┬áIf you’re training hard for the pentathlon, how are your hands faring? I hear a lot of different comments from lifters as to what to do for callouses, and how to avoid ripping them. Simply put, if you can keep your callouses from ripping, you are much more likely to manage a tough set without grip failing.

Callouses are almost a badge of honour among some lifters. Having baby-smooth hands tells everyone you aren’t training hard. The callouses reflect where the bell sits in the hand, and how it moves. A coach can look at his athlete’s hands and know much about his grip, his swing and his ability to keep on knocking out the reps. But ripped callouses aren’t clever, they just ruin our training.

Callouses get ripped when there’s too much friction between skin and metal. Lifters choose various solutions to this, but usually water, soap or chalk. Chalk is the most popular, simply because while it is messy it is effective, although it’s still a question of how much effort the lifter is prepared to invest in the chalking process.

If you watch video clips of lifting championships, you will see some athletes taking plenty of trouble to get the bells – and their hands – chalked up. For others, it’s more of a perfunctory swipe across the top of the handle and the excess chalk smeared across their two hands. Generally, a professional lifter will value the time consuming chalking as insurance against lost reps. Once an athlete’s callouses are ripped he cannot continue to max reps, and all his training will count as nothing.

Valery Fedorenko, chief advisor for World Kettlebell Club, has decided views on chalking, and how to chalk the bell successfully. In his video (see link below) he points out that he does not trust the job of chalking his bells to anyone else that easily, that the lifter should never be lazy with the task, it’s just too important.

A well chalked bell is achieved with grip strength. Firstly the handle may need sanding down to create a surface that will take the chalk. The chalk then needs to be rubbed in with vigour, until the handle is covered evenly with no dark marks showing through. Some lifters might get tempted at this point to make the job easier with some saliva, but this will alter the coverage and the chalk will rub off too easily. The lifter’s hands need attention too, so that all the main creases are covered, working the chalk between the fingers and over the knuckles too.

Does this sound like too much effort? Think about when it will count. When you are striving to achieve maximum reps in competition, the time and energy put into chalking will pay off. Oh..erm.. yes, you will probably find you need to train too!

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