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Calluses...Good or Bad?

by Mark Burrell Crossfit Level 1 Trainer May 29, 2015

Calluses… Good or Bad?


If you’ve been hanging from a bar, swinging on rings, lifting a barbell or even using a shovel, your hands will be feeing a little tender!  Seasoned CrossFitters, gymnasts and weightlifters will have learnt early in their athletic career that a hand care routine is essential .


How many times have you torn your hands?  I remember tearing during the 4th round of Barbara, which is a CrossFit benchmark workout.  Did I stop… nope!  Should I have stopped?  Absolutely!  I should have stopped before tearing when my hands were feeling tender.  All too often we get lost in the competitiveness when racing against the clock, that’s when hand injuries are seen as collateral damage.  But stress not, there is a way to avoid it!  


But first, why do we tear?  Calluses form over time when doing a repetitive movement, i.e. hanging from a bar, or lifting a barbell.  These calluses are more often than not the cause of the skin tear, despite common belief that calluses will protect you from tearing.  The hardened skin catches on the bar and creates friction between the epidermis (outer skin layer) and dermis (middle skin layer).  This friction creates a separation between the skin layers attracting fluid (blister) then, if you continue to train it will inevitably tear.  Now with the boring stuff over lets look at the take home tips!


  Ever heard the phrase “Prevention is the best cure”?  This is absolutely the case when avoiding injuries to the hand.  I have read many different methods to maintain our hands, I’ve taken the best from them all and this is my routine in 3 steps;


  1. Step one.  Soak Hands in warm water, or during a shower.  You don’t need to have the skin of an octogenarian, just about 5 minutes will be enough.
  2. Step two.  Using a callus shaver gently cut away the hard skin.  This sounds like a painful thing to do, but trust me it’s not…  If you have pain you've done it wrong!  I use the JAW Callus Shaver.
  3. Step three.  Using a nail file run over the top of the area smoothing it out.
  4. Step four. Once you’re happy that the calluses are gone, apply an oil based moisturiser at least twice during the first day.  I use paw paw ointment, but the Crossfixe Hand Bar works very well too.


Practical tip 101 from Aaron Osborne JAW athlete, “Washing your hands following a workout is something that’s often neglected!  The chalk used is lime based and absorbs water, which leads to dehydrated skin.  So wash your hands kids.”

  This routine is something that I do once every 2-4 weeks depending on the amount and type of training I’ve been doing.  But since adopting this routine I haven’t torn my hands once!!  Believe….


  But what should you do if with a hand tear?  Being a Box owner hand tears are something I see too often.  Once you tear there are a couple of things that you need to do immediately;


  1. STOP working out.  It’s not worth injuring your hands further, let along rubbing blood over the equipment.  
  2. Clean your hands. You need to wash your hands with water and soap, yes it will hurt, but it’s essential to remove foreign objects and chalk while also aiming to prevent an infection.
  3. Remove the torn skin.  There are some people try to salvage the skin by sticking it back down….. my advice, don’t waste your time with this.  Remove the skin by cutting it close to the edge.  
  4. Don’t cover the wound.  You should however keep the wound moist by often applying paw paw ointment or Crossfixe.  Don’t wait for your hand to become dry, keep it moist by applying the cream every few hours until healed. 
  5. Clean the equipment.  If there is blood on the equipment please clean it off. 

  Grips ’n’ Gloves

  What else can you do to avoid these troublesome skin tears!?  Well funny you should ask, there are a couple of gloves and grips on the market that protects your hands from tearing.  But do they do what the claim?

  Firstly the gloves.  Disclosure, I haven’t used these gloves, so I’m taking the word of my athletes that use them.  The gloves used here are Rocktape G-Loves.  These boast a few features worth noting, false-grip ribs to help you muscle up, thumb protection for hook grip, vents, and sweat wipes.  My athletes who wear these gloves haven’t torn, and trust me they push hard.  Grip isn’t compromised when hanging from the bar, or when on a barbell, in-fact I’m told that it improves grip.  

  The grips are great for any kind of bar work, toes to bar, pull-ups, muscle ups etc.  My weapon of choice here is the JAW Hand Grips which are brilliant during any high repetition workout.  I’m sure these grips have saved my hands countless times from tearing or blistering.  Once you’ve worn then a couple of times you won’t even know that they on your hands. In my opinion these are an essential to any CrossFitters workout bag.

  In summary, get yourself in the routine of maintaining callus free hands.  If you can manage this you’ll enjoy tear free hands that won’t compromise your training schedule!

  Train Hard, Train Smart.


Craig Scharf


Crossfit Sunshine Coast

Craig is the Owner and Head Coach of Crossfit Sunshine Coast. He is a level 1 Crossfit trainer, registered nurse and knows how to get the best out of his athletes.

Mark Burrell Crossfit Level 1 Trainer
Mark Burrell Crossfit Level 1 Trainer

1 Response


May 29, 2015

Great article and very helpful. Keep them coming!

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