You generate a lot of power when you punch something with all your strength. And where is all this power concentrated? That’s right: in the tiny square inch that comprises your knuckles.
This is true even if you’re a beginner. Beginners don’t punch anywhere near as hard as people who know how to use good technique, but they still give their knuckles a bruisin’ when they bang.
Sore knuckles: is the damage serious?
Odds are, your sore knuckles are nothing to worry about. In most cases, bone bruises (which is what sore knuckles are) heal up as good as new.
Arthritis — noun — Degenerative inflamation of a joint, resulting from trauma.
But this assumes that you stop punching and give your knuckles a chance to heal.
If you are hard-headed enough to keep training with sore knuckles, you’re just asking for trouble. Repeatedly re-injuring the same area causes all sorts of nasty repetitive-stress injuries that are completely preventable. So, unless you want arthritis when you’re still young and strong, take it from me: give yourself a chance to heal.
How long do sore knuckles take to heal?
I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. You’ll have to rest your sore knuckles until they’re no longer sore to the touch. Then, give them another week just to be safe.
How to avoid sore knuckles from the punching bag
There are two schools of thought about this:
- Condition your knuckles so they resist damage.
- Use safety equipment so you can hit harder without damaging your knuckles.
Conditioning your knuckles
Tall tales about conditioning the knuckles are common, especially among martial artists. But this is mostly a joke played on gullible young folks who want to be tough. In reality, there isn’t much you can do to toughen up your knuckles unless you want to spend years pounding your hands into oblivion.
Yes, it’s possible to make the bones in your hands stronger, but this takes years of training and it will destroy your manual dexterity (not to mention put you at high risk of degenerative arthritis).
There are only a few types of hand conditioning that I recommend.
- Knuckle pushups. They’ll make your knuckles a bit tougher after a few weeks, and they’ll strengthen your wrists and forearms.
- Hand-strengthening exercises like grip training are a good idea too.
- Forearm-strengthening work like the wrist roller and wrist curls. Use high reps to stimulate and strengthen the connective tissue in your forearm, wrist, hand, and fingers.
Safety equipment prevents knuckle soreness
If you are not using safety equipment when you practice your punching, you are making a big mistake.
Safety equipment lets you work out harder. If you try to train bare-handed on the punching bag, you won’t be able to work out with anywhere near the intensity. Read barehanded punching bag training for more information.
Let me put it this way: no professional boxer, mma fighter, or member of a security force (bouncers, bodygyards, etc.) works out with bare-knuckles, because it just doesn’t work. In the long run, unless you protect your hands, your training will be a joke.
You need at least two things when you use the heavy bag:
- Padded Gloves
- (optional) Knuckle Protectors
Handwraps don’t really prevent knuckle soreness. But they are still essential because they prevent damage to the small, delicate bones in your hand and wrist. When you wrap your hands, you can try to put some extra layers over the knuckles to act as a cushion, but this doesn’t work very well. Knuckle guards are better.
Padded gloves are essential. Forget those flimsy little “bag gloves” that came with your heavybag. Use padded gloves or you won’t be able to work out as intensely. Get an inexpensive pair of boxing gloves and use them as bag gloves. You’ll be glad you did.
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