Hands are not made for punching people in the head. I realise that’s not a revolutionary statement but it is one that many doctors have muttered to boxers over the years, when advising boxing hopefuls that years of pounding bags, pads and opponents has caused long term damage to their hands.
Avoiding hand problems completely is impossible, but you can do more to minimise the damage. Of course, it’s imperative that you bandage your hands correctly before training and you should also be flexing and stretching your hands before training – after all, you stretch everything else before training so why not your hands. But these are two very basic things – what else can you be doing?
An area that is often overlooked is strengthening your hands, wrist and forearms; this can help you reduce the chances of causing any damage, or at least delay it. What difference can this make? Well, many problems arise when your hands, wrists and forearms aren’t strong enough to cope with the power of your punches; this means that your wrist can collapse dorsally or ventrally during punching; which basically means that your hand buckles on impact (as shown in the below photo’s) which will have negative physical effects if this is repeated continually.
You see, the very nature of our sport dictates that we will build up muscles around the shoulder, but the hand, wrist and forearms areas are usually ignored. For manual workers this may not such a priority as whilst you may not be intentionally building up these muscles, you may well be building up those muscles at work. For those not partaking in manual work, building up this area could make a significant difference.When this constantly happens over a period of time, you can end up with problems at the base of your metacarpals (the bones running into your fingers), metacarpo-carpal ligaments and the wrist area. With a stronger forearm, wrist and hand the damage on impact is removed as the arm is more robust: So how do you strengthen your forearm, hand and wrist? There are three main exercises that can assist with strengthening the three important areas:
Most of us will have done bicep curls in the past at some stage and wrist curls work in a similar fashion, albeit with less movement. Start with your wrist straight with a weight in your hand (as shown below) and then bring your wrist up towards your forearm. Before bringing your hands back until the wrist is straight. Lifting the heaviest possible weight is not the key here – it’s all about repetitions. Lifting a lighter weight a hundred times will assist more than lifting a heavier weight five times. Start with 3 sets of 10 reps on each arm and build up to 3 sets of 20.In addition to moving your wrist towards the forearm, you should also do more wrist curls to work another area of the wrist. Turn your hand so that your wrist is facing the ceiling and then go through the same process with 3 sets on each hand. This will help to build up the muscles in your wrist as well as working your forearm
There are many hand gripper type objects around to strengthen the hand but to really strengthen your hand, you need something that will work when expanding the hand too. There are several variations around, but the one I use is the (terribly named) ‘Handmaster’ (not a plug – generally apparatus I happen to use for this purpose) from Physio-Med. It works by gripping the strong ball at tight as possible, before expanding your hand, which is contracted by elastic wrapped around each finger. High repetitions of this each day will work muscles in your hands that you’ve never worked before.The beauty of this is that it can be done anywhere at any time – the Handmaster can be carried anywhere is you can be strengthening your hand whilst you sit watching the TV.
To do this exercise you need three things, which will enable you to make the tool required: A small length of wood Sting A weight You then tie the string around the centre of the wood (which acts as the handle) and make sure there is still 1 metre of loose string hanging from the handle. The weight is then attached to the other end of the string and tied on. Then, stand up straight and hold your arms out straight in front of you, with the handle in your hands. Then proceed to lift the weight up by twisting the handle. Lift the weight all the way up until it reaches the handle and then turn the handle the other way until the string is out straight again. Then take a break and go through the same process twice more.
As stated earlier in this article, there is no guarantee that doing these exercises will stop you becoming injured but it will certainly minimise the risk.As always, make sure you check with your coach and physio before you partake in any of the exercises suggested in this article.