Friday, March 28, 2008

Taping the hands for gymnastics

Young Rif, circa 1975, fresh off my knee surgery.Pommels look very similar to kb handles eh?

Let me assure you that nothing tears up your hands as does swinging around high bars, still rings, parallel bars and pommel horses for hours each day, day in and day out.gymnastics is hands down( pun intended) the toughest sport on your hands that I have ever heard of.Each event tears or grinds the skin in it's own unique and sadistic way.
The pommell horse forces you to spin your entire body around on the heel of the hand as you are similtaneously pushing down hard for support as well as constantly regripping. So you get tearing and grinding at the same time.Side horse callus is basicially a thick pad on the entire base of the heel of the hand.It gets very thick.I tore the entire thing off my right hand one day doing P bars. came off in one big chunk.Didnt hurt for some reason but it was ugly.It had to be at least a quarter inch thick.
Calluses from the rings really cover the entire hand. Not as much as highbar, which also gets the fingers badly, but almost.Similar to the wear from hardstyle snatches,straight across the hand where the fingers meet the palm.
Lots of wear and tear on the index finger and the metacarpal area underneath to. The thumb gets a nice pad too from swings, giants and dislocates on rings as well as the pinky area. ALways interesting tears from rings.
Parallel bars , as I said about it's effect on my pommell horse callus, really works the whole palm and the big ranges of motion ,and changes in elevation that occur( peach basket anyone?)can challenge the most properly prepared hand and skin.The tears are usually big and cover an lots of area as well as depth. They heal very slowly.P bars is also famous for pushing the areas that other events create past their breaking point.
Horizontal bar, or hi bar as it's mostly known by, is the true hand destroyer though.All that torque and the huge grip requirements as well as the constant movement and rotation of the bar through the hands can get them smoking like NOTHING else can. Imagine sliding down a metal firemans bar while holding on tightly ove rand overand you can get a glimpse of the friction. Nasty, nasty pain and it can take LOTS of callus off in one fell swoope if you do things wrong.

Swinging hi bar, when your hands are tore up( which is almost always until you really learn how to swing- another story) can be very counter-intuitive. Part of you wants desparately to hold onto the bar and not go swinging into space and trys to grip tightly and the other part, the part that really is in pain, tries to grip the bar as lightly as possible and as little as necesary.Sometimes you rip off and sometimes you don't . Gymnastics is a fun sport.

With this kind of daily hand stress, hand care,taping and grip techniques become a major part of a gymnastics life and body of knowledge. The only thing I had on my hands more often than tape was chalk.
So although I like the sock sleeve my wife Tracy came up with, and use it occasionally, I much prefer to tape my hands like I did in gymnastics when I have a tear or I feel one coming on. Or, when I know I have a high volume workout to do and don't want to risk tearing a callus.The sock sleeve ,even though very thin, makes the grip more difficult and I have small, thick hands as it is. I don't need any more grip challenge, thank you. So the tape works better for me.
Here is a blog post I put up about how to tape the hands correctly.


Jordan Vezina said...

Interesting post Rif. I never thought that much about what a gymnast's hands go through. Good to know for perspective's sake.

Mark Reifkind said...

yea and the first four years, when you are "learning" how to and how not to grip as you swing is ugly. I would have four- five ripped calluses on each hand all the time. fill em with chalk, tape em and go was the motto.if you're not going to be smart you better be tough,eh?