Many people have recently found out about the importance of including Grip Strength in their routines on a regular basis. Once you begin strengthening your Grip (everything from the elbow down) it can be pretty amazing the level of improvement you are able to see.
For instance, when I first started training for grip strength, I was still primarily interested in muscle building and countless variations of curls were staples of my routine. I was very surprised when out of nowhere back in early 2004, I was able to curl 90-lb Dumbbells while seated with fairly strict form:
My early grip training was based around developing the strength to tear a deck of cards, yet the carryover from a broad variety of grip drills led to a pretty amazing milestone in the Dumbbell Curl for me.
But this is not the only type of improvement that can be seen when you finally start strengthening your lower arms and hands. For some people, they are able to see dramatic improvement in very different parts of their training. I have received emails from people who are no longer dropping deadlifts, are holding hand stands longer than ever before, and many other great things since adding regular grip training into their routine.
However, one thing that often gets in people’s way when they do their grip training is skin tears. Whether it is skin on the thumb from doing a lot of pinch work, Two Hands Pinch or Loose Pinch with several 10-lb Plates, or maybe a ripped callus from doing support grip work like Farmer’s Walk Training, a skin tear can really set you back.
I Was Lucky
I was actually pretty lucky myself, not to have sustained a major skin tear to my calluses in one of this week’s workouts. I was testing my current strength levels in the Double Overhand Deadlift. I was very pleased to have locked out 500-lbs, but after the workout, it was clear that I had been neglecting my skin care as a couple of mature calluses nearly pulled off on my last attempt. You’ll see in the video, I savored the lock-out at the top and held a bit longer than normal and this is what nearly broke a callus loose.
This is what my hands looked like after this workout.
You can see that on my left hand, the callus at the base of my ring finger and pinky finger were the two that came closest to tearing. The one on the base of the middle finger looks bad but was nothing compared to the other two. The ring and pinky calluses were actually inflamed and bothered me, so even though they don’t look horrible, they certainly felt it. On the right hand, pretty much all four calluses were lit up like this. The ones at the base of my index finger actually came loose on the outer layers of skin. The callus below the middle finger came pretty close as well.
Skin Care to Prevent Callus Tears
There are many tools and products out there to help take care of calluses. Ranging from inexpensive skin files to more expensive gadgets like the Ped Egg, you have more than enough options.
However, I do not use any of those conventional items. First off, I don’t have the patience to mess with a a file on my calluses, and the Ped Egg never seems to hit my calluses just right. This thing is designed to be used on the feet anyway, where the callused region is much larger, and it always seems like the Ped Egg is hitting other parts of my palm or fingers that do not need that kind of work. So again, I don’t use them. SO what DO I use?
Some people are surprised to hear that I use a normal shaving razor. Yes, you shave your excess skin right off your hand and prevent callus tears to a degree.
The type of razor that you use is not very important. I have used everything from the more specialized facial shaving razors with two, three, and even four blades, all the way down to the disposable razors that you can buy in bunches at dollar stores.
They all work fine as long as you follow these steps:
Step 1: Get Your Hands Wet
The hands must be wet in order to take care of the calluses properly. You can do this by simply submersing them in the sink for a few minutes. Again, that is a bit boring for me, so I just do it in the shower. After a good shower of 10 minutes or so, when your hands get really soaked, the extra dead skin will turn white, allowing you to see it very well. This is my wet hand and you can see some white skin regions, but the lighting wasn’t great, so it didn’t come through perfectly. You will see what I mean when you do this.
Step 2: Using the Razor
Once the hands have reached the right degree of moistness and you can see the white, dead skin, you can take your razor and lightly cut that away.
I like to go both horizontally and vertically over the callus several times in order to get all of the callus tissue removed. In addition to the white areas, other targets you will look for will be spots on the callused regions that even after a good soaking are still very hard and rough. These spots will catch on knurling and rip off easily, so give them a little buffing as well with the razor.
Of course, you need to use your head when you do this. Don’t continue cutting all the way through the body of the callus and into your virgin skin. The callus is there to protect that skin. You only should chip away the extra, useless skin, that runs the risk of catching on a knurled bar and ripping the entire callus off.
Once you’re done, your hands should look much different. You may even notice a shine to your calluses. This is because the razor somewhat polishes the thicker callus tissue, giving it a new luster.
This is the tactic I have used for nearly 10 years in caring for my calluses and preventing skin tears. It has served me well so I encourage you to try it. Be careful though, as I am not responsible if you go to deep and damage your lower dermis levels or somehow else injure yourself.
Important: Calluses & Vertical Bar
Please take note that you must be very careful to not over-prune your calluses if you do vertical bar work. If you cut them too short, your grip on the vertical bar will feel completely different. This is a mistake I made prior to a very early Grip Contest I did and my numbers suffered because of it.
I hope this helps you out to prevent nasty callus tears. They sting like a bastard and just mess you up both technique-wise and mentally because you end up thinking about them too much instead of the event at hand. What do they say? An ounce of Prevention is worth a pound of Cure? In this case, that’s true.
All the best in your training,
P.S. Check out the DVD I am re-releasing, The Sh*t You’ve Never Seen. All live training footage with a few highlight reels, voiceovers, and effects added in. This thing will get you pumped up for your next workout.