Help my palms survive my love of the rowing machine
August 31, 2008 7:39 PM   Subscribe

I exercise on a rowing machine ~4 times a week and while I love the benefit to my body, I hate what it does to my poor palms in the form of calluses. Suggestions?

A personal trainer at the gym recommended weight lifting gloves and I found a pair at Modell's but they were expensive ($49.99) and didn't fit right. I'm a petite woman so size may always be an issue, but I tried on these biking gloves (someone in-store's recommendation) and they fit. Padding appears to be in the right spot, but of course a sales person said "Oh no, you'll get severe damage from those", and went to point out $70 gloves. I don't buy "Severe damage" since I haven't had any such thing in the last two months...

I also considered batting gloves, but I thought my hands would get too hot. So, any suggestions? Quantity of responses to questions about rowing seem to indicate there's a knowledgeable population here. A search on rowing gloves gave me what appear to be gloves suitable for wet, outdoor weather -- but that's not what I need. Basically, I just want something with cushioning at the base of the fingers.

I'd like not to spend a fortune, but I row regularly so these would get good use. Preference for those sold in brick & mortar stores so I can try them on (in Manhattan so finding sales locations won't be a huge issue) but I don't need step by step, info. I'm happy to do leg work with brand names.

Thanks again for your help
posted by TravellingCari to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My first idea was biking gloves. Go for it. I can't image what the "severe damage" could be, aside from chafing, and that's something you can watch for.
posted by zippy at 7:50 PM on August 31, 2008

Best answer: Read the forum made for female bodybuilders at Testosterone Nation and I expect you'll find a wealth of information about weight-litfing gloves for petite women.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:53 PM on August 31, 2008

When I rowed, we used rubbing alcohol, although that will harden the skin rather than protect it.
posted by djgh at 8:28 PM on August 31, 2008

I exercise on a rowing machine (or in a boat) ~4 times a week, and although I'm a guy, I have slender computer-programmer hands. Calluses are just part of it. I've never known anyone to wear gloves while erging. I can't picture any that wouldn't feel like they were just getting in the way. I'm not sure I understand what the problem with calluses is. Do you just not want to have rough hands?
posted by autojack at 9:15 PM on August 31, 2008

Well, I am pretty petite (5'0" on a good day), and I use the following two gloves:
- For cycling (mountain biking only), I use Trek WSD gloves. The WSD = women's specific design, and they come in various sizes. These have gel inserts.
- For weights, I use a women's specific weightlifting glove by Nike. Also comes in various sizes. These are not padded.
- Nike Women's Cardio gloves would probably work well too, but I can't vouch for them personally.

I'd be comfortable using both for rowing, but I've used the weight training gloves on the rowing machine so I know they work. I found the Trek gloves at my local bike shop, and the Nike gloves at my local Dick's Sporting Goods. Both were under $20. I can't link any examples for you because the sites are flashy and my computer is ready to crash any second now. But I'm confident these gloves will be easy to find locally for you!
posted by smalls at 9:19 PM on August 31, 2008

Response by poster: @InspectorGadget, I'll look at those forums. Figured I can't be the first person with this size issue.

@autojack: I guess there's no "problem" with the calluses so much as I don't like them and would prefer to avoid/lessen them if possible. I also think less soreness on the hand might also be a contributing factor to lengthening workouts, though that's not based on anything other than hope. I'm hoping smaller gloves like those for weight lifting and/or cycling rather than full-handed batting gloves won't get in the way.

@smalls: thanks for the recommendation and experience POV, I'll look for both at Dick's and/or Modell's. I think I saw the Nike weight ones today, those weren't the ridiculously expensive ones.

Thanks all!
posted by TravellingCari at 9:53 PM on August 31, 2008

I used to get bad blisters from both tennis & erging when I hadn't been doing them for a while. Since I couldn't wear gloves for tennis I started taping my hand with athletic tape (you can do it around the bottom of a finger and it won't affect movement - there's also some weave you can do to cover multiple fingers at once). It worked well for tennis, so I tried it for rowing, and it worked for that too. Gloves would probably be easier, but I hate having my hands covered when I'm sweating.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:54 PM on August 31, 2008

Best answer: I keep a pumice stone in the shower that I bought off amazon, and rub it on my calluses for 20 seconds at the end of the my shower each day. It's been pretty effective at keeping the calluses I develop from rock climbing at bay.
posted by zentrification at 10:06 PM on August 31, 2008

The gloves are a good idea. There's also gymnastics grips to look at.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:07 PM on August 31, 2008

