If you’ve been following a lifting program for even a short amount of time, it’s likely you’ve started developing calluses on your hands. This is an accepted part of the process for most seasoned lifters, but they do start to become an issue if they hurt whilst lifting, or if the calluses tear and bleed. This can affect your training as a tear can be pretty painful!
Calluses are an inevitable byproduct of lifting weights, as your body forms calluses to protect against the pressure and friction of the bar. Without calluses, your hands hurt when holding the weight. You may think that using gloves will protect against these unsightly calluses, but they can lower grip strength and cause bad form. Let calluses grow.
The point isn’t to grow big calluses though. Big calluses bulge out your hands, get trapped under the bar and tear. You can limit the size and growth of calluses using proper form, chalk and hand care. Here’s how to remove calluses from lifting and stop tears.
First up, if your calluses hurt when lifting, you’re gripping the bar wrong. Deadlift with the bar low hand, not mid-palm, and use chalk to fill up your skin folds. This stops the bar from trapping and tearing your calluses.
Callus Removal and How To Prevent Tears
Don’t remove your calluses or your hands will hurt when you grip the bar – the skin on your hands hardens into calluses to protect them against the pressure of the bar. Calluses protect you against pain and blisters. Keep them.
Instead of removing calluses, keep them at the same level as the rest of your hand. Big calluses bulge out. The bar pinches them which tears the softer live skin around calluses. Groom your hands so no bumps or ridges stick out. The easiest way is to shave your calluses once a week using a pumice stone or a heavy-duty nail file. Your hands will look cleaner because you’ll no longer have big calluses bulging out of your hands – and most importantly, you’ll stop tearing calluses!
Torn calluses aren’t cool because they slow your progress. They force you to lower the weight or skip pulling exercises like deadlifts until it heals. A torn callus takes around a week to heal but it can tear again if you lift heavy right after it’s healed, so in reality torn calluses can set your training back for two weeks or more. Avoiding torn calluses is therefore smarter. Grip the bar low hand, use chalk and shave your calluses every week. No gloves.
Most torn calluses happen on deadlifts with a 5×5 routine, partly because the weight is heavier than on all other exercises. Gravity pulls the bar down and out of your hands. If you grip the bar wrong, the bar will pinch a callus, pull on it and the softer skin around the callus will tear. Grip the bar low hand at the start of each set. Same if you re-grip mid-set because your grip can’t hold it. Put it low hand or you could tear a callus.
What To Do If You Tear A Callus
If you tear a callus mid-workout, wrap it with nose tissue to stop the bleeding and finish your workout, if you can – obviously this doesn’t work if you tear a callus on your first exercise, but that’s unlikely on a 5×5 deadlift program. Squat, bench, and overhead press don’t pull the bar out of your hands, and on a barbell row the weight is lighter. Torn calluses happen on deadlifts mostly, but deadlifts are usually last and only one heavy set.
Clean up the bar and take care of your torn callus immediately post workout. Cut the torn callus out – don’t leave the flap or glue it back on. It will actually take longer to heal, and just tear again. Clear the dead skin so new tissue can grow by trimming it close to the wound with sterile to smooth the edges. Then soak your hand in salty warm water for 10 minutes. This will hurt but it’s the fastest way for your torn callus to recover. Grin and bear it.
There’s only one way to remove calluses completely: stop lifting! They’ll disappear after a few weeks but come back as soon as you resume lifting. If you lift all year-through that means you’ll always have calluses.
A wrecked hand will prevent you from gripping well on other exercises. Take care of your hands like you do with the rest of your body: make sure to look after your hands after a hard deadlift day by moisturizing and sort any torn or bulging calluses. Your calluses will be flat, won’t hurt, look clean, and will be less likely to tear.