A beginner boxer may get away with training with one pair of gloves. However, ff you are even moderately serious, you need a pair of bag and sparring gloves at the least.
The main difference is that the bag gloves are designed only to protect the hands, while the sparring gloves protect your partner. So the bag gloves are usually lighter and thinner, while the sparring gloves are much heavier and well padded.
There is a serious lack of consensus amongst practitioners and trainers about the best gloves for heavy bag work. Still, I will take you through the popular options and differences between them and sparring gloves in this post.
Bag Gloves vs. Sparring Gloves Differences
We'll use the old-school version of bag gloves for this comparison. If you do a quick Google search for "bag gloves," this is the most common model you will come across. A straightforward glove with a free thumb and minimal padding.
Many people dislike these because they are unforgiving of poor punching technique and traumatize the hands even when used correctly. However, they are invaluable for learning how to punch with proper alignment and a closed fist, conditioning the hands, elbows, and shoulders to simultaneously take the impact of the punches.
Bag gloves have padding only on the knuckles and some on top of the glove. Because they are only intended to hit heavy bags or pads, there is no need for padding anywhere other than the knuckles.
Sparring gloves, on the other hand, are the opposite. They still protect the hands, but even more so, they must spare unnecessary damage to your sparring partners. The general consensus is that sparring in boxing, kickboxing, and MMA is done with 16-ounce gloves and no less.
These huge pillows are heavy and have thick padding on all sides. Of course, the main portion is on the knuckles, but there is sufficient padding on all sides of the glove for safe blocking and parrying.
Bag gloves often have a very simple enclosure of just a rubber strap. They are effortless to slip on and off. This, however, does not provide a lot of wrist stability, so you will have to be extra careful when punching. Some models have a Velcro strap, which makes things a lot safer.
You can strap sparring gloves with either Velcro or laces. Lace-up gloves have the best fit, but you will have difficulty putting them on without help. For this reason, most people prefer Velcro gloves. Some manufacturers develop exciting ways of utilizing Velcro and invent very tight closure methods.
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The other main difference between bag and sparring gloves is the thumb. Sparring gloves have a specific shape that keeps the entire fist in a fixed position. The thumb position may vary slightly depending on the manufacturer and model but is always immobile.
Bag gloves offer unrestricted movement of the thumb. This freedom is good because it teaches punching with a tightly closed fist. But it also increases the possibility of injury.
Recommended Bag Gloves
I will recommend a few models of bag gloves because people's preferences are very different. There are strong arguments against using traditional small bag gloves. They do put the hands under a lot of stress.
They also don't prepare you for the feeling of a full-sized boxing glove that you will use in a fight or sparring.
For these reasons, many fighters prefer to hit the bag with a standard 10 or 12 oz boxing glove, and some even go as far as using 16 oz gloves on the bag. So, here are a few options to choose from for specialized bag gloves.
Fairtex is one of the top brands in Thailand, and many Muay Thai fighters prefer their products. These bag gloves offer more writs protection because of the Velcro strap and can also be used for clinch training and pad work.
The budget-friendly option comes from RDX. The brand from the UK offers excellent quality at very affordable prices making a great choice for beginners and more advanced practitioners alike.
Recommended Sparring Gloves
Sparring gloves are essential. Protecting your hands and your partners should never be taken lightly. Sparring gloves are a big part of that, aside from not trying to KO someone every single sparring session.
When buying, always choose the best option according to your budget. There are options at mid-price that are also very adequate. But please, don’t go for the cheapest 16 oz you can find. Your partners will not appreciate it.
The absolute gold standard in boxing gloves, as you can judge by the price. Chances are, if you are not a pro, you will not buy these, but they are still the best, so I strongly recommend them.
Venum has quickly usurped a lot of the MMA gear market, and for a good reason. The Impact gloves are very well produced and an excellent option for sparring and training at a highly competitive price.
Thai-style gloves offer some benefits that regular boxing gloves don't. They are best suited for Muay Thai training but are perfectly fine for boxing as well. The open palm and thumb designs are great for clinch training and catching kicks, so you can also use them for MMA training.
Related: Best Muay Thai Gloves
Bag Gloves vs. Sparring Gloves: Which Should You Get?
You definitely need both. Each has its own purpose, which is usually incompatible with each other. Some gyms may not keep an eye on this issue and let their practitioners train and spar without requirements on their equipment. Still, chances are you will be required to spar with 16 oz in mint condition, or you will surely get complaints.
No one will check the quality of your bag gloves, so even an old pair of worn-out gloves can be used, albeit with some risk to the hands.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use Bag Gloves for Sparring?
Absolutely not. Unless you want to break your partner's face, bag gloves are too thin and small to be used for anything other than what they were designed for. They are frequently 6 or even 4 ounces, which is far too light for sparring. These are the sizes used in MMA competitions.
Can You Use Sparring Gloves On the Heavy Bag?
You can, but you shouldn't. As we've already established, sparring gloves' primary purpose is to make sparring as safe as possible. With 16 ounce gloves, you can even somewhat simulate a fight with relatively low risk.
Smashing the heavy bag with sparring gloves will shorten their lives exceptionally quickly. The padding will get damaged, and it will soon stop providing enough protection to the face.
You can use your old sparring gloves for bag work, and that's OK, but you must always keep a fresh pair and use them exclusively for sparring.
Have a pair of bag and sparring gloves in your bag. Each serves its purpose due to the padding in each pair of gloves. Do yourself a service and grab a pair of recommended gloves!