Ways to reduce hand pain in the gym

Despite what some hard-earned callouses might lead you to believe, my hands are hypersensitive. Thus, the hand pain I sometimes get during and after a lifting workout is the worst part about going to the gym. While I don’t know any secrets for reducing nerve sensitivity (there are 48 nerves in each hand, after all), I do have some strategies that might help on those days when your hands just can’t handle certain lifts.

If you have chronic hand pain and/or it’s limiting your range of motion, please consult a medical professional; for appropriate exercise substitutions, please consult a fitness professional. I am neither of these things! This post is solely what works for me.

Use hand protection

This one should be obvious, I know, but I just recently got some half gloves to protect the part of my hands that’s most impacted by lifting. Now I just have to remember to bring them to the gym! If you need more or different hand protection, there are also full gloves, hand grips, and wrist wraps.

ways to reduce hand pain from lifting

Change where you hold the weight

Generally, the more weight your hands have to take and the tighter you have to grip to keep the weight in place, the more painful it will be. So changing the position of the weight can alleviate the strain on your hands. For example, the roughest barbell squat variation for me is the overhead squat, because my hands have to take the full weight of the bar. Back squats are much better because my back supports the bar, but I still have to grip tightly to keep it in place. Front squats with my arms crossed are easiest, because the weight rests on my shoulders and it only takes a light grip to keep the bar in place.

Opt for kettlebells

Maybe this is mostly in my head, but I find kettlebells a bit easier to grip (more ergonomic?) than barbells or dumbbells. The kettlebell position for exercises like bench presses – where the bell part rests on the back of the wrist – allows you to relax your grip a bit because the handle sits securely in your palm.

Back off the ‘bells

Alright, so you’ve tried different grips and different bells, but your hands are still pretty painful today. Fortunately, most gyms have plenty of other equipment to choose from. Medicine balls, resistance bands, or suspension trainers will all be kinder to your hands than iron.

Use the weight machines

I know, weight machines are generally inferior to free weights because they don’t engage as many muscles and etc. On the plus side, though, some of them – especially lower body machines – barely require the use of your hands at all. This may be the option of last resort for most exercises, but it’s still nice to have that option.



Do you have sensitive hands? How do you keep them happy during workouts?

Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday & Friday Five 

19 Comment

  1. I actually just posed the question on my Instagram post this morning about how to hold the kettlebell (and if it really matters for doing squats). I don’t do any lifting with barbells, but I do a lot with my dumbbells…I don’t seem to have any issues with my hands, but I’m pretty much in a maintenance phase and am not doing anything heavy-duty.
    Kimberly Hatting recently posted…Hmmm…Shall We Runfess?My Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Barbells can definitely be the roughest since you can load them up with a lot of weight.

  2. I surprisingly have not had this problem! My weights seem to have a coating on them that does not bother my hands.
    Deborah Brooks recently posted…February RunfessionsMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      I think it’s usually amount of weight that starts to get to me!

  3. I love the kettlebell! I was very good about doing kettlebell swings everyday but have been slacking off. Need to start again.

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Kettlebells are great!

  4. Way back when I worked out with a personal trainer I used to wear gloves to lift. Since I work out at home, my weights aren’t super heavy — 25 lbs is about the heaviest I won (KB).

    The gloves help a lot!

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Yep, the cushioning is key

  5. These are such great tips! Kettlebells and different shaped dumbbells are definitely musts for me
    Kristy from Southern In Law recently posted…The Ultimate Bookworm Gift GuideMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Kettlebells are the best type of bell

  6. I don’t have this problem, fortunately. However, I am trying to learn the guitar and that has my fingers hurting!
    Nicole @ Fitful Focus recently posted…Runners Who Wine Episode 5: Post Long Run RecoveryMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      That’ll do it!

  7. All great tips! I love using KB’s in place of the barbell – easier to workout at home with too 😛

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      That too!

  8. Wendy says: Reply

    I chalk my hands when they start to bother me–we lift heavy at CrossFit and the bar has some graded areas that irritate my hands. I also file down my calluses so they don’t rip.
    Wendy recently posted…Olympic Inspired: 8 Ways To Channel Some of the Glory Into Your RunsMy Profile

    1. Hannah says: Reply

      Chalk would help too!

  9. What I usually do is to put chalk on my hands when it starts to get to me. Anyways, great tips! 🙂

  10. Those are some great tips for hand pain relief. I always use chalk with kettlebell as it provides a firm grip on the handle. Great tips. Thanks for the blog.

  11. I got soft skin on my hands and get callouses VERY easy. If I am not careful they sometimes tear and it stings a lot and can even bleed.
    For a long period, I would almost always use lifting gloves, but they reduce my gripping strength which can be felt when I deadlift or do pull-ups.
    Through tough experience, I have found that just a tiny variance in how I grip things can have a big impact – just like you say. For me, it is actually better than wearing gloves.
    Marcus@strengthery recently posted…Kinobody Superhero Bulking Program Review (My Journey pt. 1)My Profile

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