I’ve Got To Hand It To You (Part 1)

Palm Print

Only truthful hands write true poems. I cannot see any basic difference between a handshake and a poem.

— Paul Celan

Your hands tell the truth about you. The strength of your handshake sends a signal of confidence. The calluses reveal your work ethic. Soft weak hands are the hallmark of a weak spirit. Putting your hands on that hard, cold steel transforms the hands and by extension the person attached to those hands.

My hands tell the truth about me. When I am nervous they sweat. When I am lazy my hands are soft. But when my hands are tired and sore and callused, I know the rest of my body has worked and been hardened by effort. I know I have lifted all I can lift when my hands are cramped, swollen and sometimes bloody.

Think about not only how strong your hands can be but also how delicate they are. Consider the ability to sense with your hands differences in texture and temperature, the ability to feel the difference between things that are imperceptible to the naked eye. A musician can subtly manipulate the strings to create music, the surgeon can carefully remove the tumor leaving the healthy organ in tact, and the lover can sweetly caress the object of his desire and convey a wealth of emotion.

While I am proud of my calluses (and all of my scars really), I am conscious of the fact that touching people with rough callused hands is often unpleasant for them. Since touching people is part of my job I take measures to try to make my hands less grizzly.

This is the first of my four-part series on handcare tips. This first article deals with basics of handcare. The next part will focus on rip management and first aid. The third part will focus on how to train with ripped hands and finally a little article on hand exercises for strength and rehab.

Calluses are areas of thickened skin caused by repeated friction and pressure. They form to protect the skin and the structures beneath it from injury or damage. While calluses are a layer of protection and a testament to hard work, excessive calluses can be troublesome and lead to injury. For example, when doing high repetitions of pullups the excess skin can grind between the bar and the hand and eventually tear away. So it is in our best interest to keep our calluses smooth and shaved down to avoid further complications.

There are a few essentials you should have in your gym bag or in your medicine cabinet. First is a pumice stone. These moon rocks are great for keeping the calluses to a minimum. A few minutes with one of these every few days should keep things under control.

The second thing you want to get is a callus shaver. This tool is a little more heavy duty and is good for especially tough skin. If you have some serious calluses or are the type that only takes care of your hands when things get really bad, then you’ll want to invest in one of these.

The next thing you will want to invest in is some good lotion. Personally, I hate the feel of lotion on my hands, so I put it on right before bed. You want to keep your hands moist because the frequent washing and use of chalk will dry them out and when dry skin cracks it is painful.

While you’re at it, clip your nails. I used to do a lot of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and one of the biggest no-nos was to have long nails. It’s bad enough having someone trying to choke you unconscious but to leave a mark or a scar is just bad form. Keep your nails trimmed.

There are people that work with their hands like musicians and massage therapists and surgeons that will definitely want to follow this advice. Then there are the other types of people that work with their hands like lumberjacks and shop teachers that could care less about losing a finger and they won’t care about stuff like this. Either way a little handcare can go a long way.

Please check back for Part 2 where I discuss what to do when you rip a callus. Ouch.

Was this article helpful? Do you have any good handcare tips to share? Please leave a comment and let me know.

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