Are CrossFit Hands a Badge of Honor or a Nuisance?

Keeping your hands healthy.

Let’s face it: with kipping pull-ups, toes to bar, chest to bar, muscle-ups and Snatches programed regularly, rips, tears and open bloody sores on our hands have become an inevitable part of life in our community. There’s nothing like dropping off the bar when the clock stops and the WOD ends, and the evidence of all that hard work is smeared all over your equipment.  Then there’s that twinkling feeling of pride as you walk around comparing war wounds with your Box mates. Who hasn’t seen the countless athletes that like to show off their injuries on social media?  But is this really a “Red Badge of Honor” or just a plain nuisance?

Many in our community would argue that in order to accomplish our fitness goals, there has to be some suffering along the way. While that “no pain, no gain” mentality has some unavoidable truth to it, the fact of the matter is some of those pains are completely unnecessary and actually detrimental to our development. Ripping our hands to shreds is a perfect example of this and one could even argue that it’s inherently bad for Box owners’ businesses as well.

CrossFit is an expensive sport. Membership fees are on average two to four times the price of a normal gym membership. Injuries like these not only hurt, but they also discourage people from coming back until their hands have healed. Typically, it can take four days before these sores are comfortable enough for someone to be able to attack the WOD again at full force. This absolutely kills an athlete’s momentum and increases the chances that athletes are going to start “cherry picking” certain workouts to avoid these setbacks. Confidence is key when training at these levels, and pain, or even the idea of pain, could cause one to proceed with caution and hesitation. Every day an athlete skips training or needs time to heal costs them money. Cherry picking workouts can cause a drop in morale, less class participation and could potentially affect membership levels as newer athletes may be discouraged by the discomfort.

For many athletes with specific types of jobs, torn hands are simply not an option.  Doctors, massage therapists and construction workers are just a few examples of people with occupations where their hands are extremely important to their daily livelihood.

The elephant in the room that no one seems to talk about is sanitation. With easy to spread diseases such as MRSA, Staphylococcus and HIV, why would anyone knowingly and readily want to jump up on a bar that someone just left their DNA all over? We may never know the true extent of the spread of infection in our Boxes, but if it could be prevented, why would anyone want to expose themselves to that extra risk?

Just like with using proper form means you can reduce the chances of pulling a muscle or straining your back, hand and wrist injuries can be avoided simply by wearing the proper protection. Friction is the culprit with tearing. Callus care and adding a layer of protection such as grips between your bare hands and the bar is a great way to help prevent those pesky rips while at the same time reducing the spread of illness and infection. Combine that with proper wrist support and you greatly reduce time away from training.

Let’s throw our egos out the door. This isn’t a contest; there’s no medal for bleeding and feeling unnecessary pain that does nothing but stunt our fitness growth. We need to accept that hand rips really are just a nuisance, completely unsanitary and absolutely preventable. Athletes, Coaches and Box owners alike should encourage safety, the prevention of injuries and spread of disease. This will keep our classes full, memberships strong and our community even stronger!


By Jeff Hunter, co-creator of WODies and owner of JerkFit. Contact him at or visit