Boxing Basics Part I: How to Wrap Your Hands

by A Manly Guest Contributor on June 17, 2010 · 31 comments

in Health & Sports

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Chad Howse who will be doing a series of posts for AoM on the basics of boxing. Thanks Chad!

Boxing has been around for thousands of years in some form or another. Whether it was the Ancient Greeks or Romans or the Brits and later the rest of the world competing under the Queensbury Rules – which are still used today – the sport has remained one of the purest forms of competition a man can experience.

It doesn’t get much more competitive than two guys standing face to face in a “fair stand up boxing match” ((Encyclopedia Britannica (2006). Queensbury Rules Britannica.)) where the winner is determined either by a judge’s decision, a referee stoppage or a knockout. It’s called the sweet science because it combines the strategy of a game of chess with the physicality that can only be found when two supremely conditioned athletes go head-to-head in battle.

It’s just you in the ring. What you’ve done to get there in the way of training and learning accompanies you, but other than that it’s just you vs. your opponent, and whoever’s better, more prepared, smarter and more disciplined usually ends up winning.

In boxing, like in any sport, it’s important to learn the fundamentals. Much like you learn to do a lay-up before you learn to shoot 3-pointers, learning a proper stance before you learn to punch is a necessary progression. Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking you through a video series that goes over the basics of boxing.

We’ll cover it all from wrapping hands to throwing a left hook. The first video is dedicated to wrapping hands. After the video I’ve included a few tips to keep in mind when wrapping your hands, including why you want to be doing this in the first place.

Why should I wrap my hands?

Your fists are your weapons in boxing, and if you have a broken weapon you’re not going to be too successful in a fight. Wrapping your hands will protect both your wrists and hands from injury.

Tips

1. Buy wraps with some elasticity. Hand wraps come in two forms: those with no elasticity and others that stretch a bit. I recommend the latter. When you go out and buy a pair, test them out and make sure they have some give.

2. Spread your hand out when you’re applying the wraps. If you keep your fingers closed and apply the wrap firmly, you can lose circulation to your hands. Spread out your fingers and make your hand as big as possible; keep this up throughout your application of the hand wraps.

3. Try and keep your wraps wrinkle free when applying them. You want a smooth look to your hand wraps when they’ve been applied. Hand wraps are basically a cast for your hand and having wrinkles in a cast can cut off circulation when your hand is in the glove and it can feel uncomfortable.

4. The point of wrapping your hands is to protect them, but to also secure your wrist. Ensure that your wrist is straight when wrapping your hands. Having a bend in your wrist will defeat the purpose of applying them. Wrists can get bent or sprained pretty easily, especially in sparring where you might be using gloves of a lesser quality than you would be in a fight, so make sure to protect yourself by keeping your wrists straight when applying the wraps.

Do you have any questions or tips about how to wrap your hands? Share your comments with us.
_______________
Boxing Basics Part I: How to Wrap Your Hands
Boxing Basics Part II: Stance & Footwork
Boxing Basics Part III: Defense
Boxing Basics Part IV: Punching – Jab & Cross
Boxing Basics Part V: Punching – Hook & Uppercut
Boxing Basics Part VI: Punching Combinations

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Chad Howse is a amateur boxer and personal trainer who’s passionate about helping clients achieve satisfying results in a short amount of time, so they can get the most out of life. For fitness tips and inspiration check out his blog, Chad Howse Fitness, sign up to get two free ebooks, and subscribe to his RSS feed,

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 nick strates June 17, 2010 at 1:23 am

Dear AOM
I LOVE YOU GUYS! im 17 years old and have to say i am becoming a better man each time i read your articles. i just wanted to post that now because nobody has left a comment so i wanted to be the first one. But to keep it to the topic i thank you for the tips for hand wraps, i have in the past used them and now will have a better work out

THANKS!

2 Jake June 17, 2010 at 1:25 am

I take Krav Maga and a lot of it is based in boxing.

I have been thinking of getting wraps for my punches since my knuckles got really scraped. Would good old fashioned wraps prevent my knuckles from getting raw again or should I go for gel wraps?

Great post!

3 Martin June 17, 2010 at 1:33 am

While it’s not allowed in amateur (or professional) competition, I have found that inserting a sponge length-wise across your knuckles before wrapping your hands adds a bit of extra protection. Just cut a sponge across the long way, and then place it over your knuckles. Then wrap as you would otherwise. It just helps prevent hand injuries during sparring and bag work.

4 Keith June 17, 2010 at 6:04 am

I began boxing at the age of 11 (I’m 40yrs. old), ring time is over for me now,however I still train and train others. I do not recommend “elastic” wraps being used on a fighters hand, you want firm secured wrapping on your fists,
Man up! Get the old fashioned material wraps they will protect your hands and wrists,
Save the gel and elastic for sneakers and headbands!

