When I first started working with kettlebells a few years ago, I ran into some serious blister and callous issues while working out my technique-especially with the snatch. There was a point, when I was training for the RKC snatch test, that I had several open wounds on each hand. I had to apply “new skin”, take breaks from training, and wrap my hands with cotton and athletic tape. It was a mess! I aim to spare you all that misery by educating you on proper hand care. Many of you have already complained of callous discomfort and the impending formation of blisters. Let’s put the issue to rest by following these simple steps.
1. Proper Form
No method of hand protection or care can replace proper form. Ballistic drills (such as swings, snatches and push presses) require a loose grip, particularly in the “hook” of the hand. Gripping tightly in the palm when performing ballistic drills will cause friction, blistering and tearing of skin and callouses. The “grinds”, such as presses and TGU’s, require a tight, crushing grip, deep in the palm of the hand. This is to increase stability and neuromuscular connection. Understanding the difference between these two grips is integral to the success of your training and the health of your hands. However, no one has perfect form right out of the gate, and we all make mistakes. While you are learning, it is appropriate to use minimal hand care to help ward off blisters and callous tears.
I am a big proponent of chalk. We use it constantly. Sweaty, clammy hands will cause you to change your grip to avoid losing the bell, which will in turn, increase the opportunity for improper form and torn skin. If it’s available to you, use it. Chalk is your friend.
3. Filing/Shaving Callouses
This step cannot be skipped. Ever. Callouses are important, and we need and want them. However, we do not want them to get out of control because that is when they get pinched and ultimately tender and blistered. Use a pumice or pedicure tool to file them down smooth at least every other day in the shower. This will drastically reduce the chance of tearing them. I have heard the Ped Egg is a good choice, however I have yet to experiment with it. The best option I have personally used is the Revlon PediExpert. Simply leave the tool in the shower (the skin needs to be moist), and gently file down the callouses until they are about level with the rest of the skin.
4. Sock Gloves
Tracy Reifkind first came up with this idea to protect the hands during long swing intervals. I have changed it a bit to suit my needs. Simply take a crew sock (I prefer to use a child’s sock to form a tighter glove) and cut off the foot portion. Then make a small slit to insert your thumb into. This provides a thin buffer between your skin and the iron handle, allowing you to grip lightly and avoid irritating tender skin. Gloves are not appropriate for kettlebell training (or ANY strength and power training for that matter) as they decrease dexterity and neural stimulation. The sock glove is a good option, but is not to be constantly relied upon. Rather, it should be used out of necessity when learning to snatch, or when protecting tender skin is necessary in order to avoid a lapse in training.
5. Athletic Tape
Tape is great for protecting small areas that need to be covered, especially around the knuckles. It can be cumbersome, and sweat often changes its stickiness and orientation. So it should be used sparingly, and only under my supervision. I have found Johnson and Johnson to be the best brand.
Hopefully this has been informative and helpful. The last thing you want is another (avoidable) hurdle between you and your goals. Training is all about improving your well-being and health-not causing unnecessary pain. PLEASE take care of your hands! As always, I am readily available to assist in any way whatsoever. My ultimate goal is to help you with yours!