by Ryan Fu •
CrossFitters often revel in the fact that our workouts have bloodied our hands. “We’re such badasses! We’re SO hardcore!” But let’s call a spade a spade: IT IS NOT “COOL” TO HAVE CHUNKS OF OUR SKIN RIPPED FROM OUR HANDS.
Flayed skin is not a badge of bad-assery. It does not mean that you are tougher or better at working out. And it most definitely does not mean that CrossFit, lifting and/or gymnastics should be avoided because of the possibility that the skin on your hands might get torn.
All it means is that:
- You’re a soft-handed newbie who hasn’t yet had the chance to build up thicker skin on your fingers and palms to protect them from tearing, or
- You’re not giving your hands the T.L.C. they need to keep from getting shredded.
Torn skin is painful and annoying, and may put you out of commission for a spell. And THAT is unequivocally un-hardcore.
My first encounter with shredded hands occurred shortly after starting CrossFit, back when the roughest activity my hands saw was an occasional difficult-to-open jar of spaghetti sauce. And my latest (and greatest) rip was during yesterday’s Mary WOD, after neglecting proper hand care for weeks. Over the past year, I’ve experienced minor tears and major ones. In this post, I’m going to discuss what I could (and should) have done to prevent bloody hand, and what treatment options are available to those of us unfortunate enough to gash open our hands doing high-rep pull-ups, kettlebell snatches and the like.
Those who are new to gymnastics, weightlifting or CrossFit in general often start with soft, callus-free hands. Ideally, to reduce the likelihood of hand tears, beginners should try to gradually build up calluses (through — what else? — handling bars) to the point where the skin on their palms and fingers are tough and thick — but smooth. Once some skin-thickening is achieved, the goal is to keep any calluses filed down. The goal is have a consistent, smooth palm surface, without noticeable ridges or fluctuating thicknesses of skin. A raised, rough callus will eventually blister and tear away from the surrounding skin, ripping open your hands and making a bloody mess. A general rule of thumb: If you can pinch a raised edge of the callus, it needs to be filed down. Constant vigilance and regular hand care is key to preventing tears.
You can use a number of different tools to keep your calluses in check, including:
- A nail file;
- A callus/corn shaver;
- Cuticle scissors;
- A pumice stone;
- A dull razor blade;
- A butter knife; or A Dremel tool(!)
Grip & Technique
A lot of CrossFitters rip open their hands doing high-rep bar movements: kipping pull-ups, clean-and-jerks, snatches. But there are ways to tweak your technique to reduce the chances of a nasty tear.
First, use the right grip.
When working with a barbell, some folks are inclined to grip the bar across the middle of their palms. This, unfortunately, squishes the fleshy pad below the base of your fingers against the bar, causing discomfort, added friction, blisters, and worse. A better way to go is to grip the barbell across the base of your fingers — where the metacarpals meet the proximal phalanges.
I’m using Neosporin, but there are, of course, lots of other remedies that people swear by, including:
Three years ago, Jean Stewart began to feel old. A proud woman, she realized she needed to make a change in her life to improve her long-term health.
“I see people who are stooped over and old, in their 60s and 70s,” Stewart says. “I don’t want to be that way. I was losing function for everyday living, stooped over and lifting things improperly. I just wanted to live my life (and be) healthy.”
As a retired physical education teacher, she’s always had a passion for fitness, but became bored in physical therapy-type exercise classes. Worst of all, she was tired of being treated like an old person who was incapable of physical activity. So, at the age of 83, Stewart decided to reinvent herself.
“She came walking into the gym with our newspaper ad folded under her arm and handed it to us,” remembers Cheryl Cohen, founder, owner and head trainer of Desert CrossFit in Palm Desert, Calif. “I asked her what she wanted from CrossFit and she said, ‘Well, I would like an easier time in the garden, getting down and getting back up again. I’d like to be able to move the 20-lb. bag of potting soil.’”
Unsure of the environment she’d entered, Stewart figured she had nothing to lose. Cohen assured her she could thrive at Desert CrossFit.
Credit: Huntersville Crossfit
If you watched the recent Crossfit Games, there is a good chance you noticed some athletes donning multi-colored tape strips and patches on various body parts. It was quite noticeable on those more scantily-clad, such as beach volleyball and track and field athletes. In fact, one volleyball gal looked like she had the Michigan football “winged” helmet decal emblazoned across her abs.
This stuff is called Kinesiology or Kinesio tape. A bit of history:
Kinesio tape has actually been around for quite a while. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist, designed the tape and taping method back in 1979. Kase believed a flexible tape would stimulate better circulation to an injured muscle due to its tug on the skin. Traditional tape and taping methods were thought to be too restrictive and even exacerbate injuries as a result of the inhibited flow of inflammatory fluids under the skin.
Does Kinesio tape actually expedite recovery from muscle injury, or is it also used to enhance performance? If solely used for injuries, there must have been dozens of wounded Olympians competing. My guess is the tape is used for performance benefits as well. If so, does it work or is it yet another gimmick one must use to “keep up with the Joneses?”