5 Bram G June 17, 2010 at 8:57 am

Very nice guide and should be valuable to those men looking to start boxing as a workout in their garage!

I have been boxing since I was sixteen (24 now) and I do enjoy the more elastic wraps, although not too elastic because I tend to pull at them to hard while wrapping.

6 Joe DeGiorgio June 17, 2010 at 9:32 am

Chad—
Nice post, and very nice site, too. It’s always great to read a fellow blogger who believes in and practices “old school” principles.

Like Keith, I believe the cloth wraps may be more durable than other types. The heavy bag is the king of workouts, very intense. For AoM readers who have never tried it, give it a shot.

7 Chris Mower June 17, 2010 at 9:54 am

There are wraps that are are 90% non-elastic and then at the very end, they have an elastic part that wraps about 2x around the wrist for extra support. They aren’t too bad, but can wrinkle the cloth underneath the elastic if you’re cloth isn’t tight enough.

I look forward to your other boxing posts.

8 Steve Gluck June 17, 2010 at 10:04 am

First, remove whatever is already on your wrist. Astonishing that Mr Howse didn’t.

9 Chad June 17, 2010 at 10:57 am

@Jake – wraps should do the trick.

@Martin – a sponge can be very helpful. I’ve never used one, but know some guys who have hand problems add them to their wraps for extra protection, great point.

@Keith – I prefer having a little give in there for hand wraps, just personal preference. Although I’ll add tape over top every now and then for a bit extra support.

@Joe – thanks! I’m just taking a look at your site right now, great stuff.

@Steve – great observation!

Thanks guys, looking forward to getting the second article up. Thanks for the comments.

- Chad

10 rich June 17, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I have been boxing for three years now. My middle knuckle on my left hand has been killing me the past four months. It feels like a bruised typed of pain. I tried buying new wraps, buying new gloves, and taking time off but it is still hurting. Any tips?

11 Jason June 17, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Chad (and others), how tight do you normally wrap your hands? Obviously, cutting off circulation is bad, but is there any other guidance? I’ve been teaching myself to hit the heavy bag for the past few months, and I think I’m doing a good job of wrapping my hands (slightly different technique than the one shown, but I want to try this one, too). However, I’m never sure if I have it just right, too tight, or too loose.

12 mike June 17, 2010 at 1:12 pm

gel wraps are great, but be mindful that if you’re buying them online, your fit me be off. Also keep in mind that gel’s don’t wash well (the velcro will come off).

Learn to wrap quick and well, wash them often (don’t get me started on staph), and wrap where you need it. I do extra passes on my knuckles and fewer on my wrists.

13 men's designer t-shirts June 17, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Really interesting piece guys. I look forward to reading the follow-ups!

14 Martin June 17, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Another quick point that I thought of is that you want to warm up before wrapping up. I usually will shadow box for 3-4 rounds or jump rope for 10 minutes or so before wrapping my hands. You want the blood to be flowing before partially cutting off the circulation with a good wrap job. When I am sweating freely, I wrap up, and then move on to sparring or heavy bag or whatever is the “meat” of that day’s workout.

15 Dylan June 17, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I have been very interested in boxing for a few months now, but I’m sort of struggling with a good jumping off point. It seem like every trainer I can find is only accepting hardcore fighters dedicated to being the absolute best. I just want to find some place that would be willing to casually teach me the basics and maybe eventually pair me up with a sparring partner.

I’d like to spend a few hours a week having fun and learning the sport…does anyone have any suggestions?

16 Martin June 17, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Dylan – Even if it is intimidating, I would recommend training at a gym that caters to amateur and professional fighters. Going to an LA Boxing type of place is easier at first, but doing a boxing “class” will only be challenging or inspiring for a short time.

Depending on your age, I would recommend finding a local Police Athletic League (PAL) for a low-cost option that typically grooms decent amateur boxers. Boxing isn’t really “fun” until you have some degree of competence, and that will come quickest in an environment that is more serious. My $0.02.

17 mike June 18, 2010 at 10:52 am

Dylan, Start looking at MMA gyms. they are a tad bit more prevalent and some will offer at the vary least muay thai or kickboxing, and a lot offer just straight boxing. They are much more accepting of beginners and hobby seekers.

a note, if you start any striking art, and your trainer throws you into any sort of sparring that is anything higher than 15% intensity, walk out. A lot of gyms will throw you in full speed sparring your first month. That is complete garbage, if you aren’t comfortable, tell your partner you want to tone it down. if that’s not working, don’t be afraid to leave.

