In our free challenge we are running this month, November Train, this question came up and I thought I would address since it’s a very common one.
Hand care is something that every kettlebell practitioner will have to think about at some point, and most of you already have. Swings, cleans and snatches can rub against the skin of the palm and fingers, causing callouses to form. The callous is usually not a problem unto itself during your practice, until it rips, tears or cracks.
To avoid getting the callouses, remember the following tips:
:: The more you train your hands will eventually get used to the constant battering and the callouses won’t develop quite as much.
:: Cleans, snatches and swings are the hardest on the hands so consider mixing up your training to pushing and squatting exercises when they need a break. If you want to do high rep snatches, build up the rep count over months to allow your hands to adjust.
:: Technique is usually partially responsible for the the development and eventual tearing of callouses in kettlebell training. When you are transitioning the bell from a hook grip into the spear hand or back down to the hook, callouses can result from over-gripping the handle. However, especially in the beginning, getting callouses or blisters does not mean you have bad form.
:: Blisters are different than callouses in that layers of skin begin to separate and liquid quickly forms on between them. These usually only happen when your hands are completely unprepared for the stress they received. If you are a new practitioner, start slowly and build up the overall toughness of your skin over time before engaging in high rep training and this shouldn’t be a huge problem.
Chalk can be a very valuable asset, but it should be used wisely because it can make your callouses worse, or more likely to tear. I only use chalk in a situation where grip is a limiting factor. This means either heavy weight or high reps, it also means using a kettlebell with a handle that holds chalk properly. When it comes down to pushing your limits either with reps or, as I prefer, with weight, the use of chalk is a must. The downside with the chalk is that it can make the handle of the bell stick to your hand so well, that it can tear the callouses more easily, plus it dries out your hands.
If you need to you can also use gloves. I personally feel that gloves effect my grip in my training so I prefer not to use them but if it’s a matter of training or not training they are just fine.
Treating callouses that have formed before they tear is important. You can file them, or clip them down and if necessary rub coconut oil or moisturizer into your hands if they are dry (but not before training with kettlebells). The worst case scenario is that you are feeling some pain for a few days if one tears and may have to alter your workouts a tiny bit. It’s all a small price to pay for training to be a god or goddess!