How To Prevent And Manage Calluses From Lifting

We’re probably all used to getting calluses on our feet, but tiny ones can develop on your hands and fingers if you lift weights often, or if you do a lot of work with gymnastics gear such as rings and pull-up bars.

The ways to manage them have a lot in common with our advice on calluses in general, but their small size and delicate position require a bit of extra care.

Don’t let them get too big

A large callus on your foot isn’t always a big deal; if it isn’t bothering you, you’re fine to leave it alone.

But if you let a callus on your hand get too crusty, it can rip off suddenly in the middle of a lift. So be vigilant: Once you notice a callus, you should probably do something about it.

File them, carefully

The best way to file down a callus is to soften it in water — this is a perfect bathtime activity — and to abrade it with an appropriately aggressive instrument. A nail file isn’t usually up to the job, but a pumice stone could work for some light exfoliation.

Not enough? Try one of the files that looks like a cheese grater; I know people who swear by the ones made by Microplane, the same company that makes the grater I use for lemon zest. The food/foot association is enough to turn me off personally, but I hear they’re really good.

There’s nothing wrong with using your fingernails to scrape at a callus; I met someone who swears by the side of a spoon (that, one hopes, he does not also use for food). If the callus is wet, you probably don’t need anything sharp to do the job.

If you do use any kind of blade or callus shaver, just be careful that you don’t end up hurting yourself.

Pay attention to your grip

You can’t completely prevent calluses, but the way you grip the bar can reduce the friction and pressure that creates them. A lot of newbie lifters will try gloves, figuring they must help, but gloves tend to add their own issues and may make the problem worse.

Instead, look at your hand position. When you grip a bar, place your hand with the bar in between your palm and fingers, not in the middle of your palm. This prevents the skin at the top of your palm from getting unnecessarily squeezed under the bar. You’ll still get some small calluses, but not nearly as bad as if you held the bar differently.

Other types of equipment have their own hacks. If you skip rope a lot, look for ropes with a padded handle. If your grip often slips, chalk or lifting straps may help you to be able to hold onto the bar more securely, indirectly giving calluses less of a chance to form.


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