Hand wraps are an indispensible piece of boxing and martial arts equipment. Any boxer or martial artist who uses a heavy bag or trains with a sparring partner needs to wrap the hands to reduce overuse injuries and prevent sprains or fractures of the delicate bones in the hand and wrist. Wearing bag gloves while using the punching bag or boxing gloves during sparring isn’t enough; boxing hand wraps must be worn under the boxing gloves.
Types of boxing hand wraps
Several styles of hand wraps are commonly used in boxing, kickboxing, mixed martial arts, and occasionally used in traditional martial arts:
· Cotton Hand Wraps
· Elasticized or Mexican-style Hand Wraps
· Boxing Gel Wraps
Cotton hand wraps are used in some traditional martial arts and by boxers around the world. Since most martial arts equipment is meant to be long-lasting and inexpensive, cotton hand wraps are a good choice for boxers or martial artists who train often. They should feature a handy thumb loop on one end and a Velcro fastener on the other. Hand wraps come in different lengths – as short as a hundred inches for children and boxers with small hands, and up to 180 inches for heavyweight boxers with large fists.
Mexican-style hand wraps are similar to traditional cotton hand wraps, but they are elasticized. Their stretchiness makes it easier to apply the hand wraps without the assistance of a training partner. Many professional boxers prefer to wear Mexican-style hand wraps during their heavy bag workouts. This style of hand wrap is slightly more expensive than the traditional cotton wraps, but many feel convenience is more important than price. Expect the need to replace Mexican-style hand wraps more often than traditional cotton hand wraps; the elastic loses its springiness over time.
Gel wraps – sometimes called gel wrap gloves – were developed to serve the needs of mixed martial artists. A new development, they’re available from well-known suppliers like Title Boxing, Everlast, and Ringside. Although some styles of gel wrap are designed to be worn under boxing gloves or mma gloves, most of these are more closely related to mma gloves than they are to boxing hand wraps. Gel wraps and other types of mma gloves are perfect for use during light sparring sessions, but workouts on the punching bag should be conducted while wearing the safer boxing hand wraps. Boxing hand wraps offer more hand protection than gel wraps or mma gloves and they are considerably less expensive and longer-lasting.
Competitive boxers – both professional boxers and those who compete in amateur boxing competitions – are generally required to have their hands wrapped with plain, inelastic gauze and adhesive tape. Due to the inconvenience and expense, this is not an option for daily training or for casual workouts at home. A few pairs of boxing hand wraps are more convenient, cheaper, and more reusable than the gauze used during professional bouts.
How to take care of boxing hand wraps
Boxing hand wraps should be rolled up for storage. Not only does this save space, but it makes the hand wrap easy to apply. Unrolling the wrap around the hand is more convenient than wrestling with a long, tangled mess that wasn’t stored properly. However, hand wraps can’t be rolled immediately after use or they will become mildewed and smelly. Some suppliers of boxing equipment sell hand wrap rollers. They are convenience, easy to use, and of modest cost.
A martial artist or boxer who works out for a few rounds on a punching bag will end up with a pair of hand wraps soaked with perspiration. It’s a good idea to hang the hand wraps to dry as soon as possible after the training session. They can be worn repeatedly as long as they are allowed to dry completely between workouts.
Eventually, however, hand wraps need to be washed. Machine washing is not recommended unless you have a mesh laundry bag or lingerie bag designed for use in a washing machine. The hand wraps – essentially long strips of cloth – will become a tangled mass of knots unless washed in a mesh bag. Alternatively, clean the hand wraps by hand washing in a sink with soap or liquid laundry detergent.
How to wrap hands for boxing training
There are as many theories about the proper use of a boxing hand wrap as there are boxing trainers. Each boxer has his or her preferred method of wrapping. What is important is to understand that hand wraps serve several important functions:
· They keep the small bones of the hand (the metacarpals) aligned and prevent them from spreading out or bending under the force of a punch. Wrapping around the palm changes the hand from a collection of fragile bones into a semi-solid mass that won’t expand during impact. It reduces the likelihood of strains, sprains, and the “boxer’s break” (a fracture of the fifth metacarpal).
· Wrapping the base of the thumb attaches it to the hand and protects it during missed punches. Boxers and martial artists often sprain or break the base of the thumb during sparring. Properly-applied hand wraps are an important safety precaution to prevent this sort of injury. For bag work, wrapping the thumb is not as crucial, but it is still a good idea.
· Wrapping the wrist protects the ligaments that keep the carpal bones properly aligned and significantly strengthens the entire wrist area. It also allows a boxer to “tie” the wrist and hand together, creating a more solid mass that’s resistant to the effects of powerful punches. Wrapping the wrist is especially important when practicing hook punches on a heavy bag since this is an activity which can cause wrist pain in inexperienced boxers or martial artists.
· Threading between the fingers is often seen, but usually misunderstood. There is no safety benefit to this technique; in fact, it can reduce the effectiveness of the hand wrap by making it difficult to form a tight fist and by wasting a length of wrap that would be better employed elsewhere on the hand. However, boxers sometimes thread between the fingers as a way to keep the hand wrap from riding up towards the wrist when they repeatedly pull their bag gloves on and off during a training session. Professionals use tape to keep the hand wrap in place, obviating the need to thread the wrap between their fingers. If safety is your primary concern, or if you have sore or injured hands, don’t thread between your fingers.
Until you develop your own style of hand wrapping, you can watch videos or ask a knowledgeable boxing trainer to demonstrate their preferred method. Keep the main points in mind and remember that a few minutes spent wrapping your hands can prevent months of downtime due to injury.