What are our hands? At their most simplest point you could say they’re just 5 digits attached to a fleshy flat part which attaches to our wrist and then our forearm… This crude description may be somewhat accurate, but our hands are a whole lot more. They allow us to feel, touch and engage with our environment and are very much at the centre of our day to day lives. That is why we must take care of them, and even more so when engaging in kettlebell work and other weightlifting activities, as the risk of injury is more prevalent.
With our hands being such an integral part of how we operate on a day to day basis, having a hand or two out of action can severely impair our lives as well as limiting our ability to train.
Kettlebell training is a fantastic way to build overall strength (including grip strength) however due to the nature of some of the exercises (swings, cleans, snatches etc.) the skin on our hands can take quite a battering. As the bell handle passes through our hands it causes friction between the skin and the handle, which is what causes our calluses to form and to grow bigger. Having calluses is good, as they protect our hands, however having calluses that are too big are a problem as the excess skin gets pulled by the handle and if not carefully managed will end up with the callus being torn either partially or right through OUCH!!
Blisters are also another common enemy, especially for people new to kettlebell training. Blisters occur when you’ve exceeded your hands ability to adapt to the stimulus and end up damaging the layers of skin in your hand. Blisters are avoidable with proper technique and building up volume slowly. Not jumping in and doing 100 swings the first time you’ve picked up a bell!
So what do we do about this?
This is where handcare comes in, if you take care of your hands properly you’ll be able to spend more time in the gym getting stronger, and less time nursing a busted hand.
Firstly maintain your calluses, this can be done with a pumice stone during or after having a shower when the skin is softer. Having the hands a bit soapy helps the stone glide over the calluses easier and allows you to work the thickness down at a more manageable rate. Work in a circular motion and concentrate on any small tears and work the callus down to an even level. Don’t grind away all of the skin!! Maintain the callus so that it’s there to protect your hands, we’re just working it down so that it won’t get pulled by the handle of the kettlebell.
Other options like a razor blade and foot callus remover are available however I recommend using the pumice stone as it’s easier to manage how much skin you take off, and its also safer…
Secondly use moisteriser. Some guys may shy away from this but it does make a big difference, especially during winter as our skin tends to be bit dryer. There’s nothing nice about having dry, scaly and cracked hands (on top of torn calluses and blisters). Any hand moisteriser will do, using after you’ve pumiced your hands and or before bed will help keep the skin soft, pliable and stronger reducing the risk of cracks and tears.
What if I tear a callus?
This will happen to most people who use kettlebells from time to time, especially those doing higher volume work and snatches. Training with a torn callus is not advisable, rest from ballistic kettlebell work is advised but other training may still be achievable if it can be done without further damaging the hand. Taping your hand to cover the exposed skin is recommended, whilst there are also many products out on the market that are designed to help expedite the healing process. I’ve used a few different products and they’ve all worked quite well.
Hand Care or hand maintenance should become a part of your weekly routine if you train regularly with weights and kettlebells. Once or twice a week is generally fine for most people however with high volume work for snatches or heavy swings etc. maintenance might be required more frequently during the week.
If you take care of your hands, they will take care of you and you will spend more time in the gym doing the things that you love.