Is it ok to hit a punching bag without gloves on?
Often times you will see some guy wailing away on the punching bag usually a beginner without wearing any boxing gloves or even hand wraps for that matter.
Its as if instinct just takes over and they suddenly feel compelled to hit the heavy bag even if nothing is being worn on their hand for protection.
Now guys that have been in the game long enough know the merits of wearing boxing gloves when doing heavy bag work and would probably say that dude’s gonna mess up his knuckles soon enough.
But is it really necessary to be wearing gloves when your hitting a heavy bag?
The simple answer is YES!
You should be wearing boxing gloves or at the minimum hand wraps to provide some sort of protection for your hands.
Let’s examine why it’s a good idea to wear gloves when you intend on hitting the heavy bag.
Why Do People Commonly Do It?
There could be a number of reasons, however some of the most common reasons you will hear are:
- They want to condition and strengthen their knuckles and skin. Some people even claim that it helps strengthen your bones, muscles, and connective tissue although I have yet to see research studies to confirm this.
- They are preparing for a bare knuckles fight or self defense situation for outside. Their reasoning is that by hitting a heavy bag with their bare knuckles, it mimics what it feels like to hit a real person with your fists. Here’s a news flash, human flesh and skin does not feel like a heavy bag!
- They don’t like the restrictiveness of wearing gloves or hand wraps.
- They are just plain lazy
- They want to feed their egos
Wrist and Hand Injuries
When you participate in a combat sport that focuses on the use of one’s fists and knuckles for striking hard objects, its not unreasonable to expect to incur some damage and injuries to your hands and wrists over time.
In fact, in a research study that looked at the nature and duration of hand injuries among elite amateur boxers in Great Britain found that “boxer’s knuckles” whereby there’s an injury in the joint capsule of the hand along with instability in the carpometacarpal’s were common forms of injuries sustained in boxing, and highlight the need for proper protective gear when training in boxing, especially the hands.
Other additional boxing hand injuries someone could potential develop is a “boxer’s fracture” in which a break occurs in the 4th or 5th metcarpal near the knuckles. The main cause of this is punching hard firm objects like someone’s skull or even a hard punching bag without proper protection.
Furthermore, when you punch bare handed without any sort of protection, you have a high likelihood of scraping your skin on the punching bag, especially on rough punching bag outer shells like canvas.
Not only does this inflict pain on you, it also causes bleeding on your knuckles and hands if left untreated.
I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of guys punching away on a punching bag, only to walk away a few minutes later with their knuckles and hands all bloodied up.
Are You Using Proper Punching Technique?
A lot of guys that punch bare handed on a punching bag are more often then not beginners and have poor technique as the above video exhibits.
For example, having a bent wrist when making contact with a heavy punching bag while punching is just asking for trouble.
This significantly increases your chances of spraining a ligament or even tearing a muscle in the hand or wrist.
Also the placement of your thumb when making a fist is very important, and should be placed on the outside after you have curled your four digits together. Some newbies when punching think its a good idea instead to wrap their fingers around their thumb, which significantly increases the risk of them dislocating and injuring their thumb.
Bad form with no protection plus punching a heavy bag with full power = a trip to the hospital
Why You Should Use Hand Protection
Hand protection is not a recent phenomenon, its been practiced for ages now.
The ancient Greeks who practiced boxing foresaw the need for protection of the hands when boxing and developed the first form of hand protection.
Boxing gloves were further used in the 17th century in Great Britain for practice purposes as well.
Using hand protection to hit a heavy bag not only protects your hands from any sort of joint injury such as a strain, but it also protects it from any fractures as well.
One bad injury could potentially end your boxing career permanently!
Furthermore, when your protecting your hands, you prevent the scraping of the skin of your knuckles on the surface of a punching bag, which leads to bleeding and sore knuckles. When this happens, you’ll need to take time off for it heal.
Lastly, hitting a heavy bag bare knuckles will inadvertently teach you bad punching habits and form that are different compared to someone wearing gloves.