A study conducted in Italy attempted to determine the immediate effects of kinesio taping on maximal muscle strength of the dominant quadriceps of 36 healthy subjects. Subjects were tested across three different sessions, randomly receiving three experimental kinesiotaping conditions:
Tape applied with the goal of enhancing muscle strength.
Tape applied with the goal of inhibiting muscle strength.
Tape applied incorrectly with the goal to deceive.
Quadriceps muscle strength was measured by means of an isokinetic maximal test performed at 60 and 180 degrees per second. Two secondary outcome measures were also performed: a one-leg triple jump for distance to measure leg performance and the Global Rating of Change Scale to calculate the correlation between the Kinesio taping technique and the subjective perception of strength.
Here is what they found:
None of the three taping conditions showed a significant change in muscle strength and performance. The effect size was very low under all conditions. Only a few subjects showed an individual change greater than the minimal detectable change. Global Rating of Change Scale scores demonstrated low to moderate correlation with the type of taping applied, but some placebo effects were detected independent of the condition.
This study concluded no significant effect in maximal quadriceps strength immediately after the application of enhancing, inhibiting, or deceptive Kinesio taping. Therefore, the test results do not support the use of Kinesio taping as a means of altering maximal muscle strength in healthy people.
That stated, there are also those skeptical about the Kinesio taping’s effect. According to Dr. Nicholas Fletcher, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Emory University, there are few large scientific studies regarding its effectiveness. Dr. Fletcher stated, “I think, if anything, there is a placebo effect involved, and there probably is a little bit of a peer pressure effect. When people see athletes who are doing so well, they think, ‘Maybe this could work for me.’”
What Makes kinesiology tape Special? – Elasticity
In most cases, kinesiology tape is comprised of flexible nylon and cotton fibers; this allows the tape to provide a “snap-back” effect, producing a neuromuscular response underneath the skin where the tape is applied. Through recent fascial research, it has been shown that pulling on the skin can create widespread effects within the body.
Myofascia is a very important piece in the taping game (this is what you are effecting when you roll out and mobilize). Obviously, the health of your myofascia is pivotal to promoting proper movement patterns. When kinesiology tape is applied to the skin, it creates a neurological response, providing a change in the way that my0fascia functions, thus changing the way that movement patterns are performed. We can essentially allow for better muscle activation and promote better movement patterns with the support of kinesiology tape.
This elasticity also creates a lifting effect on the skin to allow for better lymphatic drainage and blood flow. These are two pivotal components in allowing for swelling drainage and tissue nutrient restoration during the healing process.
Kinesiology tapes use a superior adhesive (it varies depending on the tape brand) that allows for superior support over long periods of time and under extreme conditions. This adhesiveness allows for the tape to withstand water, sweat, mud, etc. without coming off or losing support. The brands above promote the fact that you can, in fact, go swimming wearing kinesiology tape.
How is this possible? Kinesiology tape provides a stimulus in the skin that externally supports damaged tissue and allows for better circulation for faster healing. This is why wearing tape after intense workouts or acute injuries provides faster recovery.
Lymphatic Drainage/Swelling Reduction
Kinesiology tape is unique in its ability to create a lifting effect on the skin to allow for better lymphatic drainage in areas of swelling. This can have a dramatic effect on recovery time after a workout and healing of damaged tissue after injury.
One of the most important aspects of rehabilitation is movement. This is pivotal because it provides blood flow and drainage in the areas of injury to allow for faster healing. It also reduces the amount of muscle atrophy or withering away that can occur after and injury. White athletic tape restricts range of motion and deactivates muscles; whereas, kinesiology tape promotes muscle activation, while maintaining support. This allows for proper movement patterns even with injury and allows for a much faster healing process.
Things come and go in the fitness industry – ankle weights, salt tablets, compression garments, toning shoes, sauna suits, ad nauseam. Some even come back. Kinesio taping may be the classical case of revisiting the past.
Does Kinesio taping facilitate recovery for injured muscles? I do not know. Does it enhance athletic performance? We need more research to determine that. What’s your experience? Let us know in the comments below.
Life is never stagnation. It is constant movement, unrhythmic movement, as we as constant change. Things live by moving and gain strength as they go.
The Olympics is able to capture the imaginations of countries around the world. Though sometimes due to, in no small part, how freaking buff these people are. Every historical trend in world record performances has been positive, meaning that we (a very subjective word) as Olympians have only been getting harder/better/faster/stronger every year! It boggles the mind to think that every year someone one-ups the past by just enough to progress the world record.
Credit: Daily Infographic
Introducing the New Orleans Saints’ newest cheerleader — a 40-year-old mother of two.
Mississippi’s Kriste Lewis fended off tough competition from women nearly than half her age to win a spot on the coveted Saintsations team for 2014/15.
The long-time dance instructor, who has 14- and 11-year-old sons, decided to try out for the NFL troop after celebrating her landmark birthday.
She was also inspired by her serious health issue to win one of 36 places.
Age is just a number