Hand Care 101: Preventing the Rip


You’ve started CrossFit and you’re pretty excited about getting your first pull up or showing off your strict pull ups to the other guys.  Your first week, pull ups pop up in the WOD (Workout of the Day) and you can’t wait to get on the bar.  Thirty reps into it, your feel your hands rip and the rest of the workout is pretty much torture.  Despite the pain, you soothe yourself by remembering that these are your “battle wounds” of the workout and consider taking a picture to post to your friends. After the high of your pull up rite of passage, reality sets in. What happens at the next workout? When will your hands even be able to workout next? Let’s take a look at ways you can protect your hands and avoid this tempting, but unfruitful scenario.

Maybe you’ve never attempted pull ups before, or if you have, it may not be the volume that CrossFit can demand. More than likely your hands are tender and just like a new pair of sandals rub blisters on your feet, so the pull up bar will rub and tear your uncalloused skin. Your best defense is to create a buffer between your hands and the bar, lighten the load on the bar and drop off when your hands show signs of ripping. 

The Buffer– When your hands are new to the bar, you want to buffer your skin until your body produces callouses to protect the areas that will be rubbed. This could be using a pair of gloves, gymnastic grips or even taping the hands in the appropriate spots that come in contact with the bar. Mostly this is personal choice and you will want to experiment with different methods until you find one that suits you. Every time a workout includes  pull ups in the skill or WOD portion, try a different method of protecting your hands. You’ll discover fairly quickly the methods that will work for you!

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Lighten the Weight– Another method of protecting your hands early on in your CrossFit experience is to simply take some weight off the bar. When first starting, you are building strength to pull your body weight up to the bar. As a result,  the pressure of your bodyweight hanging down on the bar creates greater friction and thus a higher incidence of ripping. Moving from strict pull ups to kipping pull ups will also increase the amount of friction your hands receive. Add in the movement of your hands, and the volume of a workout, and you have a recipe for rips. Alleviate the pressure by using a band or switching to jumping pull ups. This will lessen the weight and time that your hands are making contact with the bar and thus lower the chance of your hands ripping.

The Drop Off– Depending on the circumstance, your skin will separate a little before it rips. If you can stop before the rip happens, it’s best. Transition over to ring rows to complete your reps when your hands reach the danger zone of ripping. This will save you for the week and you can clip the skin that has loosened after it has healed. This helps avoid the painful bomb craters in your hands which take a couple of weeks to heal. Note: It’s not easy to drop off and finish on the rings especially if someone next to you is still busting the pull ups out. However, you are thinking long term here and if wisdom prevails, you’ll save your hands for tomorrow’s workout.


If you use these three techniques, you can ease your hands into becoming familiar with the bar, allow the body to naturally thicken the area and ultimately reduce or eliminate the bloody mess that can occur when your hands have had too much to handle.  Remember to let your hands date a bit with the bar before diving into a full marriage and you can have the long, satisfying, rip free relationship you’ve always wanted.


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