Don’t take this personally, but “skin is a relatively dumb organ,” says dermatologist Dr Kenneth Beer. “Skin only knows how to get thicker.” Dumb, sure, but also effective – those calluses are extra layers of protection from all of your iron gripping.
Like your muscles get stronger, the skin on your hands does too. The tough, conditioned calluses might not be as appealing to some as silky smooth palms, but for others they serve as an obvious testament to the hours you’ve spent working hard in the weight room.
So yes, you need those calluses. But if they’re extra rough, they can have some practical disadvantages, too.
“Calluses symbolise hard work, but they can be a real issue for someone new to lifting,” Mark Hofman, a StrongFirst-certified kettlebell instructor and owner of SolFire Fitness in Albuquerque, New Mexico, told MensHealth.com.
Here’s how to sort them out.
How do I get rid of them?
Start by soaking rough areas in warm water for 15 to 30 minutes — add epsom salts for better results.
If they’re extra rough, pick up a skin file, similar to a grater you’d use for ginger or hard cheese. Use it to gently remove some of the dead skin. Careful, though – if you’re too aggressive, you’ll just make the problem worse. Also, apply a moisturiser that contains urea or lactic acid morning and night to soften dead skin cells.
For something more gentle, use a pumice stone or microplane (a gentle grater designed for skin), working gently to avoid going too deep or cutting yourself.
Once the calluses are worn down, apply a rich lotion to keep it hydrated.
Here’s a demonstration by The Rock and his tiny helper:
How do I reduce the friction?
First things first, do not wear gloves. They may prevent calluses but they will sabotage your workout, too.
“Gloves hinder proper technique, especially with kettlebells,” Hofman said. “Your lifts can be stronger without them.”
When you perform explosive movements like a clean, you might not be able to get as firm of a handle on the bar, making it more difficult to control the weight. Wrist wraps or straps are acceptable, and sometimes essential for heavy lifts where grip strength just isn’t enough, but you shouldn’t make gloves part of your ever day weight room getup.
Instead you can reduce friction by chalking up your hands before your start your exercise. Just don’t be that guy who uses too much and leaves behind clouds of white dust on the gym floor.
What happenes if I pick them?
“Pulling, stretching, and picking at calluses basically tells your body to make them thicker and tougher,” Dr. Tyler Hollmig, MD, a dermatologist at Stanford, told MensHealth.com.
Not to mention you could cause them to bleed, in which case you should treat them immediately.
Can I power through them?
Trying to power through cuts and rips will only hurt your grip strength more — no one wants to press with open wounds on your hands that are bleeding through the lift. Bandage your hands properly and don’t hit the weights without taping up your rips.
“Some folks may think it’s ‘cool’ or ‘tough’ to power though broken calluses,” said Hofman. “But no one wants to see you bleed all over equipment they might need to use next.”