To a certain degree, ripping your hands is inevitable. If you’re swinging around on bars doing 100 pull-ups or toes-to-bar and then throwing a kettlebell around, what do you expect?
Sometimes they hit you out of the blue. You look down at your hands after a workout and notice a giant blood blister has formed. Other times, you can feel one coming on—it starts with some shifting skin that crinkles a bit, and if you keep going, the skin tears right off leaving you with a gaping rip.
Either way, the questions become: “What do I do now?”
Pop the blister or let it resolve of its own volition? Cut the dangling skin from your hand? Keep the rip moist or let it dry out?
To Pop or Not to Pop?
When I was in gymnastics, my coach’s advice, which I followed on a number of occasions, was to get a needle and thread and poke a hole in one side of my blister and string it through to the other side. Then I’d go to bed with thread through two holes on either side of my blister.
The idea with this was that it allowed the blister to dry out a bit so I could get back on the bars the next day with less pain. It sure beats hopping onto the bar and having the blister pop and rip the next day. Not only would this get blood on the bars, but it would make for a much more painful bar session. (Not doing bars because of a blister or rip was unheard of for a young gymnast.)
So, if you absolutely need to touch the bar, kettlebells, or a barbell the next day, this might be the way to go.
But if you’re not a hardcore gymnast and you can avoid heavy gripping movements for the next day or so, then it might be better to let the blister be. It will dry out on its own and when it rips once it’s dry, it’s considerably less painful than when a fresh blister pops and rips.
To Trim or Not to Trim?
If the skin is dangling, and if you plan on continuing to workout with your hands that day or the following day, use some scissors and cut the loose skin as close to your hand as you can. If you leave even a small piece dangling, you run the risk of it pulling back even further and becoming an even deeper, more painful rip.
After you cut the dangling skin, use some sandpaper or a pumice stone to gently smooth the edges so you don’t leave skin protruding higher than the rip. This will stop the skin from pulling back even further as discussed above.
Wet or Dry?
The goal: You want it not too wet, not too dry, but just right.
If it’s too wet because you gave it a good dose of Polysporin, sometimes the wound will remain more moist, raw, and more painful than it should be.
On the other hand, if it’s too dry, then you run the risk of cracking your skin and forming an even deeper rip within your original rip.
Thus, the best way is to put some sort of ointment on it right away. I like Ript Skin Systems’ Quick Fix. They also sell a pumice stone that’s useful for keeping your calluses thin and pliable. Keep it on overnight but don’t cover the rip. It’ll be just enough to keep it the right amount of moisture in the rip.
If you cover it at night, it’ll be way more tender in the morning than if you leave it to air out. Then you can reassess in the morning. If the rip looks and feels really dry when you wake up, put a bit more product on it and leave it be. If it doesn’t look insanely dry, then keep it as is and leave it uncovered.
If you’re doing 150 chest-to-bar pull-ups, you’re probably going to rip. But, most of the time you don’t need to rip, and you can do a lot of things to help keep those rips from happening in the first place.
- Keep the Calluses Thin: That’s what fine grain sandpaper or pumice stone is for. When you feel your calluses getting thick, especially the ones at the base of your fingers, sand them down a bit.
- The Right Amount of Moisture: Same for moisture. You don’t want your hands too dry, but also not too moist, so pay attention to the state of your skin. Make sure you always wash your hands after you have chalk on them—not doing so leads to dry skin. On the flipside, if your hands are naturally oily, consider avoiding that moisturizer before bed. However, if they’re often dry, moisturize away.
- Use Tape: Taping your hands is a great preventative measure before any hand-based workout—or you can buy a pair of gymnastics grips, but I find tape works just as well. Check out this article I wrote about ways to tape your hands for prevention.
Do What Makes Sense
Keep your hands healthy and avoid as many rips as possible. When unavoidable, follow the steps to heal them up quickly so you can get back on those kettlebells and barbells.
Any more questions, come chat with us!