I hate stopping to chalk. And once I started using heavier kettlebells, I started tearing up my hands.
The stigma of weakness associated with hand protection
You don’t see a lot of grips or gloves at the box. There’s this stigma of weakness associated with hand protection that I don’t understand. After a lot of consideration, I put these Fit Four Gripper Gloves on last year’s Christmas list. They stayed tucked away in my gym bag for awhile… until I was in the middle of a high-volume kettlebell WOD and felt my hands starting to go. I sacrificed some time and threw on my grippers. No more chalk. No more hand damage.
Just a lot more effective training because I wasn’t worried about my hands.
They are comfortable and sturdy. I recently did a workout requiring 500 swings with a 20 kg kettlebell. And I did it without chalk. And without even a blister.
After this, wearing my grippers was no longer a covert operation. I embraced this new way to improve my performance and my training – even if I was a sissy.
What about the pull ups and T2Bs?
Unfortunately, my nifty Grippers didn’t work with pull ups or toes to bar, and they were a bit too thick to use with Olympic Lifting (although not completely impossible). One of the complaints about using gloves in Crossfit is how it effects your proprioception. Proprioception is the body’s ability to sense its position in space and provide the appropriate feedback to what the situation calls for. We develop our proprioception in Crossfit quite a bit. You have to be aware of your body’s position at all times in order to execute proper technique and avoid injury. Eventually it becomes second nature, like muscle memory.
If you use gloves or grips when doing pull ups, your tactile proprioception is reduced. Simply, if you can’t feel the bar, how can you maintain a good grip on it? When I first started Crossfit, I tried everything: gymnastics grips, tons of tape, even a taped bar (ouch). I got the best results with my pull ups using my bare hands and some chalk. But even with good hand care, my hands were a mess. And if you have a professional career in your life outside of Crossfit that involves a lot of hand-shaking – it’s better not to have nasty hands.
Not too long ago I came across the JAW Grips. Instead of hard leather, they’re made of a strong cloth that sort of fits to your hand. The grips come in a lot of fun colours, which I like (but it probably took me 15 minutes to decide on a colour!). I went with pink and blue.
Which size to choose?
Sizing is interesting. The grips are supposed to fit tight. They stretch with your hand. I was right between Small and Medium and I sized down to Small. The holes for your fingers are also supposed to fit tight. In fact, you cut the holes to the correct size (they look like button holes). I have large fingers, and I cut the holes to the max and they were definitely snug. The first time I put on the grips, I wondered if I should have went with the Medium. But they soon stretched a bit. It took a little getting used to, but I wasn’t expecting them to feel like a cashmere mitten.
Honestly, I think Medium would have been fine too, so don’t stress too much over size if you’re right in between.
My first WOD with the grips involved running and pull ups. Running with wrapped hands always led to soggy, sweaty athletic tape that fell off before I got to my pull ups. These grips move with your hands, and even help soak up some sweat. In fact, the more sweat and chalk you build up, the better they work. (But if that grosses you out, you can wash them.)
Once the WOD started, I no longer thoughts about the grips. I didn’t even remember them until I got to my pull ups. The first few were a bit slick, but soon the chalk got into the cloth and I didn’t notice any more slippage. The cloth is thin but really durable. I could still feel the bar. In fact, calling these “grips” may be a bit misleading. These do not help me “stick” to the bar at all. Instead, they keep my hands from getting sore, which is my biggest problem with high-volume pull ups (other than tearing).
Also, the bottom of my index and pinky fingers are still exposed. If I was doing a WOD like Murph, I would probably add a layer of tape beneath my grips.
I’ve now completed several WODs with my JAW Grips. They’re incredibly functional for movement transitions. The cloth is thin enough that it doesn’t affect my barbell lifts, and I’ve even done handstand push ups while wearing them. If the workout is kettlebell-intensive, I still prefer my Fit Four Grippers. But the JAW Grips are my go-to for any WOD with pull ups or toes to bar.
I still get calluses, and I still have to file and moisturise my hands, but when I’m on the bar my hands are protected from soreness and I can hang on longer.
Let others worry about looking like a ninny. Grab some grippers and start going unbroken.