Why do you need to wear hand wraps for Boxing, MMA, Muay Thai or Martial Arts?

August 01, 2019

Why you should always wear hand wraps

How can hands get damaged from punching?

If you think about the mechanics of the perfect punch, the force doesn't just come from the arm. In fact, the movement starts at the feet, our legs and feet rotate perfectly in time with the snap in the large muscles of our waist and gluteus.  This begins generating momentum using our entire mass to project force down through our shoulders, on through our arms to our fist, where ultimately it contacts using an area of no larger than a few centimetres, with another person or bag of near equal mass.  

As you can imagine the shock on our hands and wrists is tremendous.  Doing this over and over can cause damage to our bones and joints, even if you do not initially notice any ill effects.

Our hands are formed of 27 small bones.  The force that we expect each of these bones to dissipate when punching is massive.  The better you get at punching, the stronger you become, or the heavier you get, the stress only increases.  Eventually, you may find that you cause yourself damage which could stop your training or even cause long term pain.

Another common injury caused by inadequate hand support is "rolling the wrist".  This is where you make bad contact with the target, with the wrist in the wrong position and without adequate support.  This very often causes your fist to roll downwards bending the wrist and forces the whole weight of the punch through the bent wrist joint.  It can be extremely painful, can cause injury which will stop you punching for a long time, or even cause permanent injury.

It's not just punching that can cause injury.  Blocking can also cause damage.  When trying to fend off punches, knees, elbows and kicks it is easier to take a hit on an unusual part of the hand.  Blows to the side, back, palm or thumb area can all cause injury.

Tightly fitted hand wraps provide support by binding the bones in the hand together.  They bind the hand into a tight single unit which helps to prevent injury and evenly distribute the shock across the fist.  Secondly, they provide vital wrist support which prevents you from rolling your wrist and injuring yourself.


What are the different types of hand wraps?

Professional fighters use a combination of thin gauze and tape which is applied by their cornerman or trainer.  This is commonly used in competitive fights.

When it comes to wraps for training there are many varieties.  Stretch wraps sometimes called Mexican wraps are made of elasticated cotton.  They fit the hand closely and can be extremely tight.  The downside is that it is easy to wrap TOO tight which constricts blood flow.  Your hands might start to tingle which will force you to unwrap them and wrap them up looser.

Non-Stretch wraps are generally made of cotton.  They are usually slightly thicker material.  The fit is different and there is less chance of being too tight.  

It personal preference which style you use although stretch wraps seem to be more popular.

The second factor to consider after the material is the length.  Generally, hand wraps come in two lengths 2.5m (98") and 5m (197").    Whilst 2.5m can be more convenient to put on due to the shorter length, I personally recommend 5m wraps. The reason for this is simple, the extra length afforded you allows for much greater support. The extra turns of material you can apply massively increase the strength and stability the wrap provides. This leads to less likelihood of injury.

From personal experience, I have found myself injuring myself far more when I have used 2.5m wraps.  I find that there is simply too much flex in the wraps which can lead to the wrist rolling on impact.  Unless you are doing very light training I would always advise people to choose 5m wraps over 2.5m. If you are a hard hitter then you shouldn't even consider anything less than 5m.

You may not notice any pain when using 2.5m wraps, but after training, you may find that your wrists become painful.  There is simply not adequate support leading to the wrist joint taking the brunt of the impact.


 How should you wrap your hands?

There are many ways of wrapping the hands and no two fighters have the same style.  You may develop your own prefered technique over time.  In general, the areas to focus on are the wrist, across the knuckles, in between the fingers, and the thumb.

For a demonstration of how to wrap your hands, I really like this video by the guys over at Fight Tips on YouTube.


What are the benefits of hand wraps?

  • Protection for the knuckles against impact.
  • Adds stability and support for the wrist.  Stops the unwanted wrist movements such as rolling.
  • Keeps the knuckles together as a single unit. Helps to prevent separation injuries to the knuckles.
  • Binds all the small bones of the fist in place, dampens vibrations and shock to the bones.
  • Creates a nice pad to grip between the fingers and palm.  Prevents injuries where the fingers are smashed in towards the palm.
  • Locks the thumb in place helping to prevent injuries to the thumb.


Hand wraps are one of the most important bits of kit any fighter can have.  Whenever you are putting any level of shock through your fists you should be wearing wraps.  Don't risk injury by skipping them.  Any injury to the wrist or fist can take you out of training for a significant amount of time.  For the few minutes it takes to put on your wraps is it worth the risk?

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