There are a lot of people who have a misconception about boxing and the sport of boxing. Many of them think that the reason why boxers wrap their hands is just for show. They also think that boxing is all about hitting each other as hard as you can.
While that may be true to some extent, the main reason why boxers wrap their hands is that it keeps them from getting injured.
Regardless of the nature of the sport, personal safety comes at the top. When it comes to boxing where your opponent hits you every often to win the combat, your safety becomes even more important and this is something you can never take for granted.
The possible question coming to your mind would be: how to protect yourself from minor or serious damages? Is there any safety equipment to keep fighters safe from injuries? What could be the drawbacks of not using safety accessories? In this article, we will learn more about hand wraps in boxing. Why do boxers wrap their hands, why it is important to wear these, and much more good information.
Why should you wrap your hands for boxing?
It is estimated that the average boxer can punch with a force equal to four times their body weight. Because our hands are not designed to hit things with such great force, we must reinforce them with extra material. Without hand wraps, boxers would not be able to train or fight without injuring their hands and wrists. Before discussing the details, we should say that there are two main categories of hand wraps: for training (made of cloth) and for fighting (gauze and tape). This article will mostly discuss the hand wraps for training, but apart from how to apply them the reasons to use any type of hand wraps are the same.
Protection and Injury Prevention
The foremost advantage of boxing hand wraps is protection against injuries. As boxers, all of us love punching things, a heavy bag, or a sparring partner. Those repeated punches take a heavy toll on your hands, which are quite prone to injury as they are made up of a complex network of small bones and connective tissue.
Boxers hurt their hands so often that orthopedists called some hand injuries Boxer’s Fracture and Boxer’s Knuckle. Whether light or serious, hand injuries are hard to heal, often damaging several bones and tissues. A boxer with injured hands cannot train properly, let alone fight. Hence, avoiding hand and wrist injuries is extremely important for boxing.
So how do hand wraps prevent injury? Simply put, a layer of fabric wrapped tightly around your hands and wrists forms an external structure like a splint that can both absorb the external shock caused by punching and provide rigidity against wrist injuries. Hand wraps help keep the natural shape of your fists while under stress. When you punch something, your knuckles are forced apart, but hand wraps help keep them in place and absorb part of the impact.
The Surface of a Punch
Properly applied hand wraps form a better fist shape that is more suitable for punching. This point is often misunderstood or underestimated, but it might be the most important reason for wrapping your hands for boxing.
Let me explain, make a fist and hold your wrist straight. Now, your thumb facing towards you, look at your fist sideways paying attention to the relative positions of your knuckles (upper side of your fist) and your finger joints (lower side of your fist). What do you see? Unless you have extraordinary hands, you will notice that the second joints from the tips of your fingers are slightly protruding. So, without hand wraps, when your punch connects with a surface, your finger joints are the first thing to absorb the shock rather than your knuckles.
Your finger joints are not fit for absorbing such amounts of shock, and repeated punches can damage them seriously. Also, the reactive force from the surface pushes your fingers back into your palm, causing an unnatural position. Hand wraps solve this problem by modifying the contact surface of your punches by providing extra matter on your knuckles, making them the first part of your hands to connect with a surface.
Consequently, the continuous shock from punching is diverted from your fingers to stronger bones of your knuckles, which can tolerate shock better. To fortify their knuckles even further, professional boxers place extra padding on their knuckles, when they get their hands taped before fights.
Maintaining the straight angle of your wrist while punching is the key to healthy boxing. You should never let your wrist flex, extend, and deviate. If you punch with an incorrect angle, you may sprain or strain your wrists. Hand wraps dramatically lower the chances of such injuries by providing extra stability around your wrists.
You may think that one can already maintain the correct wrist position by simply making a tight fist. Although that helps to a point, it is really hard to do when you are struggling with fatigue during heavy training. Whereas, if you wrap your hands, that extra layer helps you keep your wrists straight even if your punches connect with an awkward angle.
If you are serious about boxing and want to avoid injuries at all costs, you can wear hand wraps to secure your wrists while doing strength and conditioning exercises such as medicine ball drills, explosive push-ups, and weight training. That’s why you see some professional boxers wearing hand wraps around the gym all the time.
Hand wraps do not make you any stronger or faster, but they give you psychological comfort allowing you to unleash your full potential and punch as hard and as fast as you can. Let’s say when you hit a pillow you would not worry about hurting your hand, so you would hit really hard. But if you were to hit a door you would probably clench your fist really hard but you wouldn’t punch with full force.
That’s because our brains know that punching a solid thing hard will break our hands. Naturally, when you fear hurting your hands, you can’t punch with full speed. Hand wraps give you an edge over that fear. Knowing that your hands are protected you can punch without unconsciously limiting yourself.
Types of Hand Wraps
There are two main types of hand wraps. Cloth wraps are the most common type used in training. Coming in various lengths, they are affordable and you can apply them yourself. Tape and gauze wraps are used by professional and amateur boxers for fighting and sparring.
Classic Style Cotton Hand Wraps
Cotton wraps are the most common type of hand wraps. They are inexpensive and generally made out of pure cotton cloth, which does not stretch. As the cotton material is pretty tough, the
classic cotton wraps typically last up to a year. Make sure you dry them after each workout to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.
Mexican Style Hand Wraps
Although they are not too different than classic style wraps, Mexican style wraps contain elastic material allowing them to stretch. That elasticity provides a tighter fit on your hands, that prevents them from slipping off while you train. Lasting around 5-6 months, Mexican style wraps are not as durable as classic style wraps, and they are a little bit more expensive. You can use either type depending on which one feels more comfortable for you.
