Many people who are involved in strength sports and strength training know that one of the effects of working with barbells and kettlebells can be some pretty impressive calluses.
And all too many have learned the hard way about the importance of taking care of the thickened skin that is ultimately an area of increased vulnerability.
Once upon a time, when I was almost solely using barbell and bodyweight movements in my training, a simple trusty pumice stone was sufficient: I’d just use it a bit every morning while I was in the shower, and I was good to go. Now that I have significantly increased my use of kettlebells in my programming, though, I’ve had to step up my hand-care game quite a bit.
Obviously, the best course of action is to maintain top-notch form in all movements so as to minimize the friction that causes calluses in the first place.
For instance (and this is just one example), maintaining a death grip on the bell handle may seem like a good idea to someone new to kettlebell training… but it’s not. The death grip often results from a lack of comfort and familiarity with a movement and usually indicates a need to improve timing, power, and/or technique.
(If you’re not already working with a knowledgeable, qualified StrongFirst coach, you can find one here.)
But whenever you are doing high-rep movements (especially one-handed ones) and/or if you have a tendency towards particularly sweaty hands, you’re likely to get at least some degree of callus development…. and the worst thing you could do at that point is ignore it.
If you ignore your calluses, they will not magically get smaller and politely go away. They will grow, and then, some day when you least expect it and least desire it, they will rip.
Then, you will be in pain.
You will also have open wounds on your hands that will be at risk of infection and that will prevent you from training for at least several days.
This is not good, and you will have only yourself to blame.
Speaking just for myself, I don’t even want to risk it. It’s better to take the time each day to care for my hands so that they remain smooth, happy, and tear free.
So here are a few things I have started integrating into my hand-care routine:
- Yep, I still use that pumice stone every day in my shower.
- There are two moisturizers that can’t be beat: Corn Huskers Lotion and coconut oil. I use them both regularly, though not at the same time. Typically, I’ll apply some coconut oil in the morning after my shower, and then use Corn Huskers Lotion through the day and again before bed.
- Trust me: get some 180-grit sandpaper. Yep, you read that correctly: sandpaper. Whereas many of the various filing tools available for foot calluses are way too wide and awkward for the contours of my hands, the bendable nature of sandpaper makes it perfect for the job: I just cut it into strips about 2″ by 4″ and use it to file away anywhere that needs some TLC. When needed, I spend some time in the evening using sandpaper on the callus-prone areas of my hands, followed by the aforementioned bedtime application of Corn Huskers Lotion.
- An emery board is also a great portable hand-care tool: the coarser side is much better at working on the contours of a hand than, for instance, a Pedi-egg or callus filer.
Ever since I started with this routine, my hands have been happy and soft, but still tough enough for high-volume workouts and heavy lifting.