Kettlebell Hand Care for the Badass!

Okay, so you’re finally NAILING your technique with kettebell swings, cleans and snatches and dominating some weight on the deadlift bar.  Hell yes, you are becoming a true badass and are getting much stronger and sexier!! Then you come if to train and you find your hands are a bit ‘effed from all of that hard work.  And by ‘effed I mean calloused, red and sore and the thought of swinging a heavy kettlebell or picking things up and putting them down sounds awful.  *insert pic of gross torn callous here* Totes unsexy.

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Not to mention you are a successful (insert profession here) and must shake hands all day.  Much less high living and fist bumping that at the training compound.  So you’re probably going to want to smooth out those bear paws.  If not for the shaking hands part then definitely for the getting back at the kettlebell and deadlift part.  You badass. 😉

Here are some tips for you to manage your callouses, which are good and allow you to progress your training and level of badassery.   I’m also going to share some tips to help you prevent your hands from getting torn and sore in the first place, which may cost you weeks of quality training to recover.  #sadface

Chalk it up

Well, first things first- use chalk whenever you use kettlebells or deadlift heavy weight.  It basically helps to prevent too much friction between your hand and the bell and will go a long way towards preventing your hands from getting too beat up.  Friction and the heat from friction both cause your hands to break down much quicker.

The other benefit of chalk is it it will keep your hands drier (less sweaty) to prevent the bell from slipping e.g. a better grip.

PS. Plz DOn’t chalk like this.PS. Plz DOn’t chalk like this.

PS. Plz DOn’t chalk like this.

Chalk rules:

1. Chalk the whole front of your hands

2. Try to avoid leaving hand prints around the Batcave

3. It is okay to leave hand prints on your friend’s glutes

4. Most importantly, keep it in the bucket.

But please, do not ‘Lebron’ the chalk….

Callous Care

Repeat after me, “Callouses are good!”  They help you grip things better so you can lift better which helps you get stronger and look sexier and bring out your inner badass.  If you take proper care of them it is a lot like building muscle, you break it down in order to make it stronger.  Mind blown?

Once you start lifting heavier and swinging kettlebells, callouses are inevitable.  Once you start developing them it is SUPER important to know how to take care of them.  So what you want to do is remove or trim the top layer of skin off once it is soft and/or buff the rough edges.  This will prevent tearing and build callouses under a deeper layer of skin.

If you want your hands looking nicer, we recommend regular hand care and smoothing out the rough edges with a good pumice stone(use regularly), ped egg or Emery board (woman’s nail file thingy).  Once the callouses are removed you can use a cuticle trimmer to keep the edges well groomed.  To keep your hands smooth we recommend using some good lotion (we LOVE corn huskers lotion) and if you have ripped callouses, use bacitracin to disinfect.  Keep that shit clean!

Most of this stuff you can pick up at the drugstore or have shipped instantly from Amazon.  I <3 the internet.

Oops, I Ripped It Again…

As I mentioned above, clean that shit!  Use bacitracin or alcohol and use Neosporin and a bandage to help it heal faster.  If it is a gnarly rip then it would be wise to avoid swinging  for a week or two to allow it to heal.  Also, fist bumps must replace high-5s temporarily as well, bro.  But don’t worry, you can still do other things, like squats, presses and burpees!

If you have a ripped callous AND you want to continue to train you can pick up some Muellers athletic tape or Rock Tape to cover that callous for the day.  It requires a little practice to get it just right but it will keep your tear protected and looks pretty badass, too!

Are Gloves Okay?

We are NOT a huge fan of using gloves for lifting or swinging bells but that said we will not stop you if that is your thing.  We do, however, reserve the right to make a Michael Jackson comment or two. 😉


One thing to understand is that gloves may not actually reduce the friction that much and sometimes will even make the bell slipperier.  I’ve even seen some guys get callouses and rip right underneath when they use things like bike or athletic gloves.

Also, just like we like to increase body awareness and proprioception (nervous system recruitment) in your feet by going barefoot, the same type of things is true for the hand.  Gloves will decrease and slow down your body’s ability to learn proper motor control of an object.  Basically it may take a bit longer for you to master the moves.  I don’t know about you but I’m all about quick results!

Wearing Gloves to Bed…Is That a Thing?

As Lindsay Bergeron will tell you, nighttime is the best time to moisturize and soften those callouses.  She has a lovely pair of brown cotton gloves (cotton is important!) with the fingers cut off that she wears after using lotion.

I haven’t gone that far yet but even guys can do this to keep their hands smooth like Jiffy.  Check out Bernie Mac’s tips from the movie Ocean’s 11 (watch :25)…


Hand Recovery!

In conclusion, take care of your hands!  Recovery is one of the quintessential parts of any GREAT strength training or look-good-naked program!  And if you are working out with large heavy objects to get strong and look amazing then building callouses is part of the deal.

You will not be making all the gainz if your hands are sore, cracked and bleeding.  Plus it’s gross.

Not sure if you’re using kettlebells properly or want more formal instruction? Let us help! Come by for a FREE 1on1 Strategy Session to get started.

Steve copy.jpgSteve copy.jpg

Steve is co-founder and head coach of First Guess Fitness, downtown Boston’s most inclusive personal training studio. His background is in posture, performance, injury prevention and strength development and packaging fitness in a way that is accessible to everyone. He’s a brand new father, an avid reader and enjoys nerding out to science fiction movies.