Why Do Boxers Put Their Hands In Rice?

December 25, 2021

The hands are the most critical asset of any boxer, so they should always strive to take excellent care of them. This takes effort in different areas, but strengthening the muscles and joints in the hands, wrists, and forearms should be prioritized.

And a great tried and proven method to harden the hands and develop hand and grip strength is the simple but handy rice bucket.

As cheap and straightforward as this is, it brings significant benefits that other expensive gear cannot. Let me take you through a few reasons why putting your hands in a bucket full of rice is an excellent idea and how to do it best.

Why Should You Train Your Hands With Rice?

Why Should You Train Your Hands With Rice

The hands are the only weapons in boxing and handle a significant portion of the defense. This high demand requires strength, endurance, and resilience not only in the hands but also in the wrists and forearms.

Good grip strength is often overlooked in many sports, and it’s also not often talked about in boxing. Punching round after round means you will have to clench your fist for extended periods.

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Add to that the boxing gloves’ design requires you to squeeze even more to have a tight fist, and you get a high demand for a reliable grip. Punching with a tightly closed fist makes the punch more powerful and, even more importantly, decreases the chance of injuries and fractures to the small and delicate bones in the hand.

But suppose the muscles are tired, especially in the later rounds. In that case, the chance of landing with a loose hand and injuring yourself increases with each passing minute.

There are many ways to train grip strength, and we will highlight a few, but a great and accessible way to do it is by squeezing, opening, and closing your hands in a bucket full of raw rice. 

Working the hands through a full range of motion in the rice, meaning extending and closing the fist fully, will work all the muscles against resistance and gradually build up their strength.

Although our main focus here is boxing, good grip strength is great for many things. It translates well into strength training and daily life, where any form of labor requires sufficient grip strength and endurance. And suppose you plan to broaden the horizons of your martial art and do some grappling. In that case, your grip becomes even more critical.

Another bonus of the rice bucket is that the small grains will harden the skin on your hands, and punching the rice will also condition your knuckles.

Rice Bucket Exercises

Dipping your hands and squeezing and opening the hands in the rice will do the job. Still, you can utilize a few different exercises with the rice bucket to use your training time effectively. With every new training method, take your time and gradually increase the time and effort.

Hand Open & Closes

Put your hand in the rice with the fingers straight. You can begin with less resistance by just putting the tips in. The deeper you go, the greater the resistance. Then spread all your fingers as wide as possible. From there, squeeze a tight fist and extend again. That’s it.

Rice Digs

Place your hand on top of the rice with a closed fist. Then with rotation in the wrist, start digging until you reach the bottom of the bucket with a straight arm. Here is a video showcasing both exercises:

These two should work for your hand very nicely. But if you want to take it to the next level, there are many more exercises that you can do with this straightforward setup:

Rice Bucket vs. Sand Bucket

Sand can substitute rice in the bucket, but it’s inferior in a couple of ways. First, sand produces much more dust, and if your hands are wet from sweat, you will have a hard time cleaning it afterward. The other thing rice is better at is scaling the difficulties.

Depending on the depth you put your hands in, the difficulty will increase the deeper you go. The important thing is to fill the bucket sufficiently to go deeper as you progress.

Other Ways For Boxers To Strengthen Their Hands

As effective as training with a bucket of rice is, it’s far from the only way to train your grip strength.

A great way to incorporate grip training into your regular strength and conditioning routine is by utilizing the amazing Fat Gripz. What they do is essentially turn every barbell or pull up bar into a thick bar that will burn your forearms.

An easy but effective exercise can also be the plate clamp lift. Just grip a barbell plate between your fingers and palm and lift it. Kettlebell training works wonders for your grip strength because of the offset weight that forces your stabilizer muscles to work constantly, as opposed to regular dumbbell or barbell training.

In addition to grip strength, conditioning the knuckles and hands for impact are necessary if you want strong and durable fists. Allowing you to focus on knocking out the opponent, not worrying that you will break your hand in the attempt.


Boxers put their hands in rice to toughen them and develop strength in the muscles and tendons of the hands, wrist, and forearms. Boxing is demanding on the hands. Taking good care of them and preparing them properly for combat can differentiate between losing or getting these hands raised in victory. And the bucket of rice is a great cheap and effective tool for training them. 

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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