Get Strong, Hit Hard & Toughen Up!

6 Focus Mitt Training Tips To Protect Your Hands

I got an email recently from Gina who is experiencing pain and cramping in her hands after her first training session with focus mitts.  I thought I’d share our discussion…

hand protection

Gina Writes:  “Hello, I just wanted to ask a quick question.  I have had my first pad work session and my hands haven’t stop cramping/spasmming and my wrists are in excruciating pain. What am I doing wrong?”

Although it’s not a common complaint to have pain and cramping in your hands after focus mitt training, it does happen.

Hand, elbow and shoulder problems are more common when hitting the heavy bag because it presents a more solid and less movable surface.

For every action there is an equal reacton.  When you generate kinetic energy with a strike, your body must be positioned and resilient enough to accept some of that energy back into it.

Especially if you are new to impact work, there are a few reasons why this might be happening.

#1 Time To Adapt:  If you’re not used to striking things, it will take some time for your body (joints, bones and connective tissues) to adapt and become more resilient to the unique stress of impact.

Even if you are in “good shape” from other types of exercise, but not used to striking things with your fists, it will take some time for your body to get used to it.

Particularly if you are new to impact training, its important to keep in mind that “kinetic energy” from hitting things puts a unique type of stress on your body; different than from other forms of exercise.

#2 Power Exceeds Resilience:  As you learn to hit properly, the power you are able to generate will quickly “out pace” your body’s ability to withstand it. It usually takes about 8 – 10 weeks of light to moderate hitting, before your hands and joints will adapt sufficiently for harder hitting practice.

#3 Vulnerable Contact Alignment:  If there are errors in your punching mechanics, you may be making impact with your limbs and joints at incorrect positions and angles.  Stressing your joints while they are NOT in the optimal position for resilience and stability can result in pain, soreness and injuries.

Here are some training tips that I recommend:

1.  Focus On Technique First:  Make sure that you focus your attention on performing your striking techniques as precisely and correctly as possible BEFORE increasing the power of your strikes.

2.  Start Easy: Begin training with light to moderate power strikes… Focus on speed and precision first and increase your hitting power over time… and only when you can do so without pain.

3.  Start With Brief, Infrequent Sessions: Keep your focus mitt training sessions short and allow time between workouts for your body to adapt and recover. Start with once or twice a week to give yourself plenty of recovery time in between sessions.

4.  Use Boxing Gloves: If you are hitting the pads with bag gloves, consider switching to boxing gloves… The additional padding will absorb more of the impact energy that would have otherwise been transferred back into your hands and body.

5.  Wrap Your Hands:  Do you wrap your hands with cotton boxer’s wraps? If not, you might want to try them out… Wraps will stabilize your wrists and the small bones in your hands making them more resilient to the rigours of your striking workouts.

6.  Strengthen Your Hands, Wrists & Forearms: Do exercises for your hands that will strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments.  Grippers, kettlebell drills etc. will dramatically improve the strength and resilience of your hands, wrists and forearms.

Taking these things into account when you’re getting use to impact training on pads and bags will allow you train pain and injury free.

Have you had any hand or joint issues from your focus mitt or heavy bag training?  If so, please feel free to comment.

About Randy LaHaie

I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.

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  • Tom

    I can relate. I’ve been doing knuckle pushups for years trying to strengthen my wrists. The first time I hit a heavy bag I was so confident I did very little to set myself to properly hit the bag. I felt that punch long after the bag had forgotten all about it!
    If this is any use, I’ve found that my index and middle finger line up with one of the rotating bones in the arm (I should know it) and when I hit, that line up makes for a solid punch wiith less effort.
    keep hitttin

  • Connie Maxwell-Massie

    What boxing gloves do you recommend? I’m using Everlast, cheap I know, but wasn’t sure when I bought them if this was something I wanted to do. I love it, can’t get enough, so now is the time to invest in some better quality gloves. I have some hand issues, not from boxing, with my finger joints so I need some better gloves. Thanks!

    • Hi Connie, Thanks for your question. I don’t have a specific brand or model recommendation about boxing gloves… Most brands make both crappy and high-quality gloves. It’s often a matter of getting what you pay for. In general terms, I’d recommend getting about a 14-16 ounce pair, with firm padding that doesn’t feel like it will shift around inside the glove. A good test of a glove is to put one on one hand, and press through the padding onto the knuckles of your clenched fist with the thumb or heel of your other hand. It should feel firm, cushioned and protected. If you can press your thumb through the padding and feel the bony surface of your knuckles, the padding isn’t firm enough. I hope that makes sense. With boxing gloves you need to balance cost with quality. If you get cheap ones they won’t protect your hands adequately and expensive ones will get sweaty after a while and you’ll probably want to replace them any way. If you’d like me to take a look at a specific pair that you’re considering, send me a link and I’ll do my best to evaluate them. I hope that helps. Good luck.

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