Wrapping is the process of using cloth wraps or gauze to wrap your hands prior to fighting or training. It seems like a very basic thing; wrapping some cloth around the hand to offer extra padding, protection and support while striking, but it is a surprisingly contentious topic.

How to Wrap Your Hands

wrap your hands
Stretch Wraps
wrap your hands
Non Stretch Wraps

It starts with just the wraps themselves. There are two basic kinds of wraps for training, those that stretch and those that don’t. I first got a set of Mexican (stretchy) boxing wraps about five years ago when a friend from America came to visit. I had never seen that style before but these days you get wraps in that style from Thailand as well as most of the European and American manufacturers. The other style of wraps (like my older Twins wraps from eight years ago) don’t stretch, at all. Wraps also come in several different lengths, from 4.5m (180 inches) down to 2.75m (108 inches).

The advantages and disadvantages of each style and length are different, and as long as the wrap is doing its job of protecting and supporting your hands, it doesn’t actually matter. There is no right or wrong outside of the primary purpose of wrapping, as long as they are protecting your hands it really doesn’t matter if they are pink Hello Kitty stretchy wraps or non-stretch black and gold ones with dragons all over them. It doesn’t matter. As long as they’re doing their job, it’s all just personal preference.

Another thing to consider is hygiene. If you own your own gloves then it’s not such a big issue, at worst your gloves will smell a bit sweaty and that’s not the end of the world. If you wear club (shared) gloves then that’s a different matter. Your wraps help absorb sweat and help to prevent any infectants that are on the lining of the glove being transferred to your skin.

Aware of the Tightness of the Wrap

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Short Wraps

In my experience stretch wraps fit to your hands better, but you need to be more aware of how tightly you’re wrapping. It’s easy to pull the elasticity out of the wrap while you’re winding it onto your hand and then once you finish it’s too tight, restricting blood supply to your fingers. That’s  obviously not what you want, so you need to be a bit more aware of how tightly you’re wrapping. Non-stretch wraps don’t have that problem, but they also don’t conform to the shape of your hand as well, so you end up with more areas where the cloth bunches up and doesn’t sit nicely.

The length of wrap should be dictated by two conditions, the size of your hands (bigger hands require longer wraps) and what kind of gloves you’re wearing. I tend to use a short set of Mexican wraps when I wear MMA gloves because the MMA gloves are so much smaller and tighter so I wrap in a different manner to when I’m wearing full boxing or Muay Thai gloves.

wrap your hands
Knuckle Coverage

Another thing to think about when you’re looking at wraps is the fit of your gloves. I have quite big hands and when I first got my Twins 16oz gloves they were a bit tight, it was actually hard to get my hands into them while wearing my normal wraps. After a few months they loosened up (which they do) and they now fit tightly and securely on my hands when I wear my normal wraps. My Fairtex 12oz gloves were so tight when I first got them that I actually couldn’t wear wraps.

After a few months and a lot of sweat they loosened up enough that I can wear wraps with them now, but they’re still uncomfortably tight, so I tend to wear shorter wraps with the Fairtex gloves and focus my wrapping on wrist and thumb support with less focus on wrapping my knuckles. Those gloves are actual boxing gloves so they have a huge amount of padding over the knuckles anyway.

Of course one of the main points of wrapping is to give us extra cover over our knuckles to help protect our hands. While a lot of people put a lot of extra wrapping over the knuckles this isn’t, in my opinion at least, the best method. The problem with wrapping over the knuckles multiple times to build up a thick pad of cloth on the top of the knuckles is that you also build up a thick pad of cloth inside the hand. This makes it harder to make a tight fist and get your hand into the right alignment for striking.

The video above is a perfect example of how NOT to wrap. The thumb tab (which I don’t personally use) is the wrong way so it tends to slide off the thumb. The bulk of the wrap is around the hand offering little or no protection to the knuckles. The wrap over the knuckles is low so when he makes a fist it doesn’t actually cover the front section of the knuckles that you punch with. The knuckle padding isn’t tied down by weaving the wrap between the fingers so it will slide off as soon as he puts his glove on. All in all it’s a perfect example of how not to wrap your hands.

It’s better in my opinion to use cloth, sponge, or even tissue paper to create a pad that can be laid over the top of the knuckles to provide padding. The wrap itself can then be used to secure that pad in place, and provide support and protection for the hand.

When wrapping for full gloves (180” wraps) I prefer a boxing style wrap using a cloth pad made of my wrap.

There are a lot of videos on YouTube that tell you how to do this, the video above is close to what I use. I don’t personally go so far down my wrist; you need support on the flexible part of your wrist, down further the bones don’t bend so you don’t need so much support. Another thing is that I tend to wrap my thumb twice. This is mostly because I’m a short heavyweight. I throw a lot of overhand rights because most of my opponents are taller than me and the extra support on the thumb helps to prevent thumb fractures, an injury that I’ve suffered a few times in my life and that I really want to avoid.

Using a pad made of your wrap is convenient and effective, but if you only have short wraps then you may want to use something else to create the pad so that you don’t have to skimp on wrist or thumb support.

When wrapping for MMA gloves it’s  more important to focus on supporting the wrist and thumb. MMA gloves as a rule don’t offer as much support for the hand as a full boxing or Muay Thai glove so it’s important to supplement that support with your wrap instead. Another factor is that MMA gloves tend to be smaller and tighter, they conform more closely to the shape of your hand, so you can’t have any big bulky lumps of pad sticking out if you want your glove to sit in the right place and give you the protection that it’s designed to give.

I personally wrap in a similar way to the way I do my boxing wraps. I use a much shorter wrap, I only go around my hand twice to make the pad. I only go around the pad once leaving just two layers of wrap on the palm of my hand. I also pay extra attention to the thumb as most MMA gloves leave you thumb exposed. You obviously can’t wrap your thumb so heavily that you reduce grip strength, seeing as MMA fights require a lot more grip strength but you still want to give that thumb as much protection as you can.

Wrapping is an important, but often overlooked, aspect of martial arts protective gear. A good wrap technique will protect you from a number of potential injuries such as “boxer’s knuckle” by providing support and extra padding, as well as keeping your gloves cleaner and helping to prevent the spread of infection.

Happy fighting.

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