I'm a big fan of harbinger gloves. You should be able to buy a pair for under $20 ($15 is what I typically pay for them). Depending on your workout frequency, they should last you anywhere from one to two years. Used to use a rowing machine daily wearing them and never had problems with calluses.
posted by fishfucker at 11:15 PM on August 31, 2008

I should mention they make several different models -- i prefer the ones without the big ol' wrist wraps because they're easiest to carry in my pocket. Biking gloves really aren't designed for lifting/rowing, and the one or two times I've been without weightlifting gloves and tried taking a set of bicycle gloves I found it somewhat awkward (too much padding). You should be able to find them at any sports retailer.
posted by fishfucker at 11:17 PM on August 31, 2008

I was rowing twice a week through the (Southern Hemisphere) winter. I wore cheap cotton gloves with black grip dimples on the palms. Bought for less than $A10. Can't actually remember the price as they were very cheap. They worked perfectly, I got no calluses while all the other members of the crew did.
posted by Sitegeist at 11:29 PM on August 31, 2008

Actually, what I used were gloves very similar to the ones on this page listed at $A0.52
posted by Sitegeist at 11:34 PM on August 31, 2008

I row on the water, and one of the biggest rookie mistakes I made was to show up with a pair of cycling gloves. Now that I've refined my technique a bit, I understand why my coach told me to throw them into the lake: blisters and callouses are a good indicator of your form.

If you're getting blisters on your palms, you're doing it wrong. Your form is imperfect, you're not rowing efficiently and you're setting yourself up for more serious injuries in the long run. Anyone who recommends gloves doesn't understand the equipment well enough to be giving you advice.

It doesn't mean that they're bad trainers. For most people, a rowing machine is just another piece of gym equipment. But if you're rowing 4 times a week, it's not just another piece of gym equipment, and you'll get more benefit from it by approaching it mindfully. Check out Concept 2's site. It will help you make the most of your workouts.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 12:32 AM on September 1, 2008

I just wrap a bandana around the rower handle and it works just find. You can usually get them two in a pack for like $1.99. I am guessing the reason it works is because it absorbs the sweat which causes my hands to rub less. At the gym, I bet one of the little towels would work just as well.
posted by monkeydluffy at 2:37 AM on September 1, 2008

If you're getting blisters on your palms, you're doing it wrong.

Two things make me say this might not be true or at least not that relevant here.
- I paddle on water and with a Concept rower indoors, and they are very different experiences in terms of range of motion of the paddle in your hands.
- And for a petite woman, the grips on a rower can be HUGE. Very different from the diameter and material of a paddle. It's difficult to get a grip all the way around and the foam padding doesn't slide through your hands the way a paddle does on the water--I just can't get the same loose "floating" grip.

Three things that might help:
- You don't mention jewelry, but if you wear rings, take them off.
- I use fingerless biking gloves but some have too much padding. You can also try fingerless driving gloves which have less.
- Your manufacturer may make a smaller diameter replacement handle/grip for the rower.
posted by cocoagirl at 3:27 AM on September 1, 2008

These hand pads look like they are specially designed to work with the Concept2 Indoor Rower, so assume they're suitable for all rowing machines. I'm not sure if there's a stockist in the US.

Also, if it is a Concept2, the newer models have a different (non-foam) handle which can be retrofitted to old models: not sure if the machine you use is yours or the gyms, but the price is pretty cheap, so you could look into that at the manufacturer's website.
posted by Hartster at 5:22 AM on September 1, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks all --they're not so much blisters on my palms as calluses at the base of my fingers. Most of us using the machines are pushing the same sore spots, and this is where I had calluses when I last rowed frequently. It's partially what cocoagirl said above, the size of the grips and getting the skin back to previous toughness. I"m pretty familiar with Concept2's site since they're the workouts pre-loaded at the gym and we can download new ones, but I'll look further.

The machine is at the gym but they're willing to upgrade and add-on at member suggestions so I 'll look into links provided here: re handles.
posted by TravellingCari at 5:57 PM on September 1, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all!

I got a pumice stone and used it for the last week -- it's been helping so for the moment I've decided not to get gloves. I can see what several of you said above re: too hot and I can also see it getting annoying to wipe my face with gloves so we'll see how it goes.

Will check back here if I eventually decide I need gloves and then let you know how they work.
posted by TravellingCari at 6:28 PM on September 6, 2008

Response by poster: For anyone still watching, I've used the pumice solution for the last four weeks and it's done exactly what I needed. Thanks!
posted by TravellingCari at 3:26 PM on October 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

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