Palm cooling is an effective way to keep cool during workouts.
It may also be a good way to keep cool in hot places in general. Core temperature is a key factor limiting ability to exercise in heat. Once your temperature hits a certain point your brain will tell you to slow down or stop. We have probably all heard the phrases:
- “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”
- “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (know where you are on this equation)
- And etc.
But there is a time to slow down. And a time to stop. Overheating can be dangerous. And even deadly. Still, there are always some people (present company included) who hate it when logic doesn’t go our way. We have a plan and a program. And we made a commitment to ourselves or others. You are not a loser. And you are not having a bad day. But you may be overheated. Stay hydrated (but not over-hydrated), workout in the early morning and don’t expect to be at your best in hot weather.
There is one more thing:
Palm cooling and training in the heat
Humans cool themselves by sweating. They also cool themselves by shunting blood away from the core and towards highly vascularized areas (lots of veins and capillaries). This is why your face gets red and your hands sweat. Your body is hoping that the outside temperature is not as hot as your core. Your body is also taking advantage of the cooling effect of evaporating sweat by passing blood close to the skin. Your palms are a great place to lose extra heat. As is your face. And probably your whole head. And some other more personal areas.
Palm cooling may be the easiest to do and attract the least attention in public. Researchers at Stanford University have shown that palm cooling before a workout lets endurance athletes train longer. They have also recently published a paper showing that palm cooling between weight lifting sets improves lifting performance. Three minutes of palm cooling between sets also allowed test subjects to make greater gains in strength and numbers of reps. Its not that cold palms make you stronger. Well. Probably not. Its probably that a cooler person can train better than an overheated one.
How to do Palm Cooling.
The system at Stanford used a fairly complicated device. The device is not available for commercial use anyway. But there are other ways to cool your palms. They haven’t been tested. Or validated. But you can try taking along a frozen hand towel. Or a frozen water bottle.
Grahn DA, Cao VH, Nguyen CM, Liu MT, & Heller HC (2012). Work volume and strength training responses to resistive exercise improve with periodic heat extraction from the palm. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 26 (9), 2558-69 PMID: 22076097