Developing calluses is a necessary part of the process for building strength as you perform heavy deadlifts, rows and pull-ups.
During the early days of my pro baseball career, I went “no BGs” (that is, sans batting gloves). I liked the feel of the wood on my skin, the pine tar smell my hands retained, and the even more sensitive feel of striking a ball flush. Possibly coincidentally, this was my most successful time in the minors.
The downside was I literally hit until I bled. I spent countless hours in the cage in April, smashing ball after ball off a tee in Mobile, Alabama or Ashville, North Carolina, or wherever. It didn’t really matter; I traveled long hours on a bus to get there. I’d step into the hitting facilities in these random Southern towns, bang, then have to tape my raw, stinging hands for regular batting practice at 4:00pm.
Once I developed thick calluses, this happened less and less. At some point in the season, I’d declare my claws battle ready. The same is true for weightlifting. The tougher my hands are, the better equipped I am to handle heavy lifts.
Old baseball myth: Urinating on your own hands over time strengthens the skin. Try this if you like and report back. For me, I’ll go old school and lift my way to callus development.
Using hand tools can cause a callus to develop on the hands. The calluses develop on the hands to prevent blisters from forming. Tools that use a repetitive motion from the hands, such as a rake, cause the most concern for callus formation. Sometime a callus can be helpful. Individuals who play the guitar develop a callus on the fingers from the friction on the guitar strings. The calluses in turn make playing the guitar easier…
Obviously, we ain’t playin’ guitar, but the theories are congruent. Hands that are pleasant to touch don’t generally behave as tough under pressure. Imagine your grandmother’s hands. My grandma Rose (98 years old) has the softest hands on earth. The steel bar weighted down with plates would not bode well for her supple skin.
Some folks believe that you have to keep your calluses in check.
It is crucial keep the size of your calluses under control – big calluses will get pinched under the bar and can tear apart.
I haven’t found this to be true. I don’t file mine, ever. Now, occasionally, I get one that tears, but I chalk it up (see what I did there?) to a casualty of war.
Simply put, don’t fight the callus development process. Embrace your rough hands as a badge of honor. Shake the hand of your loved ones. When they cringe at your paws, state proudly “Yeah, that’s what they’re supposed to feel like.” If you’re feeling especially confident, add an “Uhhhhhhh” and don’t credit Master P.
PS: If you’ve got good callus tips/stories, leave them in the comments section, please, so that we can all learn from them.