How to Gain the Upper Hand on Calluses

How to Gain the Upper Hand on Calluses

This article may contain affiliate links. We collect a share of sales from qualifying purchases.

Weightlifting and resistance training can do amazing things for your body. You get stronger, look leaner, and just generally feel better. But there’s often an unplanned side effect: hand calluses.

Survey a gym and the reviews on calluses are mixed. Some people wear them like a badge of honor, while others loathe them. But emotions aside, most calluses reach a point where they go from a mild inconvenience to a painful eyesore, especially with regular dumbbell use or pull-ups.

According to Debra Jaliman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and creator of Sea Radiance products, calluses are your body’s natural response to friction.

“It’s your skin’s natural way of building up layers and layers of the epidermis to protect your skin against injury, infection, and pain,” she says. “They’re generally a little rough and discolored, but most of the time don’t cause any problems. They’ll even make it easier to grip your favorite weights.”

While it may not be possible to prevent calluses from forming, there are ways to keep them from ruining your workout.


Lotion ‘Em Up

Dr. Jaliman explains that calluses greatly benefit from regular rubdowns with lotion.”

At the end of a shower, when the skin is soft, use a pumice stone to gently rub off the callused skin,” she says. “You can also use a moisturizer with lactic acid, which will also help soften the skin.”

One good option is AmLactin’s 12 Percent Moisturizing Lotion.

bottle of AmLactin's moisturizing lotion for calluses


Use a Sloughing Tool

Pumice stones and lotions not your jam? Other tools — like the Amope Pedi Perfect — can also be used on your calluses, with serious care.

“I shave mine,” says Hong Kong-based athlete Ariel Joy Conant. “I use this thing that looks like a mini belt sander and grinds them right down. It makes them so smooth. If I don’t, I end up picking at them.”

amope foot file for getting rid of calluses


Speaking of Picking

Don’t pick or prod at your calluses, no matter how tempting.

“You can get a bad skin infection,” says Dr. Jaliman. “If it’s really bad it can spread to the bone and you can end up in the hospital on an IV.”

But sometimes it’s unavoidable.

“Since I lift and climb, my calluses tear pretty frequently,” says Rebecca Mahany, a competitive powerlifter. “I rip off the hanging dead skin.”

In those cases, get to a pharmacy pronto and pick up some bandages made specifically for calluses and blisters — preferably a style that locks out moisture.


Give Gloves Some Love

“I like to use little fingerless gloves so my hands don’t get rough,” says frequent gym-goer Samantha Connaway.

Weightlifting gloves like these from Nike, keep calluses from forming on the palm of your hand, but there’s a trade-off. You could form calluses in other places, due to the glove’s friction against your skin.

weightlifting gloves for calluses

Learn to Love Them

Remember the saying “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?” That kinda applies to calluses. They’re a byproduct of having skin — and a body that wants to keep us safe and protected.

“I value my calluses for protecting my hands when I lift heavy!” says weightlifter Arielle Cason. “I don’t want to get rid of them!”