18 Wayne June 18, 2010 at 8:48 pm

I’ve never boxed, but I do love getting my cardio on with a heavy bag. I agree with using the wraps with no give, I’ve sprained my wrists throwing punches and it is not a good sprain so you want as little movement as possible. The author does mention that he’ll use tape sometimes. I’ve used just duct tape on many occasions.

19 Sam June 19, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I take MMA, which incorporates pretty much everything that’s any good–boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai, Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, etc. My instructor says that skinning your knuckles helps your bones calcify, which makes your hand harder so you can hurt people more when you punch. He also says that hurting your wrist a little bit when hitting a bag can strengthen them and subconsciously improve your technique (because your body remembers that bad technique hurts). With this in mind, are hand wraps really necessary?

20 Tugboat Maynard June 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Ahhh..I love this subject. Boxing! What is better than raising your fists, facing your opponent, and looking for that knockout.

Anybody who has been in a real fight knows its a dammn good idea to have a decent set of boxing skills for self-defense purposes. Other than that, heavy-bag punching…builds tremendous power and endurance. I could go on and on…and I probably will discuss in depth in my website (thanks for the inspiration).

I agree with Chad…your hands are your weapons and if you have a broken hand..you’re going to lose your weapon. Personally, I gew up using a very odd method. Check this out. Everytime I walked by a stop sign (which i did…very frequently throughout the day… everyday) I would hit the sign one time as I was walking by it. That light jab turned into a fullout haymaker and I never felt the pain. Of course, you have to build up to this level. One time a day, just find a solid flat surface. punch it a few times with both hands. You will gradually be able to punch harder and harder and may even hit the wall with full force and not break your hand. As opposed to people who just lost their jobs and expressed their anger at the wall…of course you’re going to break your hand if you hit a solid surface with full force without any prior training! progression is necesary. Now when I use the heavy bag, I never hurt my hands or of the like. The only thing that is pissing me off is the ‘rugburns’. That in turn will subside as well. But there is no reason to get this radical. Listen to chad.

21 Nick June 19, 2010 at 7:41 pm

@Sam
Skinning your knuckles doesn’t strengthen the bone. You’re instructor is misinformed. Bones are made of tiny little hollow boxes. As the bones impact with something they develop minuscule fractures. The little walls of the boxes break and re-heal. This makes the bones both harder and denser. Skinning your knuckles is just going to scar them. If you want more info check out Hard Body training. Those are the guys who break tons of bricks with their body. Hurting your wrist is a terrible idea. There’s a reason wrist locks are so easy. It’s a very (comparatively) weak joint. Hurting them will not benefit you in any way, even subconsciously. Practicing proper form will make your subconscious keep that form and various exercises will strengthen your wrists.

22 Adam June 22, 2010 at 12:34 pm

@ Jake

I do quite a bit of boxing, and I find gel wraps to do more harm than good. I’d recommend a decent pair of old fashioned hand wraps. What gloves are you using? Longer handwraps and gel handwraps don’t always function as well beneath 4oz or mma gloves. When I did Karate, we never used them. For boxing they are absolutely essential, but for self defense training it doesn’t hurt to toughen and condition your hands and wrists for throwing punches.

23 Grumpy June 22, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Since mant respondents to this article are relatively young, I would like to pass on a tip from my Shorinji Sensei in Okinawa.

The phalanges are the bones of the fingers and toes. Each toe and finger contains three bones, except the great toe and thumb which have two bones each. As we mature these long bones have to continue to grow. They do this by adding new, softer tissue to the ends of the bones. If this tissue is damaged as it might be by delivering a hard punch to a hard body part, it can stop or deform the growth pattern of that bone. This process continues to about age 20+/-. Since violence is not always avoidable our younger students were taught to use the heel of the hand instead. We were taught specific techniques, but it wouldn’t take a lot of thought to come up with a fair arsenal of your own. Just do not limit yourself to upward strikes, and strike as if you were going to hit with your fingertips with a snap of the wrist just before contact. I’ve seen 16 year-olds bread boards and bricks with these strikes, so they are not weak. Practice with a bag of sand on a rope as a target. This way you can practice strikes at all levels. Start easy and build up.

24 Grumpy June 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Sam, re MMA–anyone claiming to have advanced ratings in a large number of styles should be taken with a large grain of salt. EACH martial art is a life-long study. This includes boxing. A smattering of knowledge equals an ocean of ignorance.

I don’t mean to put you or your efforts down, but finding an authentic teacher is very hard to do. You can learn something from anyone, so I’m not saying stop as long as you are learning new things–just be aware of my motto, “When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.”

As for the joys of pain–read my post above.

