Whether you are an experienced gym-goer or a newbie, you have probably noticed the callus formation.

Some people are more prone to blisters and calluses than others.

"Gym hands" are not bad per se. Hard, thick skin can be helpful in certain moments when you have to lift heavy weights.

But if you don't take care of the hand skin condition, you risk the calluses cracking, the skin starting to peel, and even infections are possible.

I will explain how to prevent a callus on hands from lifting weights.

The terms blister, callus, and corn are often confused. They all happen because the skin tries to protect itself against friction or pressure, so they most often appear on the hands and feet.

While calluses and corns are relatively similar in appearance, a blister is completely different, and it is an area of raised skin with a watery fluid inside.

Calluses and corns are areas of dead and hardened skin. There are several differences.

Calluses are usually significantly larger and not painful, while corns are small, hardened bumps surrounded by swollen, painful skin.

All three tend to heal on their own, and calluses almost always disappear faster than corns and blisters.

Man in Gray Sweat Pants Showing Calluses on Hands

10 Tips How to Prevent Calluses When Lifting Weights

It is almost impossible to lift weights regularly and have completely smooth, soft hands.

But if you follow these tips, or at least most of them, the calluses will be barely noticeable.

1. Wear Your Gym Gloves

Lifting gloves are the first line of defence against gym calluses.

Wearing gloves is the best and most affordable way to have a protective layer over palms and fingers.

Gloves will act as a barrier between the barbell, dumbbell, and other exercise equipment and your hands, thus reducing friction.

To avoid gloves interfering with your training, find those that fit perfectly. If the weightlifting gloves are not the right size, they can do more harm than good.

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2. Moisturize Your Hands Regularly

There are no gym gloves that can help you prevent calluses if your skin is very dry.

Even if you don’t struggle with dry skin, it is important to moisturize your hands regularly. Apply moisturizers at least once a day.

You can use creams with urea, panthenol, aloe vera, Vaseline lotion, or natural oils such as avocado and coconut oil for sensitive skin.[1]

Man Moisturizing Hands

3. Focus On Your Lifting Technique

The lifting technique is often overlooked as a cause of calluses.

If you fail to hold the bar correctly, friction and pressure on certain parts of the palms will increase. The same is the case with pull-ups, chin-ups, and other exercises that demand gripping the bar.

Pay special attention to the grip when performing a deadlift, bench press, and similar heavy lifting exercises.

Preparing To Lift Weights

4. Chalk Your Hands Up

If you have ever watched Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and similar disciplines, you might have noticed that all competitors apply chalk.

Chalk creates an extra layer and reduces sweat on the palms. Don't forget to apply it after each set because it comes off easily.

However, since lifting chalk is extremely drying, it can lead to tears. So it is of the utmost importance to moisturize your hands immediately after a workout.

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5. Use High-Quality Barbells

The quality of the barbell affects the workout. All those who have used premium barbells, like the Rogue Fitness Ohio Power Bar and other bars made by Rogue, know what I’m talking about.

I always try to use only good barbells to prevent blisters. Such bars have a very rough grip, and although it may sound contradictory, this is exactly what protects your skin.

When you can properly grip the bar throughout the movement, the bar will not slip out of your hands, thus avoiding potential friction.

Man Lifting Barbells

6. Invest In Grips

Lifting grips are an alternative to gym gloves. You can find the best options in our guide to the best weightlifting grips.

They are ideal for calisthenics athletes, gymnasts, CrossFit athletes, and all similar sports that involve a lot of exercises performed on pull-up bars and deadlifts.

Grips are an indispensable part of the gym bag for those who don't like to wear gloves but need a better grip.

Apart from preventing calluses, they are also useful if you want to break a personal deadlift record because grips can help you redistribute tension and thus overcome grip strength limitations.

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7. Strengthen Your Grip

Do you know that a weak grip can be the cause of calluses and blisters?

If your grip is weak, the weight will move in your hands, and then the friction will damage your skin.

So work on your grip strength. Gloves with wrist support can be practical because they allow you to lift heavier weights.

But such gloves are not recommended in the long run because wrist and grip strength will not follow the progress of the rest of the body.

Hand Gripping Dumbbells

8. Exfoliate Rough Skin

When you notice rough skin on your palms and fingers, don't ignore it.

There are two ways to exfoliate it. You can do it mechanically using an emery board, nail file, or pumice stone that is otherwise used for cracked heels.

Another way to do it is chemically with the help of lactic acid or mild BHA, which are substances used as facial chemical peels.

