What causes calluses to form?

What causes calluses to form?



The short answer is that calluses form due to increased friction between your hands and some surface. Now you might say that this is obvious, especially when we repeatedly grip some sort of bar and then proceed to rub our hands against that bar over and over again. Whether that looks like 50 pull ups or 75 snatches across a WOD it’s the same friction we are seeing on our hands. But there are a number of different ways that this friction can be made worse, ending up with a ripped and bloody hand. 

The basic purpose of a callus is to protect our skin from injuring itself due to too much friction. Calluses build up until they reach a point where the friction that they see isn’t too much. This is the point where we want to get our calluses. We want to keep some calluses as it is our bodies natural defense to the repeated friction caused by common fitness movements. 




Since calluses are our natural defense to repeated friction why do they end up coming off? There are a number of different reasons that calluses rip off but they boil down to a sharp increase in force on a localized region of your hands. Some of the more common reasons include:

  • Irregularities in a region of your hand such as a previous rip, dead skin, or an irregular raised portion of callus.

  • A large amount of sweat on your hands which counter intuitively increases the friction on your hands over a short period of time. 

  • Poor gripping technique of either a pull up bar or a barbell. 

These are just a number of reasons that can cause calluses to rip off but they can be greatly mitigated by proper hand-care. What is proper hand-care you might ask? Consistency is the key here. There are a few different ways to care for your hands including:

  • Applying a moisturizer with AHA’s throughout the day to make the calluses smooth and supple.

  • Shaving of the top layer of the callus with a callus shaver. 

  • Sanding down your calluses with sandpaper or a pumice stone.

Each of the methods above have their pros and cons, it’s up to you to figure out which one works best for you and your training. Additionally, any one of these methods can be used in conjunction with another to greatly increase the recovery of your hands. 



Calluses caused from common functional movements should be a badge of honor but they shouldn’t make you think about them every time you shake a hand or hold your SO’s hand. Calluses are our bodies way of protecting our hands from continued abuse but there are ways that we can make them feel less prominent and in the way, all of which require consistency. So whether you’re an every-day athlete or an every-other-day athlete, you too can keep your calluses in check and make it so they aren’t your limiting factor.