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Hand wraps

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Hand wraps (wrist wraps) to compress the bones and tissues in the hands to help protect them when you are punching heavy bags or speed bags and when you are fighting with full contact. Boxers believe that this compression protects them and allows them to hit with greater force than when they did not use them; thus, they feel less pain when punching and can cause the opponent to feel more pain.

A wrap is wrapped tightly around the wrist, the palm, and the base of the thumb in a way that:
  • Maintains the alignment of the joints so they can absorb the impact from punches, especially when the punches are misaligned when they make contact.
  • Compresses the hand to strengthen the soft tissues of the hand during the impact of a punch.
  • Protects the knuckles from being grazed or rubbed raw and possibly getting infected. 
  • Holds the base of the thumb to the hand to reduce the chance of a sprain or fracture caused by the thumb striking an opponent's elbow.
  • Strengthens the metacarpus to protect against a fracture of one of the metacarpal bones, also known as a "boxer's fracture" because the fracture of the neck of the fourth or fifth metacarpals is common with boxers.
There are various styles of hand wraps. The least expensive and easiest to find are the ribbon hand wraps. They come in various lengths: for small hands, 120" hand wraps are good; for medium to large hands, use 170" or longer. Most sporting goods stores sell hand wraps, but usually only the short versions, only good for small hands.

Many wrapping variations can be used based on the situation and experience of the fighter. Variations can add more wrist support, thumb support, padding for the knuckles, or less fabric within the fist. Sometimes a single wrap between fingers over the finger-web helps stabilize the wrap and keep it from "riding up" within a looser-fitting glove. Competition rules may restrict the type and amount of material used. Sometimes fighters may also be given a limited amount of gauze and tape to use in the wrapping.

Training wraps are usually re-usable cloth and may be secured with a small tie-tab or with Velcro. Conventional hand wraps are non-elastic, but Mexican-style slightly elasticized hand wraps are also used. The length of wraps will vary depending on rules, personal preference, hand size, and the type of glove to be worn. The shorter wraps are common for the fingerless "grappling gloves" used in mixed martial arts.

An alternative to hand wraps is foam or gel-lined fingerless gloves worn inside the punching glove. The use of these gloves is controlled by the rules of the governing organization. They are quicker and easier to use although they are may not be as effective as traditional hand wraps.

Tips on using hand wraps

  • Proper tightness of hand wraps is important. Wraps should be tight enough to stay firmly in place, but not too tight or they will hamper circulation. You should be able to form a correct fist, with the knuckles covered by the wrap. Wrapping takes practice. If your hand wraps do not feel right, wrap them again.
  • Hand wraps have a top and bottom. Some are marked "This Side Down." The reason is that the Velcro fastener should be face up when finished. If you started with the wrong side down, just twist the wrap at the end of wrapping.
  • Hand wraps can be machine washed and dried. Put them in a sock wash bag to prevent tangling.
  • Let wraps dry after a workout and then roll them before using them again. If you work out several times a week, use a couple of pairs.
  • For smaller hands, avoid wrapping too many times around the palm, because the wrappings will bunch up. You may need to include a couple of figure 8's and extra times around the wrist to take up the slack.  

Way to wrap hands

There are different ways to wrap hands. Some add extra protection to the knuckles while others help keep the wraps from moving and loosening.

The following instructions are for a common way of wrapping. Wrap the left hand with 9' cotton Velcro fastened wraps. The right hand is wrapped in the same manner.
  • Put the thumb through the loop in the wrap so the wrap is lying across the wrist.
  • Wrap twice around the wrist in the direction shown.  
  • Turn the hand over and wrap across the back of the hand between the thumb and first finger.  
  • •Turn the hand over and spread fingers to allow slack around knuckles. Wrap twice around knuckles in the direction shown.  
  • Turn the hand over and wrap across the back of the hand going below the thumb. 
  • Turn the hand over and wrap around the thumb and then across the back of the hand. 
  • Wrap across the wrist, around the thumb, and across the palm. 
  • Wrap across the back of the wrist, under the thumb, around thumb as shown, and then across the wrist. 
  • Turn the hand over and wrap across the back of the hand going between the thumb and the index finger.  
  • Turn the hand over. Wrap around the knuckles.  
  • Turn the hand over. Wrap across the back of hand below the thumb and then around the wrist.
  • Secure wrap using the Velcro strips.  

Sources

  • Shotokan karate. [Online]. Available: http://thecyberdojo.com/index.html
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