How To Strengthen The Wrists For Boxing

February 10, 2021

Does your wrist feel ‘weak’ when boxing? Maybe you feel your wrist move as you make impact with the bag. These are consequences of having a wrist that isn’t strong enough to handle the forces being put through it when punching.

Strength the wrists for boxing by occasionally hitting the bag with wraps only. Supplement this with strength exercises such as the kettlebell pronation/supination and Thor’s hammer exercise to balance wrist development.

Strengthening the wrists for boxing may serve a purpose greater than just preventing injury.

Why Wrist Strength Is Important For Boxing

Why Wrist Strength Is Important For Boxing

There are three main reasons wrist strength is important for boxing.

  1. Reduce the risk of injury to your hands and wrists,
  2. Punch with greater impact force (i.e. punch harder),
  3. Wrist girth is highly related to boxing ranking [1].

Having a strong wrist reduces the movement that may occur when you land a punch whether that’s on an opponent or a heavy bag. If your wrist bends or deviates at impact, the stress placed on your wrist is likely to cause injury as it will be put into a compromised position.

In fact, 88 of 172 hand and wrist injuries occurred at the wrist in the Great Britain Olympic Boxing squad [3].

Another study of the Great Britain Olympic Boxing squad found wrist injuries to be the second most prevalent injury behind hand injuries [4].

Making impact while punching that causes the wrist to extend or flex will stretch the tendons and ligaments through a range of motion that exceeds its stretch tolerance.

When this happens, you lose the ability to maximally transfer the momentum generated from your legs through to the target. To maximally transfer momentum to the target, the hand, wrist, arm, trunk, and legs must become stiff at impact.

This is known as effective mass. Effective mass isn’t about how big you are, it is about how well you can stiffen at impact to effectively use the mass you have. A strong wrist allows momentum to be transferred from the arm through to the hand efficiently.

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If your wrist bends even slightly at impact, that is force being leaked that is not being directed at the intended target, reducing how hard you will punch.

Further, in elite middleweight amateur boxers, wrist girth was highly related to boxing rank. Even more so than upper arm and forearm size.

Does Boxing Build Wrist Strength?

To a certain extent, boxing itself will build wrist strength. However, if you only box with taped wrists, wraps, and gloves, then you will not develop wrist strength to the same extent as hitting the bag bare knuckled or with only wraps.

That doesn’t mean you should always train with wraps only or bare-knuckled, but once to twice a week of wraps only bag work can be enough to strengthen your hands and wrists specifically for boxing.

Why Do Boxers Tape Their Wrists?

Why Do Boxers Tape Their Wrists

Taping increases the circumference of the wrist making it thicker and secure, making it harder to move in any direction. This not only protects the wrist but also allows for maximal momentum transfer from the arm through to the hands and target.

Hand and wrist wraps prevent deviation of the wrist at impact which can compress the bones in the hands together forcefully. Additionally, it creates a firmer pad underneath the glove with reduces the impact [2].

Wrist Strengthening Exercises For Boxing

Kettlebell Pronation/Supination

This exercise is a great one for boxing specifically. It strengthens the wrist through pronation which occurs while throwing a punch but also while supinating balancing your wrist strength. This will add some serious mass to your wrist. Here is how to do it:

  1. Lie the kettlebell down with the handle facing towards you.
  2. Rest your forearm on a soft surface and grab the handle.
  3. Slowly rotate your hand both ways while keeping your forearm on the soft surface.
  4. Perform anywhere from 1-4 sets of 10-20 reps.

Thor’s Hammer

This is a grip exercise that was part of my unbreakable grip MMA article and is a beast of an exercise. You will need a sledgehammer or something similar with a weighted end such as a baseball bat or golf club.

  1. Hold the hammer like Thor in one hand. The further you hold the handle from the weighted end, the harder the exercise.
  2. Place your arm forward with a slight bend in your elbow. Point the hammer forward like Thor.
  3. Bring the hammer back with your wrist to your head (but don’t hit yourself!).
  4. Repeat for 1-4 sets of 5-10 reps.

Hammer Pronation/Supination

This exercise is very similar to the kettlebell variation but you will perform this one standing with no support for your forearm. Again, the further you hold the implement from the weighted end, the harder the exercise will be.

  1. Holding your sledgehammer or similar implement, simply rotate your hand slowly both ways.
  2. Repeat for 1-4 sets of 10-20 rotations.

Wrist Flexion/Extensions

You’ve probably seen these performed at your local gym or maybe you’ve even done them yourself. When people think of forearm size or wrist strength, this is usually the go to exercise. I would easily place the previous three exercises above this in terms of effectiveness to strengthen the wrist for boxing.

However, these can be a good option to use in your training routine for some variation and hypertrophy of the forearm.

  1. Hold a barbell or dumbbell with your forearm supported on a bench and your hand off of the bench.
  2. Move your hand up and down with the palm facing down and repeat with the palm facing up.
  3. You can also perform these standing with the arms hanging straight down.
  4. Perform 1-4 sets of 10-20 reps.

90/90 Bottoms Up Kettle Bell Carry

The 90/90 refers to the angle of the shoulder and elbow when carrying the kettlebell upside down. With the weight loaded above the handle, balancing the bell challenges your hands and wrist to the extreme so it doesn’t topple.

As a bonus, it makes a great shoulder stability exercise and can even be performed carrying the kettlebell overhead.

  1. Find the 90/90 position with the kettlebell upside down.
  2. Walk slowly while keeping the same position.
  3. Perform 1-3 sets of 10-20 m

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References

1. Guidetti, L., Musulin, A., & Baldari, C. (2002). Physiological factors in middleweight boxing performance. Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness42(3), 309-314.

2. Drury, B. T., Lehman, T. P., & Rayan, G. (2017). Hand and wrist injuries in boxing and the martial arts. Hand clinics33(1), 97-106.

3. Loosemore, M., Lightfoot, J., Gatt, I., Hayton, M., & Beardsley, C. (2017). Hand and wrist injuries in elite boxing: a longitudinal prospective study (2005-2012) of the Great Britain Olympic Boxing Squad. Hand12(2), 181-187.

4. Loosemore, M., Lightfoot, J., Palmer-Green, D., Gatt, I., Bilzon, J., & Beardsley, C. (2015). Boxing injury epidemiology in the Great Britain team: a 5-year surveillance study of medically diagnosed injury incidence and outcome. British journal of sports medicine49(17), 1100-1107.

About the author 

James de Lacey

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international level teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your combat training.


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