25 Chad June 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm

@rich – that’s a tough one. One, I’d see a physio and see what they say. Two, ice a lot. And three try strengthening your knuckles – I used to warm up without wraps or gloves (lightly hitting the bag and progressing), or doing knuckle push-ups on a hard surface. It’s like how kick-boxers kick trees or tires to “numb” or toughen up their shins. But get it checked out first.

@Jason – Make sure you make your hand as big as possible when wrapping it, that way there’s some give when you close your fist. I wrap them firm, not too hard, but definitely not light. Adding tape over top adds some stability too.

@Martin – great point about warming up.

@Dylan – I’d definitely go to a gym that has fighters, it should be cheaper than more of a 1-on-1 instructor and you’ll get better instruction/experience. If you don’t like a gym, just leave and go to another one, try a few out and see where you fit best.

@Nick good response to @Sam – spraining or twisting a wrist, much like an ankle actually weakens the surrounding ligaments, making it more likely to sprain again.

26 Jason Keller June 24, 2010 at 4:06 am

@grump: Mixed Martial Artists are a new breed unto their own. They are competent strikers and grapplers who have demonstrated that expertise in only one area can be all but eliminated if one does not posess the necessary skills to impose one’s will. In a street fight a boxer’s skill-set is useless if they don’t have takedown defense and a grappler’s skills are nullified he unable to take a boxer down. The best MMA gyms have experts in their respective fields on staff, but the fighters they are producing have high levels of expertise in many areas. I know this is a bit off topic. My point is that the age where knowing one art was enough is over. Bruce Lee recognized this years ago. Also, as a final note, the cream has risen to the top. Muay Thai, western boxing, Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, Brazillian Jiu-Jutsu, Sambo, and Judo have exposed nearly all other martial arts as useless as a means of actual fighting.

27 Justin Poff June 26, 2010 at 12:31 pm

@Rich
This may be a little late, but maybe it will benefit others who read this as well. It sounds as if you may have fractured that bone in your hand. Can you imagine why this particular fracture is called a “boxer’s fracture”. As a certified athletic trainer I have seen a fair share of fractured hands due to athletes hitting things they shouldn’t or getting into fights.
Most hand/wrist injuries of this sort are due to improper technique of punching (ex. wrist not being straight). The best advice that I can give is that if you have a persistent pain that does not start to resolve in a few days, it’s a good idea to go get it looked at by a medical doctor.
Chad, I look forward to the next video of the series.

28 Chris June 27, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Boxing is fine, but the sporting and the fighting are not quite the same thing. As you said, with a broken weapon you can’t be a very successful fighter. But if you beg a timeout to wrap up your hands first, I think you won’t be very successful either.

29 OldGrumpy July 5, 2010 at 8:57 am

@Jason Keller
Sorry to be disagreeable, but MMA is just the old showmanship of the “Pro Wrestler” of the world before martial arts became popular. Competent strikers and grapplers they may well be, but many martial arts include killing techniques–until you see bodies hauled away, do not make the mistake of confusing MMA with MA.

That said, I hasten to add that many styles touted in the U.S. as MA, are in their homelands considered martial sports. Tae Kwon Do being an example. Compared with the Tang Soo Do taught the Korean military (a mixed art that CAN really be deadly) it is either a dance class or a pillow fight.

I started my study in Okinawa in a Shorinji dojo, then being relocated to Hokkaido Japan I was lucky enough to find a Akijutsu teacher. Note that Aikijutsu and Akido are NOT the same thing (except in America, where we call anything by whatever name is popular at the moment). Aikido was developed as a form of meditation like Qigong, Aikijutsu focuses on joint dislocation and bone breaking.

As I stated before, you can learn from any style, but MMA is not a style, it is showmanship.

As for Bruce Lee, he wrote some very good books, but the only evidence that he was ever in a fight of any kind are his own stories from “back in the neighborhood.”

30 mr_lova_lovaa October 20, 2012 at 5:21 am

The BEST Mexican hand wraps on the planet are the ones from the UK, hands down!
Pound for pound they’re the best price as well. adidas ones are exactly the same size and cost a bomb, the Rage ones even look better!
check em out
http://www.rage-sports.com/ragesports/index.php?route=product/category&path=171

31 coach December 13, 2012 at 11:59 am

The primary reason boxers wrap their hands, is to keep the metacarpal bones from snapping, due to too much flexing. protecting the knuckles is secondary, and securing the wrist comes in a distant 3rd. The criss-cross wraps on the back of the hand are critical. The wrap between the fingers is just for show, when using cloth wraps. If you are using gauze and a pad, the wrap between the fingers holds the pad in place. You also use the wrap between the fingers to build a “grip” in the palm. Most of the cloth wraps are too long for the average person. If you have big farmer hands, you might need a 10′ wrap. One important note: wash them before use, and keep them clean. Hand soap, and hang to dry on shower curtain rod.

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