If you do a lot of deadlifts or other grip-exhausting exercises like pull-ups, you’ve probably developed some calluses on your hands. And if you don’t take care of those calluses, sooner or later one of them is going to rip. Fortunately, you don’t have to stop lifting while you wait for it to heal.
Why do calluses tear?
A callus is a thickening of the skin that occurs in response to pressure. While a callus is somewhat protective, the crusty layers of skin that can build up on a callus can cause more trouble if you keep them around than if you don’t. As a surgeon explained in our article on calluses, too much crusty, dead skin leaves a callus vulnerable to ripping, cracking, or causing further irritation (for example, on anything done for lots of reps).
To prevent this, take care of your calluses before they get to that stage using a file or pumice stone as needed, or even a callus shaver (as long as you’re careful not to cut into living skin). You can do this maintenance in the bath or after a shower; or you can do it after a workout when your skin is dry and covered in chalk. Both ways work, although you may prefer different tools for each scenario.
How to protect a ripped callus
First, clean the area and carefully trim off any dead skin. You can apply a bandage or tape if it’s on an area of your hand where you think the bandage will stay on, but often that isn’t possible.
Anecdotally, gymnasts and rock climbers often protect their ripped hands by applying a balm that keeps the raw skin moist. There are various brands, like Joshua Tree Healing Salve or Ript Quick Fix. Something like Vaseline would probably work just as well.
But that’s just skincare. What do you do when you show up to the gym and you have a callus at the top of your palm where you can’t apply tape and it hurts to even pick up a barbell? That’s when it’s time to make a tape grip.
How to make the best tape grip
You’ll use athletic tape for this — the cloth stuff you can find in any drugstore — but you are not going to stick it to your skin.
Instead, make a grip that goes around your finger, and attaches to your wrist. This video from Fight or Flight Academy is an excellent tutorial. The steps are:
Cut a long piece of tape, and fold it in half lengthwise, sticky sides together.
Use your scissors to make a cut in the shape of the plus sign about an inch from the folded end. This becomes a hole you can put your finger through.
Lay the length of the folded tape down your palm, and anchor it to your wrist by wrapping more tape around your wrist. The only tape that is sticking to your skin is the stuff at your wrist.
The resulting tape grip is loose enough to allow your hand to bend and flex as needed, but it keeps your sensitive callus from coming into contact with the deadlift bar (or pull-up bar, or kettlebell). Give it a try next time you’re dealing with a ripped up hand — and then invest in some callus-filing tools so it doesn’t happen again.