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The Ultimate Guide to Treating Hand Rips for CrossFit Athletes

Posted by: Jessica King

If you’re a CrossFit athlete, you’ve inevitably been in the gym and gotten a hand rip. As anyone who works out knows, this is the last thing you want and can be super frustrating on a number of levels. First of all, rips slow down your progress -- you know you won’t be able to get as good of a workout in. They can also be quite painful. The length of time it takes a rip to heal will also affect your future workouts and overall fitness regimen or goals you’re working toward.

Obviously, preventing hand rips from the outset is always a priority, and there are several things you can do to protect yourself. It’s also important, though, to learn the proper way to treat a hand rip so that it heals as quickly as possible. With this in mind, RIPT compiled a CrossFit guide to treating your hand rips so you can get back -- and stay -- in the gym.

What Are Hand Rips?

Let’s start with a few basics. Hand rips are wounds caused by skin tearing off your hands. The friction created by lifting weights or bars will often lead to rips, which explains why this is one of the more common problems CrossFit athletes come across.

What Makes A Hand Likely To Rip?

According to the CrossFit Journal, there are two main causes of hand rips:

Soft Hands with little or no callus build-up will cause rips.

Remember back to when you first started doing pull-ups or lifting weights. You probably ripped your hands quite often because they were so soft and you had no calluses. Don’t be fooled into thinking calluses are all bad. Calluses are produced by friction and are the body’s way of protecting itself.

Too much callus buildup will also cause rips.

A callus is a thick, rough, and raised are of the skin caused by friction and pressure. The more you work out with a bar and lift weights, the more calluses you’ll begin to develop. The problem is that when calluses get too thick and form a cliff or rough edge on your hands, they are much more susceptible to ripping.

Steps To Treating Your CrossFit Hand Rip

So you’ve gotten a rip -- now what? Follow these easy steps.

  1. Clean your hand with soap and water. Gently rub soap and water around the affected area, but not directly in it. Some people will tell you to clean it with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol, but that’s a common myth, and some case studies have indicated this can actually harm the tissue. There’s no need to use scalding hot water, either.
  2. Trim excess skin. Any extra skin hanging off the side could easily catch on something and further aggravate the tear, so be sure to cut off any jagged pieces.
  3. Apply RIPT’s Quick Fix with a bandage. You might be tempted to reach for a topical antibiotic to put on your cleaned wound, but studies have shown that this has no actual effect on healing time.You do, however, want to keep your hand moisturized, as letting it dry out could slow down the healing time. Studies have indicated that a moist, covered wound can help blood vessels regenerate quicker and stop inflammation, as opposed to wounds that are left to “air out.” RIPT’s QUICK FIX is an all-natural formula that contains essential oils known to decrease inflammation and nourish the skin cells while they work to close the wound.

  4. Stop working out.  You might be tempted to keep working out as usual, but you’re only slowing your own progress. "Working out with torn hands and open blisters exposes you to bacteria that can slow healing and cause infection," says C. Shante Cofield, doctor of physical therapy and movement specialist. According to a National Institute of Health journal article, there are four phases of wound healing. While inflammation is a normal, necessary phase in the healing process, the presence of bacteria in the wound can lead to a longer inflammation phase, which delays the new skin tissue in regrowing.
  5. Moisturize. It’s important to continue to keep the wound moist. You want to use Quick Fix until you can run your hands under hot water without pain. Quick Fix comes in a handy tube that you can put in your pocket so it’s convenient to constantly apply throughout the day. Then switch to Daily Dose as an ongoing solution to keep calluses pliable and your hands from ripping.
  6. Let the new skin grow. The big key to quick healing is to make sure the new, thin skin that grows over the rip doesn’t crack again. If the skin cracks then it will have to re-grow, adding another few days of healing time. You want the skin to heal with your hand wide open, otherwise, new skin will grow with a closed hand, and when you open it, the skin will crack. One trick is to sleep with your hands open, which can be done by taping your fingers to a stick.

CrossFit Rip Prevention

Even with the best prevention methods, skin has a natural threshold. In fact, many athletes find that between 65-85 reps on a bar will cause skin to rip regardless of preventative measures. It’s still good practice to do what you can before stepping into the gym, though, so below are two major steps you can take to prevent rips.

Shape and smooth your calluses.

According to Devin Glage, co-founder of RIPT, the key to preventing rips is in the shaping and smoothing of your calluses. You want them thick enough to protect your hands, but smooth and supple enough so they don’t catch on the bars or weights. So you’re looking for a smooth, slightly-rounded callus that doesn’t have any hard or jagged edges. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends filing the callus with a pumice stone to remove the dead skin. You can easily do this with the RIPT Grindstone, which is a synthetic pumice stone. If you have white flaky skin on your hands, then what you need is a grindstone to buff and smooth the skin.The best method for using the grindstone is in the shower when both the stone and the skin are wet. Using light pressure with the grindstone, you can softly shape your calluses so that they still protect your hands but aren’t too thick with hard edges that would cause a rip.

Why is the Grindstone better than other methods?

You might have heard that you can shave, cut, or use a pedicure grater to get rid of your calluses. However, a razor doesn’t give you enough control and you will end up with a convex shape. Using any of these other methods will also create the wrong shape. You’re aiming for a concave shape, which won’t get caught on a bar, rather than a convex shape, which will actually eliminate the protection you want on your hands. You also run the risk of taking off to much skin when you use a razor or other method besides a pumice stone. Removing too much skin can lead to bleeding and infection. A rock-based pumice stone is also too abrasive and will make it hard to achieve the concave shape.

ript callus
Keep hands moisturized.

When thinking about the ideal thickness of your calluses you want to make sure that they are thin enough that you can keep them moisturized. Dry skin is more likely to crack and rip than healthy, moisturized skin. The chalk that you use in the gym will dry out your skin even further. A great solution is applying Daily Dose after your shower every day to hydrate your hands and keep your skin pliable.

It’s important to practice good maintenance of your hands to keep them from ripping as much as possible, but don’t expect to never have a wound as a CrossFit athlete. And the next time you get a rip, follow the above steps so that you can get back to working out at full capacity quicker and safer.

Posted by Jessica King on

Jessica is a former gymnast, gymnastics coach and judge- most of the roles in the sport! She now blogs over at GymnasticsHQ, where she posts tutorials and often hosts challenges to help gymnasts take their skills to the next level. Her website is one of the most popular places to go for information about gymnastics. She hopes her contributions to RIPT will help any sports enthusiast train smarter. After interviewing Devin Glage, the co-founder of RIPT, she has written The Ultimate Guide to Gymnastics Rips: Prevention & Care . As someone who has always valued health and fitness, but now works the desk like it's her job (it is!), Jessica tries to stay active in her free time. She enjoys switching up her workout routine with a variety of cardio and strength training classes as well as hiking and running.

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