How to workout hard and still have healthy hands
Hand care, or lack thereof, is often overlooked in the fitness industry. As a kettlebell coach and trainer for over 20 years, I know the value of maintaining healthy hands. In my gym, a torn callus can kill a workout as quickly as a torn muscle, and at that moment all progression comes to a screeching halt.
If you engage in any type of regular exercise, there's a chance you might notice a callus or two suddenly appear. Activities such as gymnastics, weight training, and in my field of expertise, kettlebell lifting, the palms are especially prone to callus formation.
Out of control callus development is likely to rip, tear, or cause blistering, and might be a sign you’re not doing something right. Remember, without healthy hands it is virtually impossible to train to your full potential, thus rendering your daily workouts less than optimally productive. Chronically sore or ripped hands can become a discouraging obstacle to overcome.
But callus does serve a purpose, as it protects underlying tissue from repeated use. However, many can’t help but ask, "Why not just wear gloves while training?" In my day-to-day experience with fitness training, I found gloves can be a hindrance to the development of adequate hand strength and proper technique, forming a virtual barrier between your muscles and central nervous system.
Good Technique, the Ultimate Hand Care Solution
The inarguable best way to take care of your hands during a workout is to minimize any damage in the first place by finding the best technique available for whatever activity you’re engaged in. As a Master Coach with the American Kettlebell Club, I am no stranger to perfect technique, as it defines the sport aspect of kettlebell lifting. Perfect form is continually sought after by all top athletes in every sport. Learning to lift a kettlebell, while cradling it like an eggshell, takes time, patience and lots of practice, but the payoff just begins with smooth and healthy hands.
Proper technique in any sport or fitness modality will always reduce the chance of a workout-ending, overuse injury, and is the number one step you can take to reduce callus buildup. Fewer injuries (whether from a torn callus or torn rotator cuff) mean more time in the gym and greatly accelerated progress. This is a pleasant break from the injury-roller coaster most dedicated gym rats find themselves on.
I train my students to a high level of intensity as well as technique, and that’s where the big results lie. There are virtually no workout mishaps, and program adherence is never reduced by constant injuries, even though training can sometimes get pretty extreme. From beautiful hands and callus reduction to a healthy back and knees, good technique is the best medicine.
Healthy Hand Care Post Workout Tips
After every workout wash your hands with soap and water. If used, thoroughly wash off any chalk as soon as possible. Chalk dries the skin and makes it less pliable. When skin is dried out, it is more likely to tear. Apply a moisturizing lotion to the front and back of the hands.
Although hand lotion is best applied after washing and post workout, frequent application is also beneficial. Buyer beware, not all skin lotions are created equal. Go for lotions that absorb quickly. The quicker it soaks into the skin, the less will be rubbed off. Many of my students recommend all natural Shea Butter.
Regular use a file or pumice stone will reduce the size of calluses. Some like to file right after a shower or bath when the skin is at its softest. I personally prefer the popular Ped Egg to a file or stone, which is sort of a cheese grater for calluses. Be sure to not overdo callus removal, just smooth surfaces so the edges won’t catch and tear. Leave enough behind for hand protection. Excessive filing will cause the hands to be constantly sore, and actually hinder your workouts.
If You Get a Hand Tear
Remove the excess skin carefully. A sterilized small scissor or nail clipper (to prevent infection) should work well. Wash with soap and water. Avoid applying lotion on a fresh cut, and protect the wound with a sterile bandage. Seek medical help if necessary. When given the okay by your doc, apply antibiotic ointment on the tear and cover. At bedtime you can place the hand in a sock or glove with the fingers cut out. Once new skin has covered the wound continue using hand lotion as described above. If allowed to dry up, the skin will crack and continue to tear in the same spot.
Not all sports or exercise will be equally hard on the hands. Learn to care for the hands with proper technique as the first line of defense. It also helps to keep the hands clean and well moisturized. If callus does form, be sure to limit its potential for tearing by filing down to a manageable size.
Technique is everything! Remain injury free while rapidly progression in high intensity workouts. To learn how, go to: EastCoastKettlebells.com