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Give your Hands a Hand, Part One

by Geoff Rand

This week's blog is a rerun of an article that appeared last year in our old printed newsletter.  I'm sitting here looking at my rough hands and calluses from the past week and thought it was a fitting reminder of the maintenance we all should be doing.


We’ve all seen or experienced, ahem, first hand, what it’s like to tear open a hand during a WOD.  Some consider bloody hands a CrossFit badge of honor, but really it is more like a billboard advertising that you have poor technique or didn’t take the time to care for your hands.  Think about it.  Sure you may have ripped a hand while crushing that WOD.  But now what?  That injured hand is going to limit everything you do, in and out of the Box, until it heals.  Not so heroic now, is it?

How it Happens

Tears are caused when your calluses have raised and/or uneven surfaces that rub and catch on the bar you are using.  These raised surfaces eventually will blister and then tear away from your palm, often taking live skin with them.

Hand Maintenance

You prevent tears by shaving or sanding down the rough surfaces.  You want the calluses to be tough and thick, but smooth.  If you can pinch a raised edge of the callus, or catch an edge with your fingernail, it needs to be smoothed down.

You can smooth the calluses by sanding them down with a Dremel tool or pumice stone.  If using a Dremel, use a fine grit sanding wheel, and for sanitary reasons, don’t share sanding wheels with others.  Set the Dremel on a low setting and gently grind them down, keeping the wheel moving over all the calluses to avoid heat build up.  Don’t overdo it and check your progress frequently until you get the technique down.  Coach Dave May prefers this method and can tell you all about it if you need help.

You can also shave the calluses down with a disposable razor or callus scraper (available in the foot care section of drug stores).  It is best to use these tools before you shower when your hands are dry.  Don’t apply too much pressure and be careful not to shave too deep.  Again, take it easy until you learn how much is too much.  Arch your fingers backwards when you use the scraper to really get your palm to push those calluses out.  Then, using short strokes, gently scrape away the skin, starting at the base of the fingers.  It’s not rocket science, but you might want to check out the YouTube video: What To Do About Calluses, or ask Coach Amanda if you are new to callus scraping.

Just like you should be doing mobility and rolling out sore muscles, you should be smoothing your calluses periodically throughout the week.

Don’t forget to keep your hands moisturized.  Remember, soap, chalk, and Liquid Grip, dry your hands out, so apply moisturizer as needed.  Coach Amanda uses Aquaphor nightly.  My favorite is O'Keeffe's Working Hands, and guys, you can pick it up at Home Depot.  Bonus.


Proper Grip

Preventing tears also means gripping the bar properly.  When working with a barbell or pull-up bar, many people are inclined to grip the bar across the middle of their palms. This, unfortunately, squishes the fleshy pad below the base of your fingers against the bar, causing discomfort, added friction, blisters, and worse.  A better way to go is to grip the barbell across the base of your fingers.  This grip will require more strength in your hands, fingers, and forearms, but you’ve read the Get a Grip article and are working on turning apples into applesauce with your hands, right?  Good.

Hand maintenance and proper grip will go a long way towards preventing tears, but tears may still happen.  In part two of this article, we will look at what to do if you do happen to tear your hands.

By Geoff Rand




The Most Hated Exercise

by Geoff Rand

No other CrossFit exercise has anywhere near as many t-shirts or memes professing such universal hatred for a movement than the burpee.  But where did the exercise and silly name come from?  Surely there is someone we can all focus our anger on while we are slipping in a pool of our own sweat during a high rep burpee marathon.

There is.  Well, sort of.

Royal H. Burpee was an American physiologist and director of the YMCA in New York City.  For his thesis at Columbia University in 1940, Burpee developed a 4-count movement as a way to measure the fitness level of non-active adults.  His exercise consisted of a standing start position, moving into a squat with hands inside the feet, transitioning to a plank, a hop back to the squat, and standing back up.  There was no push up or jump as we see today.

Burpee was testing average, everyday individuals, and stressed that the movement should not be conducted with high repetitions, and in fact, he used only four repetitions and compared the heart rate taken after the four reps to a resting heart rate, among other measurements, as a way to gauge a person’s level of fitness.

Shortly after the start of World War II, the U.S. military adopted the burpee as a way to assess potential recruits’ fitness levels, and eventually incorporated it into their physical fitness tests.  They called it the squat thrust and it is still in the physical training manual in use today.  The Army initially administered it as a 20-second test with 8 reps considered poor, 10 reps fair, 12 reps good, and 13 or more reps considered excellent.  Remember, this was the 4-count burpee.  Don’t expect to hit these marks with a modern burpee.  Later, the Army increased the time to a 60-second interval.

Who added the push up and jump to an already challenging movement?  That secret seems lost to time, and it is doubtful that cruel, sadistic trainer will ever come forward for fear of becoming the most hated fitness professional in the world.

Coach Marcy mid-burpee over bar. 

Coach Marcy mid-burpee over bar. 

Today, we see tortuous applications of burpees in WODs such as 7 minute AMRAPs or 100 burpees for time.  Burpees are also used as punishment for CrossFit “profanity”, being late, or failing to note times on the board.

As if it wasn't bad enough already, the burpee has evolved to ever more difficult manifestations, such as burpees over bar, burpee box jumps, and burpee pull-ups.

So, next time you are grinding out rep number 96, and words are coming out of your mouth that would offend a sailor, take comfort in the fact that Royal H. Burpee would protest such a high repetition count and question the need for the additional steps added to his exercise.  Then, realize none of that is going to change didly squat right now, and reach down, suck it up, and finish the WOD buttercup.








"Murph" Memorial WOD

On June 28, 2005, Lieutenant Michael Murphy was the officer in charge of a 4-man SEAL detachment operating on a mission in Asadabad, Afghanistan.  After accomplishing their objective, the team was compromised and engaged by a much larger enemy force of Taliban fighters.  Murphy and his team fought and evaded the enemy in rugged terrain.  LT Murphy was unable to establish communications with headquarters, and in total disregard for his own safety, left a position of cover and maneuvered into the open to get a clear signal and call for help for his team.  He was severely wounded, but completed the radio call, and continued to fight until mortally wounded, allowing one member of his team, Marcus Lutrell, to escape.  LT Michael P. Murphy was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  His actions were immortalized in the film and book, Lone Survivor.

LT Murphy always trained hard and he called one of his favorite workouts “Body Armor”.  This workout was renamed Murph in his honor so that his sacrifice will never be forgotten.

For time:
1 Mile Run
100 Pull-ups
200 Push Ups
300 Squats
1 Mile Run

Partition the reps as needed, but start and finish with a 1 mile run.
Wear a 20lb. vest if you have one

On the 11th anniversary of that fateful mission, the WOD at CrossFit Frederick during each of our regularly scheduled WOD times will be Murph. Come on out on Tuesday, June 28th, and honor this great man by giving your all to complete this workout.