Training With Bells and Tending To Your Hands
Rough hands are par for the course when you lift weights.
Thick manly calluses are well, manly right?
Manicures? – I couldn’t tell you a think about them.
Tough guys don’t use lotions and potions, creams and moisturizers – so why should you?
Training with bells requires you to tend to your hands – unless you want to look like a boxer prepping for a fight every time you train.
Damaged hands aren’t healthy and can impede performance – let’s be honest, the impact on performance is the only reason why I care for my hands!
Why Tend To Your Hands
It’s safe to say you use your hands everyday, no? You likely use them for things other than swinging kettlebells.
Blisters, calluses, rips, and tears are somewhat a part of the process when you train with bells – but they don’t have to be.
Hand care will help you
- Train more consistently
- Get stronger
- Improve your technique – or rather improving your technique will spare your hands (more on that in a minute)
How To Take Action
Calluses aren’t good – entirely
It’s great to have some tough skin, but once a callus starts to form a lip or mound in which the bell can easily catch; you’re asking for a tear.
File them down after showers
After the shower you’re liable to have lost a small portion of your callus to begin with. Since the skin is a bit softer, now is a good time to use a pumice stone and file down those hard son of a guns.
The goal is not to file it completely off, rather to rid the excess, thick skin that could potentially cause the callus to catch and rip off.
Don’t go crazy; just try to smooth it out.
Moisturize before bed
Now, moisturizing is one thing, but using creams, lotions, and potions is another.
Men; use Bag Balm or Vaseline. You don’t need the fragrance-y crap nor should you want to use them
Ladies; do as you please; however I’d still recommend using Vaseline or Bag Balm.
Simply put these two are going to heal your hands the best – you’re just going to sleep anyway, why do your hands need to smell good?
What Do To When You Get A Blister
Taping your hands will only do so much. If you make it through your session with taped hands and your blister doesn’t tear, consider it a success.
I’ve had success waiting till I get home (for sanitary reasons), popping the blister with a needle, and squeezing all the liquid out.
Sorry for the squeamish details.
Wash, and let it air dry, you may have to repeat a couple times throughout the day.
Of course make sure you use something that’s sanitary – dealing with an infection will be far worse than an annoying blister.
What happens when the blister actually tears?
If it’s mid session, try to tape it up, if you don’t succeed in taping in the middle of a session, stop your session and live to swing, clean, snatch another day.
Band-Aids will prevent your open wound from drying out – wash it, keep it clean, and let it air dry.
In your next session tape it before you start and consider using a sock sleeve to protect the wound more.
To make a sock sleeve cut roughly 2-inches down from the top of the sock. You can wear these to protect any open wounds or damaged hands – they came in handy at my SFG Level 1 cert in saving my hands for test day!
I’ve found simply using the tips above – a pumice stone after I get out of the shower and moisturizing before bed – keeps my hands pretty healthy most of the time.
Of course the best way to tend for you hands is to never have an issue with your hands in the first place.
Dial In Your Technique
Great technique is the best cure for damaged hands.
This comes from practice, persistence, and dedication to mastery of a craft – in my opinion kettlebell training is an art form and requires time, dedication, and persistence in order to perform properly.
With that being said, here are some of the more common coaching cues that can help save your hands.
Taming the arc
This is perhaps the #1 cue that helps save hands.
The bell wants to get away from you whether you’re swinging, cleaning, or snatching – it’s your job to prevent that from happening.
Tame the arc of the swing – in other words keep the bell close to your body – don’t let it pull you out.
This requires strength – anteriorly, posteriorly, and a significant amount of anti-rotation (which is why guys/gals who train with bells have that sexy oblique line everyone craves)
Lighten up a little
Often time’s people will crush the handle of the bell when swinging, cleaning, or snatching.
This intense death-grip on the bell prevents the bell from floating at the top and instead creates friction on the inside of your hands – and thus a blister begins to form.
To prevent this from happening simply lighten up on your grip and rather than crushing the grip, hook it with your hand.
Now, depending on what size bell you’re using you’re going to have to adjust your grip. 1-Hand swinging a 24kg compared to a 40kg will be a significant difference (there’s a sneaky cameo of Angela in that link!).
As I said before, training with bells is an art form – no matter what load you’re using there’s always a balance between tension and relaxation.
Make a judgment call based on your skill level and level of strength, adjust to the bell, and swing on.
Tending to your hands doesn’t have to be thought of as a “sissy” thing to do. My female clients almost never have this issue – I supposed maybe because they get manicures often?
- Tend to your hands daily
- Know when to stop a session if you have an open wound
- Tame the arc, and
- Lighten up a little
This should lead to strong, healthy, happy hands – and a stronger body to go with it