Boxing can be as gear-intensive as you want it to be. As you progress in your training, your personal preference in gear might change, but you’ll likely start with gloves and wraps. So, I’m going to break down how to pick your first pair of each to start your boxing journey off right.
Hand wraps primarily do two things: they stabilize and immobilize the wrist joint and provide an extra level of protection to the knuckles. There are two types of wraps generally found on the market. There are quick wraps and traditional wraps.
Quick wraps are essentially the glove inside of the glove. They usually provide decent protection to the knuckles but lack in wrist support. This is because the area around the joint is usually not as stiff as it is with multiple layers of traditional wrapping. When you strike you want your wrist rigid as if it was a solid piece of bone. So, quick wraps, while convenient, aren’t always the best route.
Traditional wraps resemble cotton gauze and come in 120-inch and 180-inch lengths. I recommend 180 inches. This size will accommodate large and small hands alike—and it’s always better to have a little too much material than too little. If you have smaller hands, you can double up on the wraps around your wrists and knuckles without impacting your workout too much. A double wrap may help a larger glove fit more comfortably, too.
It might be tempting to use quick wraps, the quick glove-like pullover style, in order to avoid having to learn how to wrap your hands because like anything new it will take a little practice. However, I advise using traditional wraps. In my opinion, it’s worth it to take the initial time investment to learn the right way. You can easily find several examples of different ways to wrap your hands online, then you can develop your own style of securing your hands to train.
Gloves to a boxer are like shoes to a runner. That’s where the rubber meets the road, or leather meets the bag in this case. So, it’s important to find the right pair for you.
MMA (mixed martial arts) gloves are the ones that have individual finger articulations. These are the gloves commonly seen in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Generally, I discourage new boxers from using MMA-style gloves. These gloves usually run around 4-6 ounces in weight. This may increase the possibility of injury because there’s less glove to absorb impact. They are also often too small for wrapped hands. Even UFC-contracted fighters will rarely hit a heavy bag with these style of gloves.
MMA-style gloves are only ideal for circuit training. If you’re alternating between boxing and strength training that involves weights or holding any equipment, the individual fingers are helpful. The whole purpose of this type of gloves is to allow grappling techniques to be performed while still contributing some hand protection. So, be aware that you’re trading extra protection for the ability to grip.
Oven-mitt style gloves look, well, like oven mitts. These are the standard boxing gloves that you see most often. Personally, I like to rotate these into my own training to check my form and make sure I land my punches on the front two knuckles of my fist. However, I’m usually dialing down the power or working on a lighter bag because of the increased impact going to your joints. Although these have more padding than MMA gloves they still have less than traditional bag gloves. Another advantage to occasionally using these is their size. Oven-mitt style gloves can easily fit in a carry-on without taking up too much space. I, however, would avoid these style gloves for your first pair. Instead, I would recommend a traditional bag glove that resembles the type of glove seen in competition.
Things To Consider
Gloves generally come in 10-, 12-, 14-, and 16-ounce varieties, but you can probably find 8- or 18-ounce gloves from certain brands. For your first bag glove I recommend 14 or 16 ounces. Generally, if you weigh more than 150 pounds, choose a heavier glove. If you weigh less than 140 pounds, choose a lighter glove to account for what will most likely be a difference in the force of impact and hand size. If your hands are small, choose a glove size that allows you to make a fist. Keep in mind that glove weight doesn’t necessarily reflect the size of the space in the hand for the glove. So, always be sure to try on different glove weights from different brands to find your perfect fit.
You want to choose a glove that will allow you to close your hand into a fist—or as close to one as possible. Cheaper glove varieties like the pillowy styles found in department or sporting good stores will often force your hand into a thumbs-up shape. This is a technical flaw. You can severely injure your thumb if it’s sticking out (aka “the hitchhiker’s fist”). You can train for 20 years in these and you’ll never learn to properly hit on the front two knuckles (the ones closest to your thumb). Also, you should select a glove with the thumb attached to the hand of the glove for an added level of protection.
Let’s say you have a 16-ounce glove. Not all glove brands distribute that 16 ounces in the same manner. Some gloves, especially Thai brands such as Twins and Yokkao will carry more weight around the wrist in a stiff cuff. These are an excellent choice for trainees with weak wrists or previous wrist injuries. Ringside IMF gloves and the Title brands tend to have more padding on the knuckles. If the bag you are using is on the harder side this extra padding will not only protect your knuckles but will also absorb some of the impacts to the joints of the elbow and shoulder. It really depends on your preference and the types of boxing workouts you plan to do.
If you are in a larger city, I recommend seeking out a store with a knowledgeable staff that can help you find your perfect pair of boxing gloves. If you don’t have access to a store, I recommend finding a brand with a no-fee return policy so you can try on various pairs before hitting the bag. Gloves will tend to break in, but go with your initial instinct. If it doesn’t feel right at first it generally won’t feel right in the long run either.
As always, train hard and have fun!