In fighting sports, hand wraps are one of the most misunderstood pieces of equipment. Trainees at boxing gyms seem to do EVERYTHING with hand wraps on. But then there are people involved in fitness boxing, or training at an MMA facility don’t seem to bother wrapping their hands at all. What gives? I’ve come to this conclusion: hand wrapping provides tons of benefits with no real downside, and if you aren’t doing it you’re just being Lazy. Boxers have been using hand wraps since the ancient Olympic games in Greece 3000 years ago. This is a piece of equipment that has really stood the test of time. Below is a list of Pros and Cons of wrapping your hands:
Cons (aka excuses why you’re too lazy to wrap your hands):
1-“I don’t know how to wrap my hands.” This excuse holds no water. A youtube search of “Boxing Hand Wrap How to” will come up with dozens of different detailed videos . If you’re unsure which style of wrap to use, ask your coach. Or you can just ask your coach to wrap your hands and film it with your camera phone, then you can use the video to practice at home.
2- “It takes too much time to wrap up.” When you first learned to tie your shoes as a youngster it probably took you over a minute to tie each shoe. Eventually you could tie both shoes in a matter of seconds. No different with wrapping your hands; once you get in the habit, you will be able to wrap both hands start to finish in less than 3 minutes. If you don’t have 3 minutes to prevent catastrophic hand injury you shouldn’t be boxing.
3- “Won’t wearing a wrap make my hands weaker?” This is a bit of confusion on the part of people who’ve done weightlifting in the past. It is a misunderstanding of the differences between impact exercise and resistance training exercise. When you’re doing weight lifting you’re doing slower exercises to build up strength and a growth response in muscles, tendons and ligaments; you’re basically doing a heavy lift to build your body as a structure to move heavier weights. The anti-wrap lifting theory being: If you wrap your knees during a heavy squat, for instance, the connective tissues in your knees will not become accustomed to stabilizing that heavy squat. Whether or not this is true, this has nothing to do with impact exercise. When you hit a heavy bag or a hard pair of mitts you’re not doing a resistance activity designed to increase the muscle strength in your hands. What you’re doing is ramming some of the most delicate bones in your body into a resisting object. The pressure of the wraps help your hands maintain proper alignment and provide the extra cushion needed for a hard punching workout.
4- “You won’t wear hand wraps in the ‘streets’ and punching with a wrap on teaches you the wrong way to punch for self defense.” This myth is perpetrated by “Self Defense” instructors who aren’t good at punching & self proclaimed bare knuckle boxing ‘experts’ on internet forums who have no first hand experience (one blog has been devoted to the latter, with a future blog will be devoted to the former). No experienced striker agrees with the above myth.
5- “My wraps get tangled when I put them in the washer/dryer”. If this is your excuse, then I think a sport where you get inside a ring with someone, and punch each other in the face might be a little too much work for you. Put your wraps in a mesh wash bag and they won’t tangle, and make sure to roll them up once they’re clean and dry.
Now that we’ve reviewed the mythological cons of wrapping your hands we’ll list the pros.
1- This is a no-brainer: Wraps protect your hands against immediate injury and against long term chronic pain from cumulative impact training. All competitive fighters wrap their hands, but people who just do fitness boxing wonder if they need to wrap their hands too since they only hit bags and mitts. The irony in this being that wrapping your hands isn’t as much for protection during sparring as it is protection during heavy bag and mitt work. The majority of punches thrown during a sparring session aren’t as hard as those thrown on a heavy bag, nor is the punch volume as high. Mitt and heavy bag work are where you most need to wrap your hands.
2- Wraps will increase the life of your gloves. This one usually takes new people by surprise. But think of it this way: If buy a really nice pair of running shoes, but don’t wear socks with them when you run, it won’t be too long before those shoes become WAY too foul to even keep in your closet. Congratulations, it just took you a month to ruin a high end pair of shoes that should have lasted you a couple years. In other words, hand wraps are socks for your boxing gloves. You cannot effectively wash the insides of your gloves. However you can sweat into a wrap, and wash the wrap again and again. Moisture breaking down the inside of a glove and making it unusable is just as common as the padding of the glove wearing out. An $8 pair of hand wraps will save your $100 pair of gloves. Basically you can’t afford not to buy hand wraps.
3- Wraps are more hygenic. As explained above, a boxing glove wore consistently without wraps will start to have the same odor and bacteria as a swamp. Now remember that you’ll be repeatedly bashing your hands into hard surfaces with these gloves on. The likelihood of your skin getting tiny splits and abrasions is fairly high. This is literally the perfect recipe for a skin infection or to end up with some type of skin fungus (think of a nasty hand version of athletes foot).
4– Hand Wraps look BA. There’s a reason Billy Blanks wore hand wraps in the Tae Bo videos despite the fact he was just punching in the air; they make you look cool! This is an undeniable scientific fact.
Recommendations: Not all wraps are created equal. You want to make sure to get a wrap no shorter than 180″, though I suggest getting a longer wrap if you can. Make sure the wrap is semi-elastic, do not get a 100% cotton wrap, it doesn’t stretch properly and doesn’t create the right type of support. Try to get wraps of different colors, this will make untangling the wraps after washing far easier. If you have the space to get a hand wrap roller, do so. It will save you time rolling the wraps up after washing (looks like and operates similarly to a pencil Sharpener. Must be wall mounted).
The care and feeding of hand wraps:
As mentioned above, after every use wash your wraps in a mesh bag (use a bag with a zipper closure, not a drawstring closure. The drawstring can get tangled with the wraps and is a pain in the neck.) I suggest no more than two pairs of wraps per bag or the wraps will get tangled with one another. Do not roll your wraps up again after you use them, this is akin to going running and then taking off your sweaty socks and balling them up and leaving them to stew. Let the wraps lay open and dry out before washing them. Strap down the velcro portion of your wrap before washing them so the velcro doesn’t stick to other items during the wash. Don’t try to wear your wraps twice without washing them, If you think no one will notice the odor you’ll be giving off, you’re only fooling yourself.
The boxers of ancient Greece wouldn’t wear clothing but would still wear hand wraps… I feel like that says a lot.