Updated: May 19
In CrossFit the hands are one of the most beaten up parts of the body from holding on to the bar for pull ups, clinging to the barbell for a clean or swinging the kettlebell, a hand care routine is essential for durable yet soft, cared for hands.
We've scoured the CrossFit marketplace for the best hand care products as well as hand care routines that CrossFit athletes perform on a daily or weekly basis that can keep your hands in tip top shape for every workout.
We've identified four main hand care gripes that CrossFit athletes get:
As an athlete, you know that if you have a torn callous or blister it can be painful to pick up weights or hang on to a bar and can ruin your workout before it even starts.
We have categorised each of our four main hand care points into prevention, after-care and your hand care routine to make sure you're ready for whatever the workout throws at you.
As CrossFit athletes work with barbells and bar rigs where we are pulling or pushing heavy weights or swinging on the bar, our hands go through a lot of strain.
Hand calluses are usually the mark of a hard core CrossFit athlete.
What are hand calluses?
Hand calluses are parts of the skin, usually the upper part of the palm that rubs on the bar or object you're holding more than the rest of your hand, causing blisters which when healed, cause a harder shell of skin to form.
This harder shell of skin is usually circular in shape and once hard enough, means that it will protect your hand from ripping quite as much.
How hand callouses are caused in CrossFit?
Hand calluses can sometimes be very common in those who are new to CrossFit or functional fitness as their hands get used to holding onto bars and heavy weights.
In the beginning you may find your hand ripping and blistering more often which causes painful tears in your hands which in turn stops you being able to use your hands to hold bars without pain.
To prevent your calluses or hands ripping open during a workout, prevention is the cure!
There are a few types of callus prevention that we at AMRAP Antics prefer. The number 1 being CrossFit Grips.
Grips help put a barrier between you and the bar and prevents your hands from tearing open.
You can also get specific, one use tape that provides a very close barrier and prevents any rubbing or additional contact from the bar or weights you use.
The WOD and Done do a great single use CrossFit grip that come in a pack of 10 with additional hook grip tape which we will talk through later. So if you prefer a closer fit that won't budge, choose them.
If those options don't work and you do actually get a callus the best thing for your hands is to stop the workout to prevent any further ripping on your hands.
Make sure you clean your hands of any blood and chalk and disinfect and cover with a band aid or plaster. (Please note I am not a medical professional so follow at your own risk or seek medical help)
After a few days if your ripped skin has fallen off, then take care with your wound as to not infect with any chalk that you use at the gym and clean any equipment you use.
Ideal Hand Callus Routine
Some people like to keep their calluses to harden their hands but the only downside is that your hands can then look rough and ready.
If that's not what you like, you can choose to use a few products to remove callouses.
There is also a hardened salve that you can use, which acts the same as the gel, but allows you to hit specific places which might be better to use on your hands. The Gilden Tree callus remover stick is our top pick.
We would recommend a once a week routine where you use the gel, stone or salve to remove the hardened skin to keep your hands smooth and feeling great.
Most athletes sweat a lot when working out and CrossFit is no different. You may often see in a CrossFit gym (or box) big buckets of chalk dotted around and before almost every workout, athletes chalking up their hands until they're bright white and then also stopping mid workout to chalk up.
Chalking your hands allows you to hold on to your weights or equipment without your hand slipping with your sweat.
Why CrossFit athletes need to moisturise hands?
Chalk can be a huge benefit in the workout as it's designed to soak up moisture to provide you the best grip possible.
Using chalk so regularly can dry out your hands, causing cracks and itching if used too much so it's really important to wash your hands and use moisturiser regularly.
The most common way to prevent dry skin outside of the gym is to wash your hands immediately after your workout to remove any of the chalk that may remain.
Keeping hydrated can also help prevent dryness of your skin.
The most common (and seemingly obvious) way to keep your hands feeling great, is to moisturise your hands regularly. This means before and after your workouts and in the evenings too.
Ideal Moisturising Routine
We recommend moisturising in the morning and post workout to give your hands the best chance to keep hydrated and to give them the best chance to prevent rips, tears and cracking from dehydration.
Blisters are a sign that there is something rubbing in the wrong place. Many people can get blisters on their hands from using odd equipment or heavy weights. Kettlebells for example can sometimes create blisters, especially if you're doing technical work like Turkish Get Ups or Kettlebell Clean and Jerks.
Why do you get blisters in CrossFit?
Blisters are usually caused by an item rubbing on your skin repeatedly in a place that is not used to rubbing. If you've walked a long distance in brand new shoes, you will know that the rubbing causes a blister from where your skin is not used to that rubbing.
The best blister prevention for your hands is to create a barrier between you and the piece of equipment that is rubbing. For example I used to get blisters on the piece of skin in between my forefinger and thumb when performing high reps of double unders.
The best thing I found for blisters is to use tape to cover the "rubbed" area.
I used Kinesiology tape because zinc or bandage tape came off my skin as soon as I started sweating whereas Kinesiology tape stuck to my skin no matter what and also is really cheap to use.
I recommend using this Hampton tape although most Kinesiology is the same so whichever you prefer.
After-care For Blisters
Medical advice says to wash your blister with mild soap and water then cover the blister and area around it with a dry, sterile dressing to protect it from infection until it heals.
Ideal Blister Prevention Routine
We recommend using tape if you find that a particular movement is rubbing in a certain way. We carry a spare roll and scissors to the gym with us so that mid workout we can run out and affix some tape quickly.
Hook Grip Thumbs
CrossFitters typically use hook grip when performing olympic lifts or any barbell lifts, and if you have performed hook grip before you know that hook grip can hurt your thumbs if you're not used to it.
Hook grip is where you pick up the bar with your fingers using your thumb as leverage when gripping the bar. This helps with grip and can make it easier to pick up the bar.
Why do you need to look after your thumbs with Hook Grip in CrossFit?
Hook grip often puts lots of strain on your thumbs and can cause rubbing or blisters to form especially if you're performing lots of reps with the bar.
Looking after your thumbs means that you can train every session and not see damage to your thumbs and prevent blisters or rubbing on your thumbs when performing olympic lifts like snatches, cleans and jerks.
For your thumbs, tape can be used for two things: extra padding on your thumbs and blister prevention.
By wrapping tape around your thumbs you can create a barrier between yourself and the bar and make it easier for your fingers to grip over your thumbs.
There are a few brands of CrossFit tape out there and they can sometimes be very similar to each other.
Don't forget to keep your thumbs in good condition and check for rubbing or blisters that may have formed and keep your hands moisturised to help keep them healthy.
Ideal Hook Grip Routine
We recommend that you use weightlifting tape for CrossFit workouts every time you are performing olympic lifts.
This can help protect your thumbs in the long run as well as giving you some added grip with your lifts.
CrossFit Hand Care
Taking care of your hands when you are a CrossFit Athlete is a really important way to keep your CrossFit performance high as well as making those technical movements comfortable.