Do your wrists hurt because of your heavybag training?
If so, you’re not alone. Lots of people complain of wrist pain when they first start using the heavy bag for martial arts or boxing training.
In fact, it’s probably the number one reason that novices quit this sort of high-impact training and either switch sports or substantially alter their workout routines.
What to do if you have sore wrists because of the heavy bag
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. If your wrists hurt, stop hitting the heavybag and give them time to heal.
There are two main causes for this type of pain:
Reason one: repetitive stress injury
Your wrists are sore because of a repetitive-stress injury. This sort of damage usually takes more than one or a few sessions on the heavybag to make itself felt. But once it becomes noticeable, it takes time to heal.
If you don’t let it heal fully, it will just come back worse than before.
There are plenty of guys with more balls than brains who constantly re-injure themselves in the same spot(s) because they won’t allow their injuries to heal.
Trust me, they may think they’re tough guys for gutting it out and pushing through the pain, but they’re not. What really makes you a tough guy is when you do what you know is best even though you really don’t want to. These guys want to work out and live a fantasy instead of rest and get themselves healed up and ready to go better than ever.
Reason two: bad technique
If your pain came on suddenly, rather than gradually, it’s an acute injury that’s almost certainly caused by bad technique. If you punch with proper technique, you won’t suffer a sudden sharp pain due to injury.
How to avoid sore wrists when you use the heavybag
Here is a plan of action you can use when you start out with the heavy bag. If your wrists are already sore, remember to let them heal before you start hitting the punching bag. Don’t follow this plan until your wrists are strong and pain-free.
Always wrap your hands
Wrapping your hands helps to prevent the small bones in the wrist from shifting around under the impact of a punch. If you are not using handwraps, you risk wrist injury. This is doubly true if you are a novice who uses improper technique.
There are guys who think they can toughen up their hands and wrists by hitting the bag bare-handed.
These guys live in a fantasy world where they imagine themselves winning bare-knuckle fights like they’re the hero of a Karate movie. But really, they’re just risking injury. And what’s more, they can’t work out as intensely as someone who is wearing handwraps and padded gloves. They’re making fools out of themselves.
Use straight punches
Start out with the straight punches like the straight right hand and the left jab.
Don’t use the uppercuts or the hooks until you have been working with the straight punches for a while (or at least don’t throw them with any power).
Straight punches will build up the connective tissue in your wrists. Hooks and uppercuts take time to learn and when you throw them with improper technique you put your wrist under a lot of stress which will lead to long-term repetitive stress injury.
Concentrate on technique rather than power
It is tempting to wail away at the heavybag as hard as possible. But if your technique is bad, you won’t have any true power, and you risk wrist injury. On the other hand, when your technique is good, power will naturally follow and you won’t hurt yourself.
Build up over time
Don’t try to do 5 rounds on the heavybag the very first time you work out with it. Stick to one or two rounds of heavy bag work three times a week to start. And keep the punches at less than full power to start. You will have plenty of time and opportunity to hit harder when you are sure that your body can handle it.
OK, it’s easy for me to simply say “take it slow”. But that’s not really a plan of action, is it? The problem is, I can’t prescribe an exact plan for you because everyone is different. And furthermore, your injury is probably different than someone else’s.
So here are the things you need to think about while you design your own heavybag-related wrist rehab.
It does you no good to hit the heavybag after an injury if you’re just doing the same thing that hurt you in the first place. You must get your technique squared away. If that means abandoning certain punches (like the hook), then so be it. Until you learn how to throw them in a mechanically-correct manner, leave them alone.
This is the same sort of thinking that every pro athlete engages in when he or she rehabs an injury. The very first thing he does is to make sure he can move through a full range of motion and/or maintain a position. If this is impossible, something needs to be corrected through stretching, (re)training the movement, strengthening weak areas, and the like.
So get the movement correct first. At a slow, controlled level of intensity. Only then should you move on…
Introduce some workload
When you can slow-punch and shadow-box without pain, put your wrist under load.
This means hitting the bag — or something else that offers resistance.
Choose a modest workload at first. Maybe hit the bag 25 times, slowly and under control. Rest and appraise the condition of your wrist. If it’s OK, do another controlled ’round’. Rest, then do another round. That’s the extent of your (wrist) workout at this point in your rehab.
The next workout, you’ll increase the workload a bit. Hit the bag just a bit harder and make sure you can maintain this level of power. Again, do 3 controlled rounds.
After 2 or 3 weeks of increasing your power during rounds of controlled, slow punching, you should be hitting the bag with a fair degree of intensity. But you’re still controlled and careful. You’re not wailing away like a wild man.
Increase the volume
Now, back off on the punching power somewhat. But make up for it by increasing the volume.
Either increase the number of punches you throw during a training round, or increase the number of rounds.
For instance, instead of 3 rounds, do 5 or 6 (at 80% of the intensity you used at the end of the previous step in your rehab).
Of course, as you did before, always increase the ‘power’ each workout. Soon, you’ll be hitting with the same power you did at the end of the ‘workload’ phase, but with an increased volume of punches.
Just keep adding power every workout. Eventually, you should hit with full power for the full workout. But you’re still hitting carefully with complete control and perfect technique.
Introduce instability (speed)
Now that you can hit the bag with full power, albeit under control, you’re almost finished your rehab. All that’s left is to add some instability and see if your wrist can withstand the strain.
Use full power and let your hands go. If you can do a full round of power punches without babying your wrist, you can be confident that you’re fully healed. If there is a setback, simply go back a step (or two) and work your way back up.
Strengthen the wrists
Are your wrists collapsing under the power of a punch? If so, you probably hit with improper technique. But even with perfect technique, you always run the risk of hitting the bag ‘wrong’. Fatigue has a way of making even the best-trained athlete move incorrectly.
A good way to protect yourself against hitting the bag ‘wrong’ is to strengthen your forearms, wrists, and hands.
Get a broomstick or a plastic pipe. The larger the diameter, the better.
Secure a rope to the stick. Then, hang a weight from the rope.
Using your wrists, ‘roll’ the weight up by wrapping the rope around the pipe. Then roll it back down in the other direction. Repeat.
Using a straight barbell, do some wrist curls and reverse wrist curls. Either rest your forearms on your knees, or do them behind the back, whichever you prefer.
Knuckle pushups are great for strengthening all the connecting tissue in your hand and wrist. Plus, they increase the range of motion so you get a more intense workout.
I’m not a fan of hand squeezer exercisers. But if you already have strong hands and forearms, they’re fine. Use them when you’re busy doing something else like talking on the phone or walking around.
So there you have it, the reasons why people hurt their wrists on the heavybag, what to do if your wrists are sore, and ways to train with the heavybag so that you won’t have to deal with bad wrists ever again.
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