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Woman Exfoliating Fingers

9. Keep Already Formed Calluses In Check

The worst thing you can do with already-formed calluses is to try to pick them off.

That way, you will create wounds and have to take a break from the gym for at least a few days until the open wound heals.

As I already said, hydrate the skin and exfoliate the skin, but do not try to remove them inappropriately.

Hand Calluses From Powerlifting

10. Use Lifting Straps

Lifting straps are similar to lifting grips, but they leave your palms and fingers fully exposed. Straps are also useless for a pull-up bar.

They certainly take some of the load and thus the friction off the palms, but still, the skin remains very exposed.

I generally recommend straps to experienced exercisers but not to beginners.

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What Are The Benefits To Having Calluses On Your Hands From Lifting Weights?

It's important to take care of your hands when you regularly lift weights. 

There are people who want to avoid getting calluses altogether, but there are benefits from having rough skin on your hands, and they can actually have a physical advantage. 

Calluses can improve your grip strength, increase protection of your hands and increase endurance levels. 

Calluses have a protective function, meaning the body is creating a protective barrier and preventing the skin from breaking or tearing. Ultimately, callus are intended to protect your hands. 

It's important to take care of calluses as you don't want them to become too thick or too thin.

Thick calluses can become painful and are prone to ripping.

On the flip side, if the skin is too thin, it can create a tear. 

If you have calluses on your hands, you want to ensure you keep on top of maintaining them to a good level of thickness. 

What Types of calluses can you get from lifting weights?

There are two main types of calluses you can get from lifting weights.

  • Superficial callus
  • Deep callus
Types Of Calluses

Firstly, a superficial callus occurs when there are been too much pressure applied in one position on your hand from lifting weights.

Then you have a deep, or intense, callus. This is created from years of weightlifting, mostly those who focus solely on lifting a lot of weight, mostly powerlifters.

Deep calluses can be very painful and take a longer time to heal than a superficial one and can lead to more rips if it's not properly looked after. 

3 Easy Treatment Options For Hand Calluses

So how to treat calluses? Although the callus will heal on its own, barring an infection, you can noticeably speed up the process and get rid of calluses and reduce the pain (when present) if you try one of the treatment options.

Traditional and complementary medicine is rather useful.

1. Soak Your Hands Daily

Warm water is beneficial for softening calluses. Keep in mind that it should be warm, but not hot because hot water dries out the skin and damages the skin barrier.

Once you damage the barrier, the skin protective benefits are gone.

Soak your hands before applying cream, lotion, or oil. Keep them in the water for a few minutes, but not longer than half an hour to soften calluses.

That can help you reduce knuckle pain as well.

2. Apply Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is one of the most popular products for treating acne and similar skin conditions. It is a chemical exfoliant, so this acid removes dead skin cells.

Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties.[2]

It is a very efficient and safe treatment for workout calluses, too, and not just for acne. Although it is safe, consult a doctor or beautician about using salicylic acid.

Otherwise, you risk damaging the skin around the calluses and reducing the protective barrier function.

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3. Treat Torn Calluses ASAP

If you continue to push when you notice that some of the calluses are on the verge of ripping, then you will likely experience a torn callus.

However, it can happen from just one move if you don't grip the bar properly when lifting weights.

When a callus rips, you have to stop your workout; otherwise, you can suffer significant skin damage.

First, gently clean the area with lukewarm water and soap, then disinfect. After that, cut off the hanging, thickened skin with a surgical blade to avoid making the wound even bigger.

Common Questions On Calluses From Lifting

How long do calluses usually last?

If you treat them and stop doing whatever is causing calluses, even larger calluses should go away in about two weeks.

Can calluses become permanent?

99% of calluses are not permanent, but certain professions, such as manual workers, tennis players, and guitarists, may have permanent calluses.

Should you peel calluses?

You can peel them either mechanically or chemically, but be careful not to damage the underlying tissue and cause open wounds.

What happens if you don't remove calluses on your hands?

Callus tear or permanent calluses are the two most likely occurrences if you don't get rid of them.

Conclusion

Many in the fitness circuit believe you should not remove weightlifting calluses completely, and I share this opinion.

Once you start lifting weights, if you plan to stick with a program for quite some time, be prepared that your hands will not be completely smooth.

Calluses are also useful because soft skin cannot withstand the pressure and friction that certain exercises require.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean you should neglect them. Check their condition and act when necessary.

Also, apply lotion and oils daily to moisturize your palms and fingers. That way, you will avoid calluses and especially painful calluses.

References: 

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2225411017300871
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4554394/
Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website