Topic for the day...hand care! This post will include everything from the difference in hand care, and performance care, what gymnastics grips to buy, and how to use them...pretty much everything about your hands you would want to know in the CrossFit world. I understand this is a very misunderstood topic, so lets get through it together.
First up, we have to define the difference in the two main categories of things people put on their hands. One would be hand protection, and the other would be an actual gymnastics grip. Both have their place, and I am not saying either is right or wrong...everyone has a preference, but you need to know why and how to wear these things. Otherwise, you're just spinning your wheels.
Hand protection gear might have names similar to a gymnastics grip, but these are really meant to just protect the hands. They are not necessarily enhancing your grip, but they will offer some protection. Full disclosure here, I am not going to "review" any of these as I don't use them, and wouldn't do them any justice giving a review on something I have never used extensively. Regardless I will give some popular options that I know people buy.
Hand protection gear is a piece of gear that fits flat on the palm, giving an extra layer of protection against the pull-up bar. Think of hand protection gear as an extra layer of skin on your hand, making it harder to rip your hands...again not a ton of grip enhancement besides the material having more stick than bare skin. Here are a couple of solid options if you are looking for hand protection.
ROGUE BARAIDES - $17
WODIES - $40
JAW PULLUP GRIPS - $25
Again, I have nothing against hand protection gear, its just not for me. Try different things out and see what you like...everyone has personal preference here.
Now gymnastics grips are something that I think are very misunderstood in the world of CrossFit...mainly with how they should fit, and how they should be used. We will go through the education in choosing the correct size, as well as how to use them. Then I'll throw a couple reviews out there of grips that are currently on the market, some popular types, and the ones I use.
Sizing and How to Use
When sizing out a pair of grips, think that they should fit a bit big...the reason they need to be big comes down to function, which we will discuss later on. Remember these are gymnastics grips, not hand protection...so having some give in them is extremely important, if they fit flat on the palm, then you just bought some expensive hand protection...NOT gymnastics grips. Below are some pictures to show how mine fit, pictures are pulled from the 12 Labours CrossFit blog when I wrote a gymnastics grips guide.
Notice how they are a little big on my hand, with a broken in fold where I grab the bar. The strap is also strapped up against the bottom of my hand, this is where the pressure is going to be placed when on the pull-up bar.
Now that we have the sizing figured out, lets talk about actually getting on to the pull-up bar. The reason these guys are a little big is so we can get a fold onto the pull-up bar. Notice in the picture below how the fold works. This is an absolute GAME CHANGER, and is how a grip should be used.
This not only enhances grip on the bar, but it also takes a majority of the pressure off your hands, and places it into the grip, down to the strap. Thus, protecting your hand...so now we have an enhanced grip, as well as protecting your hand. Can you see why I prefer a gymnastics grip to hand protection now? It does both grip enhancement AND hand protection.
Now that we understand how these things work, let's talk about a few options out there for you. If there is another brand or style you like, go for it...these are just the ones I have used and recommend.
THE ROLLS ROYCE OF GRIPS - VICTORY GRIPS STEALTH GRIPS - $45
These are the grips that I use, and in my opinion the best grip on the market HANDS DOWN.
Even before the Stealth Grip series came out, I thought Victory made the best grip...the Stealth Grip put them further ahead of the competition. Couple things that make Victory grips the best.
the shape and fit of all their grips just have a better feel. Smaller amounts of fabric in between the fingers, a better cut to allow other movements to happen, available in 3 and 4 finger versions depending on how much hand coverage you want.
there is NO plastic or metal ring on these, which is a huge deal when doing a workout where you need grips on the pull-up bar, but also need to do a burpee, use a barbell, hop on the wall for some HSPU, etc. Having no ring on them makes them comfortable for all movements, which is a huge concern for wrist health.
the Stealth Grip is thinner than leather grips, and in my experience is much stronger. I have used my stealth grips since Regionals and have yet to rip them, meaning they have lasted longer for me than any other grip I have ever owned.
So in summary these grips are pretty much perfect for me...if they get filled up with chalk and feel slick, I rub a wire brush on them to clean them up, and they are back to perfect.
BEAR KOMPLEX CARBON FIBER GRIPS - $40
The other pair I have in my bag, and know a lot of people that love them are the Bear Komplex Carbon Fiber grips. I think they are absolutely the next up in line of grips on the market, while Victory still holds the top spot, these are the next best option for me. They a different material that is a little stickier than the Stealth material, and if your gym has really slick pull-up bars then these might be your best option.
They have a good shape, stick to any pullup bar well, and are pretty thin compared to other leather grips out there. That being said, they still have a ring around the wrist that gets jammed up any time wrist movement is required. The shape is better than a straight grip, but not as good as the Victory Grip.
Again, I would recommend these if your gym has slick pull-up bars, or if you workout in a place that doesn't allow chalk. They are a great choice in the convoluted market of grips these days.
That's about everything I have for hand protection/performance for the CrossFitter. If you have any questions on this stuff, don't hesitate to leave a comment or ask one of our coaches.
Next week we will go over what to do when the inevitable hand tear does happen, as well as ways to take care of your hands to keep rips to a minimum.