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I'm not generally a fit person, but I started riding a bike to work two years ago when a colleague of mine sold me an slightly used one really cheap. Now in winter I can't (safely) do that so I bought myself a boxing bag to at least have a way of training inside (and because I thought it would be a good way to "externalize daily frustration").

Now my problem is (winter approaching) that even while wearing padded boxing gloves, I get bleeding knuckles within 15 minutes of training. And since it takes over a week for them to heal, I can't see how I could train regularly without having to wear bandages on my hands permanently (which looks stupid and attract unwanted attention).

I sometimes saw real boxers on TV wearing bandages before they put their gloves on. Are those meant to prevent bleeding, or just prevent that the blood gets in the gloves?

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  • Do the gloves fit properly? Are you wearing wraps as well? Are these abrasions? Do you bleed easily normally? ;) Nov 22, 2011 at 13:42
  • I'm not wearing wraps. It seems this is my problem. Nov 22, 2011 at 18:18
  • Wraps and better gloves. I use 12oz gloves for the heavy bag. Nov 5, 2012 at 13:26

3 Answers 3

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The "bandages" that "real boxers" wear (whether on TV or not) are called handwraps, and are worn underneath the glove to add stability to the bones of the hand and wrist, as well as to prevent chafing with the inside of the glove. (They are not for soaking up blood inside the gloves, though I guess they do that job too.)

I would add three things to your punching bag workouts:

  1. Handwraps, properly wrapped. You'll have to get someone to show you.
  2. Boxing instruction, since you might be doing something egregiously wrong that we can't diagnose over the internet. A little training goes a long way when it comes to preventing self-injury.
  3. A shorter time period. 15 minutes of bag work for someone new to it is a lot. You need to give your body time to build up to that amount of work--tougher skin, denser bones. Otherwise you might tear up your untrained hands or sprain a weak wrist.
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I agree with Dave about hand wraps, workout time, etc… but I feel you should be able to hit the bag a bit without prior instruction. For your bleeding knuckles, instead of hand wraps - which require a bit of expertise - you can use boxing wraps, they are easier to use and provide good protection.

Some other tips:

  • Knuckle push ups.
  • Use a timer (either iPhone or Gymboss) to pace yourself - 2 or 3 minute rounds with a 45 sec or 1 minute rest.
  • Look at YouTube for some basic heavy bag workouts - hitting is nice, hitting with reason is better.
  • If it hurts, stop! Don't continue with anything that is starting to cause undo pain or injuries.
  • Include jump rope: one round of heavy bag followed by a round of jump rope. This will give your hands a break and provide great aerobics.
  • Don't give up…
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  • Knuckle pushups are a good idea, but on the other hand, if they are already hurt (and/or bleeding), then they probably won't help much... And if you need to stop, you can at least do some "shadow boxing" (punch the air). Could help you prolong the workout and it's similar enough.
    – VPeric
    Nov 23, 2011 at 22:05
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The question is old but I had the same problem, and found that there's not many good answers online.

Firstly the OP is basically not doing a bunch of basic things right. He has much bigger problems than knuckle bleeds. You have to wrap your hands, even under the gloves. Punching pushes your bones apart which can lead to fractures. The wraps hold them together in a bundle. Gloves do not provide this type of support. A nice side benefit is that your knuckles are not naked, but the main reason for wraps is to protect bones.

It's interesting that you mentioned bandages. In my experience if you do have any wounds, the wraps are actually pretty rough. If the pain is bad I put a bandaid over it, and then wrap over the bandaid, that helps a lot by protecting the still-healing wound from the rough fabric.

I noticed it helps if you wash your wraps often. If they have a lot of dry sweat, they get more rigid, which makes them more abrasive. The salt probably doesn't help.

I've also considered, but haven't tried, just getting a medical gauze pad and wrapping that under the wraps. Alternatively you can get "knuckle protectors" - these are basically like a cloth bracelet with a bit of foam inside, you put it over your knuckles for extra cushioning and wrap over them.

You will hear people say not to punch too hard. While punching light will of course reduce the problem, I don't think it's the main issue. First, many people punch hard and don't have any bleeding. But the real reason you get knuckle bleeds is because there is lateral movement of your fist against the bag as you punch. You are dragging your knuckle (no pun intended :) against the inside of your glove/wrap and this is scrapping off the skin.

This can happen because for example you are throwing a rear hook, but the orbit of your hand is too narrow, and you come at a sharp angle to the bag. Your hand grazes it as you punch and you get the lateral movement. When I examined the pattern of where exactly the wounds were on my hand, I noticed it was exactly matching with those punches where I was most off-angle, and coincidentally the ones where I felt pain in the wound. It was also the ones where I was making the bag spin, which is incidentally a great indicator: The bag should never spin when you punch right. If it is, take care to land your punches more squarely. Ideally, your punch and the bag should always look like a "T".

There's various ways of "strengthening" your knuckle skin: Knuckle push ups, punching wood, digging through rice... If your only problem is that your hands bleed when boxing, don't bother with these. Firstly if you do them painlessly, it will be take a very long time. If you want to get tough skin fast you will probably have to injure it regularly. It's a lot easier to just learn to punch correctly, which you should be doing anyway, and not need tougher skin.

The use of these skin toughening drills is when you're doing a bare-hand martial art like karate, in a way that requires the extra toughness, for example you make a living by punching through boards on a stage with bare hands. The other one is if you street fight regularly (as in, every week). If this is not the case, it's not really worth it to try and toughen your skin. Just do the reasonable protections like wraps and make sure you are punching square.

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