Lately I’ve been noticing our members complain of their hands hurting during pull ups. When they tell me this, I look at their hands. In fact, I read their palms! What their hands say tells me a lot about how they are gripping pull up bars, barbells, dumbells, etc.
Grabbing the bar properly won’t necessarily prevent ripping of the hands. I can’t guarantee that. What I can guarantee is, with a proper grip, you can do many many more reps without pain. Not only will the pain be gone almost entirely, your grip strength will improve drastically.
So why do your hands hurt? Well to put it simply, your skin is being stretched, and that never feels great. Certain movements create a lot of rotation in the hand/grip that puts a ton of stress on the skin. As your calluses build up, more leverage will be put on the callus thus stretching the skin more. When I look at someone’s hand, and if there is a lot of white skin built up on the callus, I know for certain that it hurts. We need to never let our calluses get to the “white” phase. How this is done is a two fold remedy:
1. Proper Grip! Gripping the bar with the fingers first is a good place to start. When setting your grip your knuckles should be pointing straight. If you’re doing pullups, your knuckles (or if you had Wolverine claws) should be facing the sky straight up! On deadlifts, it’s the same thing but just facing straight into the ground. This method builds up the strength in your fingers, thus improving your grip strength. This also builds calluses on the first digit of your fingers as well as on the pad of your palm (the skin right under the finger). Too often our athletes “overgrip” by placing the bar below the pad of the palm. Overgripping is a result usually of the athlete having poor grip strength, and to get around this issue, they rely on the friction of their skin to keep them on the bar. This p uts a lot of pressure into the area of the pad. These overbuilt calluses (white phase) will eventually bring on pain and the chance for ripping your skin skyrockets. Fingers first on the bar, always.
2. Callus Maintenance is almost as important as proper gripping. You must take the time to “sand” your calluses and tend to them. If not, the white phase is just around the corner. I maintain mine by picking at them with my fingernails in the shower. The water softens the skin enough for your hard nails to pick away at the dead skin. Some people use pumice stones as well in the shower. I don’t have enough experience with them to recommend this method, but I’ve tried it and for me it’s not nearly as effective as my own nails. Some people swear by it. Quality of the stone does have something to do with it as well. If you’re looking for a nice smooth finish, get a nail file or something similar to “sand” away the rough edges. Callus maintenance is the Crossfitter’s DIY manicure.
That’s it! You may be thinking it’s too good to be true, but if you follow steps 1 and 2 you’ll be in a good place with your hands. I did about 300 pullups on Saturday and Sunday last week combined. No rips, some minor pain. The majority of those pullups were done without a hint of chalk to boot!
If you’re still confused about how to properly grip a bar, please ask a coach to get you set on the right path. Have a great week, and grip right for healthy happy hands.
Thursday April 30th, 2015:
- Snatch – 1 Rep Max
12 Minute AMRAP:
- 100m Run
- 10 Knees to Elbow
- 10 Push Press (115/85)
8 Minute EMOM:
- 10 TTB/High Knees/Dead hang hold
Teams of 2- 15 Minute AMRAP:
- Partner 1 – Max Plank Hold
- Partner 2 – 5 Man-Makers (35/25) video link
(Switch once Partner has performed 5 Man Makers)