How to Avoid Blisters from CrossFit Pull-ups

Good pull-up gripSorry, I feel the need to rant a bit today. I just keep seeing too many tweets on Twitter about how proud some CrossFit folks are of their blistered and bleeding hands from doing pull-ups. They are usually referring to high reps of kipping pull-ups. Bleeding hands from pull-ups aren’t some CrossFit “badge of honor”. It’s actually an indicator that you aren’t gripping the pull-up bar correctly and you probably use way too much chalk. Now, before you get your hackles up and puff out your chest, I had the same problem. When I started CrossFit last year and began doing a high volume of pull-ups, I built up calluses and blisters. I noticed that it kept hurting more and more as that new callused area was getting pinched between the top of my palm and the bar. So, I did some research before it became a bleeding issue and I’ll share what I found below in some photos and a video. You really can avoid it! It’s all about your grip style and it builds up your grip strength and toughens up your hands more evenly.

Perhaps at this point, you’re saying; “Why should I care? I’m a tough guy/gal and I love showing off my bleeding blisters.” Well, have you ever stopped for a moment to think about what’s happening with your wounded paws when you work out? Unless you have your own personal gym, you are sharing equipment. That means you’re sharing that pull-up bar, that Olympic bar, those kettlebells, etc. You’re getting your blood all over that equipment. And, you are grinding dirt, sweat, and probably the blood from someone else’s wounded hands into your open, raw blisters. Nice… Hope you have great medical coverage.

Maybe you think I’m a germaphobe. But, I’m actually not. However, I am aware of the issues and I don’t take unnecessary risks. Maybe you should read this article about how easily serious skin infections can be transmitted at the typical gym.

A recent paper released by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association said that close quarters combined with general poor hygiene practices make athletes prone to getting skin infections.

According to The New York Times, these diseases range from mild to severe, including MRSA, a very dangerous staphylococcus infection that is resistant to most antibiotics.

Now that you hopefully care, here is my advice for getting rid of those nasty blisters and wounds on your palms:

  1. Stop using so much chalk! It makes your hands stick and creates too much friction (hence the blisters).
  2. Change the way you grip the bar (see photos and video below).

BAD: Don’t Grip the Bar Centered in Your Palm

Bad Pull-up Grip #1
Most people naturally grip the bar in their palm. Not good.
Bad Pull-up Grip #2
Notice how the skin is compressed between the bar and base of fingers.
Bad Pull-up Grip #3
The pressure and friction from pull-ups then creates painful blisters.

BETTER: Center the Bar at Base of Fingers

Photo of Good Pull-up grip #1
Instead, grip the bar so it centers across base of fingers, not the palm.
Photo of Good Pull-up grip #2
Wrap fingers around the bar tightly and “roll” it into your hand.
Photo of Good Pull-up grip #3
I like the “gorilla grip” with my thumb on top of the bar. It takes some getting used to, but my hands seem to flex better when kipping.


So, give this new grip a try the next time you do some pull-ups. Practice it and get comfortable with the grip before you go crazy with high-intensity kipping pull-ups. You don’t want to fall off the bar! Good luck!


My Video on Correct Bar Grip

Mark Rippetoe on Bar Grip

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25 Responses to “How to Avoid Blisters from CrossFit Pull-ups”

  1. Tjbleeker March 1, 2011 at 3:23 PM #

    Great post. I will have to work on the new grip. Enjoyed the Rippetoe video as well.

  2. Armando Zertuche April 12, 2011 at 5:19 AM #

    Good post, thanks for sharing as to I always got blisters when pulling up on a bar, now I don’t and I tried this method and I don’t feel that tension in my palms Thanks.

    • admin April 12, 2011 at 11:53 AM #

      Fantastic! Glad to hear that it is working for you.

  3. Anonymous August 3, 2011 at 11:19 PM #

    I’m glad you liked it. Hope it helps!

  4. Anonymous August 3, 2011 at 11:19 PM #

    I’m glad you liked it. Hope it helps!

  5. Anonymous August 3, 2011 at 11:19 PM #

    I’m glad you liked it. Hope it helps!

  6. moonairgotjokesmoonair May 30, 2012 at 5:31 AM #

    THANKS!!!!! i knew there had to be a better way and i was almost correct in the way i adjusted my grip, however, i was forming blisteres on my fingers instead of my palms.

  7. paleo meal recipes April 26, 2013 at 4:09 AM #

    whoah this blog is excellent i like reading
    your articles. Stay up the good work! You understand, lots of persons are hunting round for this info, you could
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  8. NP May 2, 2013 at 4:25 PM #

    Just got a massive hand tear Tuesday and have to do filthy fifty today so I’m glad to have discovered this. Hopefully the new grip (and a lot of tape) eases the pain today and prevents any more in the future! Really appreciate the info

  9. Vic May 8, 2013 at 8:06 AM #

    Good to Know! Just got the worst ripped blisters from doing kipping pull-ups…I will def work on using this reccomended grip! Thanks.

  10. NVrunner June 18, 2013 at 6:38 PM #


  11. NVrunner June 18, 2013 at 6:38 PM #


  12. Chelsey February 10, 2014 at 11:19 AM #

    With havin so much content and articles do
    you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation?
    My blog has a lot of unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it
    is popping it up all over the web without my permission.
    Do you know any techniques to help stop content from
    being ripped off? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

    • Kill Fatme February 12, 2014 at 2:42 PM #

      There might be some technology to help it, but it is really hard to stop people from copying and pasting. The best you can do is contact them and ask for appropriate attribution and linking back to your original content. People are re-sharing this post, for example, a lot. Some are good about linking back to me, some are not.

  13. Philipp February 11, 2014 at 7:37 AM #

    Now just curious on how to perfectly roll your hands on if you have to jump up? Not hating or anything just curious :)

    • Kill Fatme February 12, 2014 at 2:40 PM #

      I jump up and get on the bar first. Then, I grip hard with one hand, and loosen the other hand a bit to adjust my finger placement. Then, hang harder from the newly-adjusted hand, loosen the other and adjust my finger placement. It all happens within 2 secs. Pretty much just reshuffling my hand placement to make sure the bar is hitting at the base of my fingers where I want it, instead of deeper in the palm or pinching my calluses.


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