Hardbody? Heck yes! Calluses that inevitably result from lifting weights in an attempt to become said hardbody? That’s a nope. But alas, hard pads of skin and lifting weights tend to go hand in callused hand, with calluses most often appearing at the base of the fingers. There are, however, a few simple tricks to prevent and remove calluses (and all those other pesky skin ailments) caused by hitting the gym. Here’s how it’s done:
Chalk Your Hands
Sweaty hands have a tendency to generate calluses. That’s because sweat makes it more difficult to grasp the weight, encouraging you to tighten your grip, which causes calluses by increasing the amount of friction between your hands and the bar. You can prevent this altogether by chalking up your hands before pumping your iron (many gyms provide lifting chalk, but you can also purchase it online for pretty cheap). Just be careful not to overdo it — not only will too much chalk cloud up the entire gym if you go waving it around, it can also increase the amount of friction between your hands and the weight (which again, will only cause more calluses). To avoid this, simply wipe off any excess chalk in between sets.
This is a good alternative to lifting gloves (which simply provide extra padding between your hands and the weight), according to Jonathan Jordan, group instructor at Equinox Fitness. “I prefer to not wear lifting gloves, because I like to feel the bar and build grip strength,” he says. “But some of my clients who hate calluses avoid them by using a thin pair of lifting gloves.”
Get a Pumice Stone
If your hands are already callused, you’re going to want to use a pumice stone about once per week, which we learned how to use in a previous article about fixing up gross-looking feet:
“The most effective way to use a pumice stone is during a hot shower, when the callused skin is soft and moist. Make sure to wet the stone before using it, which will help it glide more easily across the skin. Then, gently rub the stone against the callused area until you’ve completely removed the dead skin — let the surface of the stone do the work for you.”
Once the calluses are worn down, apply a heavy moisturizer — this defends the skin against excessive friction (and therefore, calluses) by preventing wear and by acting as a lubricant.
For less hardy hand calluses, Jordan recommends using a pedicure file. “If calluses become painful or start getting in the way, get a $2 file at the convenience store and gently ‘shave’ them down in the shower for about 30 seconds once or twice per week,” he says.
Invest in Some Creams
For the roughest of rough calluses, though, dermatologist Rajani Katta recommends using over-the-counter creams that contain urea, which gradually softens hard corns and calluses. And if you’re a fan of the stationary bike, chamois cream can also help rid your thighs of chafing and irritation — it’s designed to reduce the amount of friction between your fast-moving legs and your cycling shorts (or anything else that may cause irritation down there).
Exfoliate Like You Mean It
For less intense rough bits — say, scaly elbows or knees, which are caused by constant movement (like sweating it out on the treadmill for hours on end) — apply a dime-sized amount of exfoliating scrub twice per week while in the shower before using a body wash. Rub firmly in a circular motion to remove the built-up dead skin. And again, apply a moisturizer after dabbing the skin dry with a towel.
Wear Lightweight, Breathable Fabrics
Finally, if you have a tendency to break out in a rash during or after exercise, there’s a good chance that you’re suffering from heat rash (aka, prickly heat or miliaria). The simplest way to prevent (or reduce) heat rash is to keep your skin cool, which means wearing breathable fabrics, like cotton. If you’re still itchy, over-the-counter calamine lotions may be your best bet.
Now get out there and show the world how pleasantly soft a hardbody can really be.