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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hand care tips for Kettlebell Sport lifters

Thanks to the new lifters for inspiration to write about this subject.

Though it is not the most vital part of Kettlebell Sport, timely hand care can prevent blisters from Snatch and heavy Long Cycle sets. The following are my experiences with hand care from managing calluses to training with a skin tear.

Chalk is the most useful tool to reduce moisture and friction for Swing, Clean and Snatch sets. Adequate chalk on hands and the handle will allow the necessary calluses to form but dries out the skin. Even with a well-chalked handle and hands, rough calluses may snag and tear off deeper layers of skin. Avoid this by keeping calluses manicured.

To groom calluses I use a coarse emery board. (I bought the one sturdy one pictured below at a beauty product store. This thing stays in my gym bag for use before Snatch and Clean sets.) A pedicure file will help manage thick calluses, and take off old, broken skin. This is a miniature cheese grater and can clean calluses off very fast. I suggest using this on dry skin, as it could take off too much wet skin. Manicure/cuticle trimmers work well for removing dried skin tabs without causing damage. Some lifters use a callus shaver to slice them off. I recommend caution with this method, as it is easy to cut too far into fresh skin. Other lifters have suggested using fresh, sharp blades for best results with a callus shaver. (For manicure/pedicure supplies, check a well-stocked grocery store or beauty product store.)

For friction burned skin or minor blisters I apply therapeutic grade essential oils of cedar wood and lavender directly to the damaged skin. (My preferred brand is Young Living therapeutic grade essential oils. You will need to sign up and create an account to purchase by phone or online. Please use sponsor/enroller number: 705744.) 
I then apply Egyptian Magic, a beeswax-based moisturizer, to seal in the skin-healing oils and keep skin strong. (This all-purpose skin blend is perfect for a custom pre-mix of essential oils. My personal favorite includes myrrh, sandalwood, cedar wood, lavender and frankincense.) 
Joshua Tree Gymnasts Salve is a quality, ready mixed salve designed for athletes who need to develop tough skin on their hands. Check out the product line while you're at it!
If you prefer to blend your own, consider using beeswax blended with olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, and/or shea butter. Natural products are more effective than lotion for keeping calluses supple and strong. Lotion is designed to soften the skin, thus increasing chances of tearing.

Blisters will develop in learning phases and during intense Snatch training. The essential oils help speed up healing and a beeswax-based moisturizer will keep them from cracking.
Blood-blisters indicate friction at a deeper level and take longer to heal than more superficial blisters. If blisters are uncomfortably full, one solution for both types is to break them open and drain the fluid. A bandage and tape may be applied to protect the raw skin during training with easy to moderate weights.

Wet green tea bag applied directly to a broken blister is known to speed up the healing after skin has been friction burned. I have tried it once on an open wound for approximately 10 seconds. It is one of the most painful things I can imagine doing voluntarily. People who have used this method with beneficial results advise to hold the tea bag in place until it stops hurting, or while watching a video that has you distracted. I have not tried it on a non-broken blister, but I think it could be effective in helping drain the fluid.

Liquid Bandage (Nu-Skin or generic brand found in drug stores or first-aid section of grocery store) is helpful to protect raw skin after a blister or callus has torn off.  This stuff is a flexible form of nail polish, so when applied to a fresh wound it hurts almost like pouring salt water on for about 5 minutes. Whenever possible I delay the application of liquid bandage until a thin layer of skin has formed on top of the wound. This is much less painful and provides protection from dust/debris, and makes it possible to submerge the hands while skin is healing.

Tape (Ace or Coach brands, 1.5 inches wide) can be applied in the direction the Kettlebell travels to protect broken skin.  For best results clean off chalk from the hand to be taped, measure out enough tape to cover the distance of the palm from the wrist to the base of whichever finger is closest to the broken skin. At that point cut a hole in the tape for the finger to thread through and continue the tape down the back of the hand to the other side of the wrist. So it's one long piece of tape with a finger hole in the middle. (Alternately fold or cut the tape so it fits between fingers.) Press the tape flush to the skin on both sides of the hand. If I want an extra layer of tape over my wound I repeat this process with the next finger over, then wrap a loose strip of tape around the wrist to anchor all the long strips. Getting the tape flush against the palm and back of hand are key to making this work, if the tape is too taught it will interfere with hand movement during the exercise, if it is too slack it will bunch up at the base of the fingers.

Experimentation will help new lifters find the perfect combo, but I strongly suggest finding a good beeswax-based skin cream at the least. Badger Balm and Bert's Bees are inexpensive and easy to find in natural food stores. For best results apply after training, not before, later in the day and on days between training.

Please feel free to comment on your personal experiences with hand care. Let me know if there's something I missed!

Best wishes for efficient, powerful lifting,