When your punching without gloves or any protection on, you cannot hit the bag with full force otherwise you will most likely get injured.
This will create bad habits for you when you do spar with someone, as your body won’t be using full power.
Also when you spar and fight in a boxing match, you are using hand wraps and gloves, not bare fists. You should be training the same way that your going to be fighting and competing in.
A pair of gloves and hand wraps are quite cheap nowadays so cost really should not be an excuse for not picking up a pair and wearing them.
The pros far outweigh the cons of not wearing gloves or any protection at all.
What If You Still Want to Hit It Without Gloves On?
If despite after reading about all of the negatives of hitting a heavy bag without any gloves on and you still feel compelled to give it a try then here is what I would recommend (not that I even recommend you hit a heavy bag without gloves on).
Use Hand Wraps
At the minimum use hand wraps to protect your hands. Although not as good compared to boxing gloves for protecting your hands, they still provide some level of protection, but of course I know there will still be some people out there that will still choose to ignore this advice.
Choose a Soft Outer Shell for the Bag
Choose a heavy bag with a softer outer shell such as leather, synthetic leather or vinyl (cheaper option) rather than canvas. The canvas material is very harsh on the skin and can easily scrap off your skin.
I remember just throwing a few jabs and punches on a canvas bag in my high school gym back in the day and after the 2nd or 3rd punch, my skin was already scrapping off. The instructor even warned students not to punch on it without gloves on as it will tear the skin off of your hands and leave blood on the heavy bag.
Even for kicks, you will undoubtedly feel the effects of having the canvas tear away at your flesh, leaving you bloodied and exposing the insides of your skin.
At my home right now, I am using a vinyl heavy bag, and it just feels a whole lot better on the skin upon contact.
Sure you might feel like a tough guy punching the heavy bag until your knuckles are all bloodied and red, but then you find out later that your decommissioned and need to wait 2-3 weeks to allow your hands to heal again.
That’s time off of training that you could have used instead.
Hit the Bag Very Gently
If your intending on hitting the bag without any gloves or hand wraps on then you should not be using 100% power on it.
In fact, even 50% power might be too much.
Rather, I would advocate that you use no more than 25% power or less.
It should feel like light taps when your making contact with the bag rather then hard blows that sends the punching bag swinging back and forth.
This will at least ensure that you don’t end up messing up your knuckles or causing too much damage to the skin or bones of your hands, or even spraining your wrist.
Do Not Train Regularly on It Without Protection
While there are of course risks associated with hitting the heavy bag without any hand protective on whatsoever, I think most people would agree that your risks increases significantly if your doing this on a regular basis.
There may come a day sooner rather then later when you either strike at the bag too hard or you throw a punch that is a little off and then you mess up your knuckles.
Instead, I would advocate only hitting the heavy bag once in a while if at that.
And even then, I would limit the session to only a few minutes at most.
You don’t want to be punching and beating the heavy bag for hours in one session or your knuckles are gonna be bruised and battled at the end of the session.
In this article, we looked at whether or not it was OK to hit a punching bag without gloves on.
The answer is no, you shouldn’t be hitting a heavy bag without gloves or any form of hand protection on.
Next we examined why people typically decide to hit a heavy bag without any form of hand protection on such as laziness and trying to condition and strengthen their hands and wrists.
We also discussed some common hand and wrist injuries that are a result of boxing and hitting hard objects such as heavy bags. Furthermore, we talked about why using hand protection should always be a priority when punching a heavy bag.
Finally, a few tips were given that could be used to minimize the risk of sustaining an injury in case you do decide to ignore the advice and proceed with punching a heavy bag bare handed.
Our hands are one of our most vital weapons when it comes to combat sports and self defense and shouldn’t be hastily abused through punching a heavy bag bare handed.
One wrong move and you can kiss those sweat hands of yours goodbye and a regret that will last a lifetime.
Be safe, wear gloves when punching a heavy bag.