The formation of calluses on your hands are an inevitable and necessary part of training. Typically the skin on the palm of your hands, right below the fingers will thicken and harden as a result of training to form a layer of armor to protect your hands from tears and blisters.
Deadlifts, chin ups, pull ups, barbell rows, or just about any exercise that involves gripping a bar or handle and pulling it will product calluses. When you grip a bar or handle and pull it, there will be pressure applied on the area of the palm that’s just below your fingers. The skin will be pinched in between the bar (or handle) and your fingers, and over time, calluses will develop as a response to this stress.
The thing is, if your hands aren’t cared for correctly, the calluses can become a nuisance during your workouts, and at worst, rip right off. A callus tear will take time to heal, interfere with your existing training, and is generally a pain in the butt.
I’m going to show you how to minimize the formation of calluses on your hands, and how to manage them once you have them.
How To Grip The Bar
How the bar is gripped in the palm of your hands will have an impact on callus formation.
Placing the bar at the crease of where the fingers meet the palm will minimize the formation of calluses. There will be less skin pinched in between the bar and your fingers compared to gripping the bar where the bar is in the middle of the palm.
If you look at the pictures below, you can see how gripping the bar so that it is closer towards the fingers will minimize any sort of skin-pinching, and how gripping the bar so that it’s in the palm of the hands will result in a lot of palm flesh being pinched:
More Secure, But Callus-Prone Grip
Less Secure, But Less Callus-Prone Grip
The downside of gripping in this fashion is that the grip itself is not as secure as gripping the bar where it sits in the middle of your palm, mainly because you can’t wrap as much of your fingers around the bar. If you’re in a powerlifting competition and you’re about to deadlift a weight that would be a personal best, you probably want all the advantage you can get and don’t want the bar slipping out of your hands. In this case, you may want to sacrifice a less callus-prone grip for a more secure grip.
But this is usually not an issue for most pulling exercises if you’re performing multiple reps at sub-maximal weights. In other words, everyday training.
What About Weight Lifting Gloves?
Gloves have been getting a bad reputation in the last few years, but they will help minimize the formation of calluses. It does come with a few tradeoffs though.
Gloves will increase the diameter of the bar or handle, making it thicker and more difficult to get a secure grip.
Your hands will sweat throughout the workout, which will be absorbed into the gloves. If you don’t wash your gloves on a regular basis, they will smell bad.
The durability of weightlifting gloves are an issue. Over repeated use and washing, they will eventually fall apart.
You don’t get a full “feel” of the bar, and can’t fully appreciate the weight in your hands.
An entire glove, with some sort of fabric wrapping around the back side of the hands is unnecessary for the purposes of preventing calluses. An alternative to weight lifting gloves that I have found effective and long lasting are neoprene pads.
It’s really just a pad made of neoprene that’s about the size of my palm. I use them occasionally for chin ups, pull ups or any other non-deadlift pulling exercises if I don’t manage my calluses correctly and they’re causing me pain, or if I want to add an extra layer of thickness to the bar in order to make it more challenging for my grip, I’ll use these pads.
How To Remove Calluses From Your Hands
Here’s the thing: you actually don’t want to remove the entire callus from your hands. As mentioned earlier, the callus acts as a layer of armor to protect your hands from tears and blisters. You want to leave a thin layer behind when you groom your hands.
Regular hand care will make sure that your callus growth doesn’t get out of hand (pun intended).
There are many ways to remove calluses from your hands, but this is how I do it:
End Of The Shower Hand Care
The best time to start the process of grooming your hands is towards the end of your shower. The reason why is because the skin on your palms will already be soft and moist from the water, which will make it a lot easier to scrub off the calluses.
Also, adding some hand maintenance to your current “shower routine” is easy. It only takes a minute (at most), and it piggybacks on an existing, regular habit.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Some Sort Of Metal File or Cheese Grater Designed For Your Hands Or Feet
This can be a foot rasp, a “Ped Egg”, or any other host of pedicure products designed to file away at calluses.
2. Pumice Stone
This is basically an abrasive rock (which can be natural or artificial) used to smooth out rough skin. Personally I prefer to use a pumice stone that’s attached to a handle. With a handle, it’s a little easier to use, and I can get a bit more leverage with the handle to apply pressure when grinding away at my calluses.
3. Some Moisturizer
You can use a hand balm or hand cream, but personally I’ve found that body lotion does the job.
I generally start with the tool that will take off bigger chunks of skin first, then file it down for a smooth finish.
Towards the end of the shower, take the foot rasp and start filling away at the callus. I usually start side-to-side across my palm, and then up and down from the bottom of my palm up to the top of each finger. If necessary, spend some extra time filing away at the thicker, rougher, more pronounced calluses.
Depending on the type of tool you use, you may see some sort of white paste on the blades. This paste is the skin you’ve just filed off! It’s kind of gross, but cool at the same time.
Once you’re done scrubbing away the big chunks, use a pumice stone to smooth out the skin on your hands. Side-to-side across the palms, followed by scrubbing up and down from the base of the palm to the tip of the fingers.
As a bonus, once you’re done taking care of your hands in the shower, you can use the same tools and methods to take care of your feet!
The feet take a lot of abuse, and thick, rough skin on the soles can be a result of daily use. Plus, these tools are designed for the skin your feet anyways, so why not use them for their intended purpose?
It only takes another minute or so to file away and smooth the bottom of your feet (provided that they’re not in that rough of shape), and I’m sure your significant other (or future significant other) will appreciate soft soles.
Once you’re out of the shower, moisturize with a hand moisturizer.
The entire process takes up very little time, and have kept my hands relatively smooth with minimal callus buildup.
Here’s a before and after picture of not taking care of my hands for a week, followed by a picture of my hands after I followed the steps above:
Usually I’ll only use the pumice stone to keep my calluses in check, but if they end up getting too rough and thick, I’ll a more abrasive tool such as the metal foot rasp.
Well, there you have it. With an adjustment to your grip during pulling exercises, along with regular hand care done towards the end of your shower, you will minimize the formation of calluses on your hands and keep your palms soft and silky smooth.