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Avoiding hands tears when kettlebell training

Let me be honest, serious kettlebell training and soft hands do not go well together! If you spend hours a week doing the ballistic kettlebell drills like snatches, cleans, etc, then be ready for some callouses and rough hands. Its part of the trade, just like darkened knuckles are for martial artists, or like a cauliflower ear is for a wrestler. Ok ok, maybe I am taking it a bit too far, your hands will not necessary get really ugly like a cauliflower ear, but yes, they will get rougher. Of course, that is if you spend a lot of time with the ballistic movements. If you spend about 10 minutes with the cleans and snatches 1-2 times a week, then your hands probably wont be affected visibly. 

For the rest who will spend more time doing the ballistic kettlebell drills, torn palms are going to appear at some point or another. Its just part of the learning process, and can be easily controlled. There is no need to allow the tearing of the palm skin to be taken to the point where you cannot grip anything for days. Paying attention while training and knowing when to back off will keep you pain free to a great extent.

The problem however is with the "hardcore" attitude that some people have, where they believe that unless they do not tear their palms they are not training hard enough. These folks will display blisters and torn palms as a badge of honor. This kind of attitude and way of thinking is completely unnecessary. It is even more true when people tear their palms after doing something like only 20-30 snatches. If tearing hands was a sign of who is better, then watch the video below of world champion Ivan Denisov after he does 428 reps of snatches with a 28 kg (62 pounds) kettlebell in 20 minutes, with only one hand change.

Now imagine if he was to tear his hands every 20-30 reps, then how many records would he be able to create? If progress was to be gauged by palm tears, then what about the muscles of the body like the arms, shoulders, legs, etc, how could one develop them with kettlebell training? Also, every time one tears their palm skin, they will end up missing the next session or two, meaning they take a step back and are halted in their progress. Clearly, the solution lies in learning the proper way to lift a kettlebell rather than try to be "hardcore" and treat injuries as a great sign of success. In my opinion the major reason why people tear their palms repeatedly with kb training are:

i) Using inefficient technique
ii) Attempting too much volume too soon
iii) Training too often and not letting the skin of the hands recover

When it comes to ballistic exercises, it all begins with the basic kettlebell swing. If you start right then you will find things to be a lot easier, and if you start wrong then things will only get harder as you go along. Learning to take a proper grip when you begin swinging will teach you a lot and prepare you to avoid hand tears when you progress onto cleans and snatches. Below is a video of former world champion and an extraordinary lifter Valery Fedorenko on conserving the grip during kettlebell lifting. It is a slightly long video, but highly informational, so pay attention and take notes:

Among the ballistic drills, the snatch is the one most known for causing torn hands, and understandably so. With the snatch the bell drops from a greater height and at a faster speed when compared to the clean. This can create a greater amount of friction on the grip. And considering that snatches are generally done for higher reps, there is a greater chance for palm tears. Your chances are multiplied if you use the "throw the bell forward" technique, which is what most newcomers tend to do. A better way to protect your hands and to also become more efficient is to let the bell fall by using the corkscrew technique. To get a better understanding, watch the video of Steve Cotter below:

If you intend to take up kettlebell training seriously and spend a lot of time with the bells, then you may want to hire a good coach or attend a kettlebell course where you will be taught and corrected. It will save you a lot of frustration and possible injuries in the future. Whatever you do, dont get caught up in the mentality of the "no pain, no gain" philosophy. Kettlebell training is great fun and an awesome way to stay healthy and fit. One just needs to understand how to do it properly, and then the journey to follow is an amazing one.

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