Today's post is going to address callus formation - something which every serious trainee experiences at some point in their training career - be it bodyweight training, weight training, bodybuilding, racket sports, or any other similar endavor which requires repetitive gripping or pulling movements.
Bodyweight exercise enthusiasts, pull-up maniacs and most sportsmen are NO stranger to calluses - in fact, the only competitive sport that I can think of that doesn't involve calluses is swimming. Some folks try to avoid getting calluses while others wear them proudly as a "badge of honor" - the thought basically being, the more committed one is to their activity or sport of choice, the more callused the hands get.
As for me, I sport plenty of calluses on my hands. As a matter of fact, one of them split right open while I was performing my pull-ups today - OUCH! Now thats something that's painful - I had to adjust my grip to be even able to complete my workout. My own fault for tugging away at it though, so the split wasn't entirely unexpected.
So, what do I think of calluses? Do I try and avoid them? Do I wear gloves to minimize wear and tear on my hands? How do I deal with the pain while doing my exercises?
Well, first off, I believe that calluses are an inevitable, if sometimes unwanted by-product of serious strength training. It's virtually impossible to do thick bar pull-ups, finger pull-ups, and any other pulling movement without developing calluses. And I do NOT believe in using gloves or other "aids" while pulling - I believe they take away from the overall exercise. Second, although they can be REALLY painful, I don't try to avoid getting them - pretty much because it's impossible to do so while training hard.
Why, you may ask? Well, it's hard to explain - but "feeling" the bar in your hands is of paramount importance if your aim is to succeed at pulling yourself up on that bar. You need to feel each square inch of your palms fiercely gripping the bar - until your fingers literally peel off - and you need to "feel" your strength transfer over from your back muscles to your hand muscles to complete the pull. All this, in my opinion, cannot be done with gloves. I realize there are people that wear gloves and seem to do well enough - but in my opinion, gloves are NOT the ideal pulling companion.
As for the pain, well, I try and not grip directly over the callus if I've got one that really hurts me. For instance, I completed my pull-up session today by gripping more with the fingers than the entire hand (on the left hand - and note that I'm NOT talking about "thumbless" pull-ups). You can also apply antiseptic cream or other potions to the calls after your session. But at the end of the day, it's going to hurt a little no matter what - my advice would be to work through it the best you can. And though that sounds masochistic to a degree, it really ain't once you really start to "get into" your routine - you'll automatically work through the pain without even realizing it if your committed enough.
Also, remember that it's always harder training with equipment outdoors than it is doing your exercises indoors. By that I mean that I'd be less likely to develop painful calluses by doing pull-ups on a chinning bar as opposed to a thick, rugged iron beam out in the park (with numerous contusions and abrasions on the surface). But then, you also develop a much stronger grip, "lasting" power (no sniggers, please!) and a higher level of mind-muscle connection by doing the exercise in a tougher manner. No pain, no gain - as they say - but it's entirely up to you. You CAN still train indoors and make great gains - you just have to go about it the right way.
And last, but not least, remember that this advice is just as applicable to your ladies out there as it is men - at least looking at it from the point of success in your training it is!
Keep pulling like you mean it,
PS: Training indoors is a fantastic option for most of us, but you have to know how to do it the right way to get proper results. Fast and Furious Fitness shows you that way: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/83-fast-and-furious-fitness-the-book