One of the biggest reasons you come to Muscle & Strength every month is because you care about your body.
Whether you join us for the great content and information that will help you develop your body or to buy your favorite supplements, you obviously care about how you look and feel or else you would be looking at something else right now.
You also probably aren’t solely focused on one bodypart either. You want everything to be at its best including your chest, back, hands, shoulders, etc.
“Wait…did you say hands?”
Yes I did. What? You don’t do anything for your hands. Really? Are they not a part of your body? Should you not care about how your hands look and feel? Of course you should.
Before you start questioning my sanity, this is not going to be a hand or finger training article. This is about hand care. It really is something that should be taken seriously by more people. You only get one pair of them. You need them for almost every function in everyday life.
Related: How to Increase Your Grip Strength
Have you seen how beaten and torn some of these mitts are? Calluses and torn skin are among the repercussions that come with picking things up and putting them down. It would be nice if you could go to shake someone’s hand and that person pull their hand back without feeling friction.
So how can you take better care of them? These tips will help you do right by your hands.
If you’re someone like a doctor who is going to be using their hands to touch other people, then it might be best for you to wear full finger lifting gloves when you train. Wearing gloves can protect the skin from scrapes and cuts that can come from many sets of holding on to and lifting a very gnarly bar.
Make sure you find a pair that is snug so they won’t wrinkle up on you when you go to grab an object. Although they should be a little tight, they should also be comfortable.
Keep Chalk Use to a Minimum
I know if you compete in weightlifting or powerlifting that you can’t compete with gloves. Chalk is an awesome accessory to have, because of how it helps us maintain a solid grip of the bar. Lifters keep plenty in stock of it.
However, one of the side effects of chalk is that it dries out the skin. So applying it between every set isn’t going to be very beneficial. Minimize how often you apply it and save it for your bigger sets. Not only will this minimize the impact that the chalk has on your skin, but it will also save you money because you’ll have to buy less chalk.
After your training session is over, wash your hands thoroughly and make sure you apply some form of high quality hand lotion so your skin can recover and stay healthy. The kind of lotion you would want will be dependent on your own preferences, but I would recommend applying it twice a day: upon waking up and after your workout is over. This will prevent your hands from being dry and the skin starting to flake.
Most of us have at least a couple of calluses on our hands after all the years of clanging and banging with the iron. We almost look at them as badges of honor, right?
Calluses are thicker portions of skin that develop after lots of friction at that specific area. It acts as a reinforced protective barrier to help protect that area from being exposed again.
You can take care of calluses by using a fingernail file, or even sandpaper, to file them down so they are even with the rest of the skin instead of having that irritating bump. If there’s extra skin from a callus, you might be tempted to pull on the skin. Don’t do it. You’ll possibly rip too much skin which can lead to cracks in the skin and possibly infection.
If you do have calluses already, then every time you train you run the risk of possibly tearing one or more of them. If this happens then you could start bleeding. If you start bleeding, stop training, immediately clean the area, and treat it with ointment and a bandage.
As hardcore as it might be to keep going with your workout before treating it, you would be touching equipment that has been handled by many people and you run the risk of an infection. You also could potentially be risking infecting others yourself, so do the right thing and get the wound treated. Now the question is what about the torn skin?
You might be tempted to keep it simple and rip it off, but the right approach is to take scissors and cut it off. This will prevent extra ripping and cracking around the area. Make sure you apply ointment and change the bandage every day until it heals.
If after you treat the torn callus, you decide you’re able to deal with the irritation and pain to continue training, wear a glove or some form of protection on your hand. You don’t want to tear another callus or potentially do more damage to the one you’ve already torn.
Hand Function Care
I didn’t just want to cover vanity when it comes to hand care. Over the years, I’ve seen numerous great athletes suffer from the wear and tear of their craft, eventually paying the price in the form of arthritis that affects how they use their hands. So now that you know how to treat the skin of your hands, let’s cover how to treat the muscles and joints in them.
Massaging your hands can be beneficial just like it would for you to go to have a massage for your back, legs, or the rest of your body. To do this yourself, you just hold out your hand with fingers straight and use your opposing thumb to massage your palm and each individual finger, as well as the places in between your fingers. When you finish with the first hand make sure you do the same for the other.
Although doing it on your own will help more than not doing it at all, it would be even better if you have your hands treated by a massage therapist. If you go to an appointment, talk to the therapist about your hands and having some time devoted to them.
No, I am not suggesting treating your hands like you would chest or back and training them on their own day. What I am suggesting is before you get in to your work sets include hand warm ups along with the other preworkout protocols you follow. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated. This is a strategy that could work for you and it shouldn’t take longer than a couple of minutes.
Related: Warming Up for Dummies
Hold your arms straight out in front of you so you can see your hands. Do 10 reps of making a fist with both hands. Take your time doing this.
Next straighten out your fingers. Slowly separate them so they are stretched as far apart as possible. Hold this stretch for a second and return your hands to the starting position. Repeat this pattern for 10 reps.
Claw Stretch – This helps with range of motion in your fingers. Hold your hand out with your palm facing you. Bend your fingers so your tips touch the base of the finger joint. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat with the other hand.
Grip Exercise – Find a tennis ball or other small soft object. Squeeze it and hold it for a couple of seconds. Release the pressure and repeat for 10 reps. Repeat with the other hand.
Finally, place your hands flat on a table or other level surface. While keeping your fingers together, pull your thumb away as far as you can without feeling serious pain. Hold that stretch for 10-15 seconds. Repeat with the other hand.
It might not be something you thought much about, but as much as we use our hands it would serve us well to take better care of them. Not only for the purpose of maximizing gains by being able to use them, but also for long term use and quality of life. These tips should help you on both fronts. If you have any extra tips of your own, share them with us in the comments.