We have all done it. Anyone who has done any form of gymnastics, be it within a functional fitness facility or through sports that require grip work, has felt the burn of blisters popping and callouses tearing. Unpleasant to say the least, these side effects of training do not seem to deter too many people. Luckily, there are solutions in the form of grip protectors.
Gymnastic grips are designed to protect skin of ripping, tearing, opening and blistering. We have a growing nation of CrossFitters, lifters, and functional fitness fanatics who have the desire and determination to take fitness to a new level. The increasing number of sedentary people and former athletes who have found the gymnastics movements a part of their training program know all too well the perils of callouses, tears and rips.
If you are considering grips, consider what you are using them for and what style is ideal for you. Performing gymnastic movements? WODding? Weightlifting? All of these put emphasis on a different part of the hand and grip.
Considerations for CrossFit Hand grips
First, grips need to protect the skin without hindering performance. This is a big task. Certain materials and sizes can cause you to lose sensation because they are too thick. This hinders performance as you spend more time concentrating on whether or not you are about to fall off the rig!
There are also issues with material quality and how it reacts if and when you sweat into it, becoming too sticky or too slippery for kipping and beat swings. Cheaper quality material at much lower price points can be a risky move as you might find the material too rough to start off, difficult to break in, and then become too stiff or stretched out from use after a few weeks.
These are some of the worst-case scenarios. Using a high-quality product made for exactly what you need can be the best option for improving performance and minimising the risk of injury and ripping.
WOD Grips and CrossFit grips
These are a hybrid of sorts. They are designed to offer both wrist support and grip protection without getting in the way. The material must be thin enough to allow sensorial information to be gathered while also tough enough to prevent excessive friction on the skin. The more you sweat, the more susceptible you are to rips and tears, especially when moving from rig movements to barbell movements, dealing with rough knurling. For example, Picsil makes grips that are between 1.8mm and 2.2mm thick!
The base of the grip attaches at the wrist to keep it from falling off. They are not too large or bulky at this area to allow the athlete to move from rings or pull-ups to thrusters, allowing full wrist extension.
The top of the grip has two finger holes for the two center fingers. You can also get models with 3 holes. This offers a greater support base, spanning one extra finger. Some people say this feels more balanced than the two-hole option.
When it comes to practising gymnastics movements, you want a premium grip. These have wider palm pieces with thick, strong wrist supports. The section around the wrist can be up to 2.5” long, supporting the entire wrist. For movements in the rings, gymnasts find this to be the most helpful. Being able to maintain a straight wrist takes a lot of strain off this joint.
WOD Performance with the right grips
Having a better grip means pumping out more repetitions with less worry. A higher-quality grip that fits correctly means a long-lasting piece of equipment that improves WOD times and reps. Being able to chain together more repetitions of muscles ups, pull-ups, chest to bar and toes-to-bar means you can reach your real potential in WODS without your hands falling apart!
What if I have already torn my hands up?
This will be a great incentive to better protect your hands! Grips are just one part of preventive maintenance for your hands. If you have recently torn or have very sensitive hands, here are some basic steps to follow:
- Always wash hands immediately after the workout! This prevents bacteria from entering the area and causing infection.
- Cut away excess dead skin
- Apply a moisturising antibacterial cream like Neosporin. Some people also use preparation H because it has a healing effect and painkilling component. Prevent the cream or moisturiser from rubbing off overnight with a wrap around the palm.
- Use a pumice stone on a daily basis, or a nail file on callouses to keep them as small as possible. As these get thicker, they are more likely to rip and take a good chunk of soft skin with them! You’ll also reduce the dead skin, helping to keep hands soft- that is, as soft as possible for a CrossFitter!
- Use tape, bandages, gauze and whatever necessary to allow for full and complete healing.
- Always moisturise your hands!
- When you do get back to the gym, use a grip protector to prevent future tears!
Remember that the right fit in a grip is extremely important. Too big and you won’t feel what is happening, and will likely lose your grip. Too small and you won't be able to fit your fingers in or extend your hand comfortably. Measure your palm carefully and try one out for size to be sure.
Saving your grip can go a long way in keeping your performance up and keeping your pain away!
About the Author:
FD Bulsara, BSc is a competitive athlete in Olympic weightlifting and a student in Osteopathy. She coaches private and group fitness classes and writes freelance about her passions: fitness, health, sport, nutrition, weightlifting, CrossFit, injury prevention, pain relief, injury rehabilitation, and the latest research on all these topics! She is a dog person and spends free time training at the lake.