These are not exactly hand wraps, but they are designed to accommodate the typical wraps. They are simple thinner gloves that you wear under your boxing gloves. Most models come with extra padding on the knuckles to offer protection. But they don’t offer much stability for your wrist. If you are boxing for fitness and you don’t train too hard, inner gloves can be suitable for you since they are very easy to put on and off.
Tape and Gauze
As the name suggests, gauze is simply wrapped around the hand and fixed with tape. They are more complex than cloth wraps, and they are applied by trainers or cutmen. Knuckles are protected extremely well by the extra gauze padding, and wrist support is maximized by layers of tape. While still using cloth wraps for training, boxers have their hands taped before serious sparring and fights, as this method offers the best protection.
How to wrap your hands for boxing
Before describing how to wrap your hands step-by-step, we should mention some important points to keep in mind. Firstly, you should wrap your dominant hand first, so that you can have an easier time wrapping with the other. Secondly, while wrapping, you should keep your hands completely open, and your fingers spread. Thirdly, you must not wrap your hands too tight, you should be able to make a fist comfortably without feeling too much resistance. Finally, make sure the wrap doesn’t form any wrinkles or fold onto itself. And you should get a hand wrap that is at least 3.5-4 meters long.
There are many ways to wrap your hands, but we will describe a very effective and uncomplicated method. Follow these 12 steps and you are ready to train:
- At the end of hand wraps, there is a loop. Put your thumb through it and roll the wrap over your hand towards your wrist.
- Cover the wrap around your wrists at least two to three times.
- Now, the wrap should be under your wrist. Roll the wrap over your thumb going under your wrist again one to two times.
- Then, wrap diagonally from your wrist to your palm and wrap around your palm one time, reaching your knuckles.
- Wrap over your knuckles three to four times.
- Wrap back to the base of your thumb but don’t wrap around your wrist.
- Keeping the wrap under your hand, take the wrap between the knuckles of your little finger and ring finger.
- Between your knuckles, wrap diagonally towards the base of your thumb, over your hand.
- Repeat for each space between your knuckles.
- Once you go between the last space, wrap back to your wrist and go diagonally towards your palm.
- Wrap around your knuckles one to two times.
- Back to your wrist, go around until you get to the Velcro piece at the end of the wrap.
Here is another very good tip in video format on how to wrap your hands for boxing:
Can you box without hand wraps?
Some may argue that boxing gloves offer sufficient protection and wrapping your hands is not necessary. Although gloves offer crucial protection, they serve a different purpose, and they are not equal to hand wraps. Gloves are the first barrier absorbing the shock to your hands, but they are not connected to your hands as close as hand wraps. Besides, most gloves do not offer solid wrist stability that is comparable to that of hand wraps.
Without hand wraps, there would be nothing to stabilize the position of your hands in the boxing gloves. When you punch a heavy bag wearing only gloves, your fingers are pushed against the bag in an undesired position. And with hundreds of punches thrown, that instability can cause serious problems. Since hand wraps are always directly in contact with your hand, they act as an extra layer between the bag, your gloves, and your hands.
The ideal chain of protection consists of the glove, the wrap, and the knuckles, allowing the impact force to travel across these three elements and disperse without causing injury.
Also, wearing gloves without hand wraps will probably give you grazed or blistered knuckles because of the friction. Hand wraps prevent them by providing a barrier that protects the skin.
That being said, training without hand wraps is possible but not advisable. It is told that professional Mexican trainers sometimes make their boxers train on the heavy bag wearing only gloves or bag mitts. The purpose of this is to strengthen the hands and wrists of the boxers to increase punching power in the long term. However, beginners must not try to train without hand wraps. Unless you have advanced technique and conditioning, your chances of seriously injuring yourself are very high.
Why do bare-knuckle boxers wrap their hands?
In the old times, bare-knuckle boxers did not use any gloves or wraps. They used different punching techniques than modern boxing, but that style has been long forgotten. Today, fighters wrap their hands to prevent injuries. Without any protective equipment, only one punch can be enough to break the hand.
Also, the impact from a punch forces bones and soft tissues of the hand to spread out. This continuing stress may permanently deform the hand. Hence, bare-knuckle boxers wrap their hands to overcome such injuries while fighting. Typically, they wrap their hands and wrists tighter and leave their knuckles more exposed. Being stronger, knuckles can tolerate the impact, but more vulnerable metacarpal bones of the hand and the wrist are secured by the hand wrap.
How Long Do Boxing Hand Wraps Last?
Generally, you should replace your boxing wraps after every 4 to 6 months. But it all depends on two major factors as listed below.
- How do you maintain them?
- How frequently do you use them to fight?
There are certain tips you can adopt to increase the lifespan of your boxing wraps. Wondering how? Here they are:
- Never roll up your wet wraps and put them in your bag. Always make sure that they are perfectly dried before you roll them up.
- It is always better to have a pair of boxing wraps and you should change them every often.
- Nothing is better than washing your hand wraps after every fight or training. If you can’t do it, wash them properly after every 3 to 5 games. Consider it a must.
- Keep on disinfecting your wraps is always recommended after every use. It keeps you away from bacterial attacks.
If at any point, you feel that your hand wraps are getting faded or producing a bad smell, don’t use them anymore. Discarding such wraps immediately and purchasing new ones, undoubtedly, is a decent approach.
Good Hand Wraps To Buy
Given all the reasons we have discussed, it is better to use hand wraps to avoid injuries. Whether you are a competing boxer or you are boxing for fitness, your top priority must be to train without compromising your health. Cloth hand wraps are the most effective and affordable equipment for that purpose. So, please don’t be lazy to put them on, your body will be grateful.