yourself up and over the bar. You probably don’t have to move as much as you do though. You can use more hip action and less swinging to get you up there. The FitBomb article talks about a good video on GymnasticsWOD here that shows Carl doing very minimal movement in his kips. Less movement, less rubbing on your hands.
Covers (gloves and tape)
Most of the sites didn’t recommend using any sort of gloves or tape regularly to stave off calluses and tears. They’re a fact of life in something as hand intensive as CrossFit. Ease into workouts, don’t go all out when you’re brand new with 100 kipping pull ups. Try and use the training grip when you can. But there are certain times like competitions or tests or just a marathon training session where there is absolutely nothing you can do to save your hands. If that’s the case then it’s time to get some gloves or tape your hands up. There’s a specific way to do it so the tape doesn’t ball up and just pop off your hands in the middle of the workout.
One last tip before we hit the end of the article here, is that you might be using too much chalk. If you’re caking your hands with it that might be leading to more friction with the bar (as well as drying your hands out) and increasing the chances of tearing. Maybe try a little less next time.
A Collection of CrossFit Callus Correction Connections
(apologies for my appalling attempt at alliteration)
CrossFit Hand Care on FitBomb – A great article on prevention, proper grip and proper kip technique. Plus an experiment on healing techniques.
Blood, Blisters, Sexism and Pull-ups on CrossFit.com – Pär Larsson talks about why torn, bloody hands are not sexy.
If you’re just joining us, check out the rest of the 3 month CrossFit Challenge. Thanks so much to Heather and Katie at CrossFit Nanaimo for making this challenge possible. You can follow them on CrossFit Nanaimo Facebook too.