Remove calluses from lifting by shaving them off each week using a pumice stone. If your calluses hurt when lifting, you’re gripping the bar wrong. Deadlift with the bar low hand, not mid-palm. Use chalk to fill up your skin folds. This stops the bar from trapping and tearing your calluses.
Calluses are an inevitable byproduct of lifting weights. Your body forms calluses to protect against the pressure and friction of the bar. Without calluses, your hands hurt when holding the weight. Don’t use gloves, they lower grip strength and cause bad form. Let calluses grow.
The point isn’t to grow big calluses though. Big calluses bulge out your hands, get trapped under the bar and tear. Big calluses also look dirty. You can limit the size and growth of calluses using proper form, chalk and hand care. Here’s how to remove calluses from lifting and stop tears.
Don’t remove your calluses or your hands will hurt when you grip the bar. The skin on your hands hardens into calluses to protect them against the pressure of the bar. Without calluses gripping the bar hurts. That’s why your hands hurt when you start lifting, you don’t have calluses yet. That’s also why they hurt when you resume after a long break, you lost your calluses. Calluses protect you against pain and blisters. Keep them.
Instead of removing calluses, level them off with the rest of your hand. Big calluses bulge out. The bar pinches them which tears the softer live skin around calluses. Groom your hands so no bumps or ridges stick out. The easiest way is to shave your calluses once a week using a pumice stone. Your hands will look cleaner because you’ll no longer have big calluses bulging out of your hands. And you’ll stop tearing calluses.
There’s only one way to remove calluses completely: stop lifting. They’ll disappear after a few weeks but come back as soon as you resume lifting. If you lift all year-through like me, that means you’ll always have calluses. Take care of your hands like you do with the rest of your body. Shave your calluses off every week and moisturize them with good hand cream. Your calluses will be flat, won’t hurt and look clean.
The best tool to shave your calluses is a pumice stone. Foot file works too but the pumice stone seems more effective. Don’t use a cheese grater or ped egg, they’re too aggressive. You want to level your calluses with the rest of your hands by taking dead skin out. You don’t want to remove live skin or your hand will bleed. Stick with the pumice stone, it’s effective at removing calluses without being aggressive.
Wet shaving works better than dry. Your calluses turn white and bulge out when you soak your hands in warm water for a few minutes. This makes it easier to remove calluses. Put a pumice stone in your shower and shave your calluses once a week. Do this at the end of your shower when your hands are soft and moist from the water. Whole hand first, then focus on the big calluses. Go side to side, then up and down.
Be gentle on your calluses. If you’re too aggressive, you’ll weaken the softer live skin around your calluses. Live skin tears more easily. The smallest tear will tear further next time you lift when the bar pulls on your hands. You can end with a painful wound similar to a torn callus that forces you to take time off lifting. Go gentle. If your hands hurts, you’re shaving your calluses too hard (or you don’t have calluses yet).
Do NOT cut into your calluses with scissors, nailclippers or razers. Do NOT bite or rip them off with your nails. You’ll cut into live skin, rip too much off and create a tear. Your hand will bleed and hurt. The cut will tear further apart next time you Deadlift. Stick with the pumice stone. Shave your calluses every week so you have nothing to play with when bored. You’ll have cleaner hands without dumb tears.
Moisturize your hands after you shave off your calluses. Chalk will dry out your hand and beat up our skin. Wash your hands immediately after you’re done training to get rid of the chalk. Then moisturize your hands with good hand cream.
Callus pain happens when you grip the bar wrong. Most people grip the bar mid-palm on pulling exercises like the Deadlift. This causes skin folding between your fingers and palm. Your calluses grow bigger, get pinched by the bar, hurt and tear. Gripping the bar mid-palm also leads to pressure on the bones, meat and nerves at the base of your palm. Don’t get gloves, they’re band-aid solutions that create new problems. Fix your grip.
Grip the bar low hand on pulling exercises like the Deadlift. Hold the bar in the base of your palm, close to your fingers. It should be on top of your main calluses instead of above it. If you grip the bar right, zero skin fold will fold between your fingers and palm. You’ll get less and smaller calluses that won’t tear. Close your hand and wrap your thumbs around the bar to achieve a secure grip.
The low hand grip will feel weird if you gripped mid-palm until now. Keep practicing to get used to it. The low hand grip isn’t less secure because the same amount of thumb overlaps your fingers. It’s more secure because the bar can’t pinch the bones, meat, nerves and calluses at the base of your palm. Your hands and calluses won’t hurt. You won’t relax your grip mid-set and lose the bar to relieve pain. The grip is more comfortable.
The low hand grip is only for pulling exercises. Exercises where you pull the weight or yourself while gravity tries to pull the bar out of your hands. Exercises like Deadlifts, Barbell Rows and Pullups. Don’t use the low hand grip on pressing exercises like the Bench and Overhead Press. If you do, your wrist will bend and hurt. Use the low hand grip for pulling exercises only, they cause most of your calluses.
Chalk also reduces callus pain by filling up your skin folds. It makes your palms smoother so less skin gets pinched by the bar. Chalk also increases grip strength by absorbing sweat and improving friction. It’s most effective on pulling exercise like Deadlifts where gravity tries to pull the weight out of your hands. But chalk can also reduce calluses and improve grip on other exercises like the Bench Press and Squat.
Gym chalk is magnesium carbonate. It’s the same chalk gymnasts and rockclimbers use. It’s not boardchalk or babypowder (talc powder reduces grip strength). If your gym forbids chalk, liquid chalk increases grip strength without leaving traces. But liquid chalk is less effective against calluses because it doesn’t fill your skin folds like chalk does. Same issue with eco balls. Grip the bar low hand, shave your calluses more or switch gym.
If you grip the bar correctly, but your hands still hurt, that means you don’t have calluses yet. Your only solution is to persist through the discomfort. Your body will form calluses to protect your hard and the pain will go away. Don’t use gloves or no calluses will form. Gloves also make the bar harder to grip and cause bad form. Grip the bar with your bare hand and let callus grow. Your hands will stop hurting.
Torn calluses aren’t cool because they slow your progress. They force you to lower the weight or skip pulling exercises like Deadlifts until it heals. A torn callus takes a week to heal. But it can tear again if you lift heavy right after it healed. Torn calluses can set your training back for two weeks or more. Avoiding torn calluses is therefore smarter. Grip the bar low hand, use chalk and shave your calluses every week. No gloves.
Most torn calluses happen on Deadlifts with StrongLifts 5×5. The weight is heavier than on all other exercises. Gravity pulls the bar down and out of your hands. If you grip the bar wrong, the bar will pinch a callus, pull on it and the softer skin around the callus will tear. Grip the bar low hand at the start of each set. Same if you regrip mid-set because your grip can’t hold it. Put it low hand or you’ll tear a callus.
If you tear a callus mid-workout, wrap it with nose tissue to stop the bleeding and finish your workout. This doesn’t work if you tear a callus on your first exercise. But that’s unlikely on StrongLifts 5×5. Squat, Bench, Overhead Press don’t pull the bar out of your hands. Barbell Row the weight is lighter. Torn calluses happen on Deadlifts mostly. But Deadlifts are last and only one heavy set. Wrap the torn callus and finish your workout.
Clean up the bar and take care of your torn callus immediately post workout. Cut the torn callus out. Don’t leave the flap or glue it back on. It will take longer to heal and tear again. Cut the flap out to clear the dead skin so new tissue can grow. Trim it close to the wound to smooth the edges. Then soak your hand in salty warm water for 10 minutes. This will hurt but it’s the fastest way for your torn callus to recover.