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Last month we wrote an article about joining a gym. Some readers expressed an interest in joining gyms with a boxing aspect. This is a great idea. Boxing is a popular way of smashing fitness goals quickly. Many people learn to box for fitness benefits. The sport can test your cardio fitness to the max but it’s also great for coordination, speed, and power. It’s no wonder there are hundreds of fitness class variations on the ancient sport of boxing. This sport will get you in shape.

But before you set foot in your local boxing club, you should know to protect yourself. Not in the “fighting” sense, rather this is about making yourself stronger while avoiding injury. If you develop good habits now, you have a better chance of staying healthy while you get fitter.

This a guide for all beginning boxers to follow. Think of it as a checklist for getting into the sport. We want you to stay injury free and we hope you achieve those fitness goals.

woman boxing

Gear Up

As a new boxer, it’s crucial that you outfit yourself with the right equipment. We’re not talking about flashy trunks, high-end shoes or pristine athletic wear, but the equipment that protects you. That starts with a head guard. Use this for every sparring and training session. It needs to be comfortable or you’ll be tempted to take it off. At the same time, the guard needs to have the proper cushioning, which can protect you from brain injuries. It also needs to be breathable, with unobstructed sight lines.  

Your gloves are probably the next most important part. If you’re not planning on competing, training-style gloves will be fine. They make sets for various types of boxing training, so do your research to figure out how many pairs you need. You’ll need a separate set of gloves for sparring. People under 66 kg should opt for gloves that weigh at least 400g. If you’re over that weight, go for at least 450g gloves. These gloves have added padding that training gloves do not.

Before you put those gloves on, wrap up your hands. This is non negotiable. You’ll need at least 180 inches of wrap to protect your hand. The wrap’s material should be slightly elastic, so you can cover your hand without much difficulty. Practicing the correct wrapping technique will save you time at the gym. Ensure that it “pads” your knuckles and wrists sufficiently. Always wrap with your hand fully outstretched. By doing this, you’ll be able to make a fist comfortably, and without restricting your blood flow.

If you’ve ever been hit in the mouth, or worse, the groin, you’ll agree that the resulting sensations are ones you want to avoid. Invest in the properly sized groin and mouth guards. Don’t be afraid to spend some money on this. As far as mouth guards go, opt for custom sizing, especially if you plan on sparring. A proper mould is the only way to ensure you’re fully protected.

boxing practise for fitness in gym

Warm Up

It’s not enough to just gear up. The clever way to get ready for training or sparring is to perform a warm-up. Regular dynamic and static stretching exercises help prevent injuries, so take them seriously. With the warm-up, you’re trying to push blood to the muscles that will do the work during the training session. You’re also trying to increase your range of motion (ROM). Increasing ROM decreases the likelihood of a sprain or strain.

Prioritize warming up and stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps and shoulders.  

Warming up is also about taking care of your skin. This is particularly important if you’re sparring. Avoid cuts and lacerations on your face by using petroleum jelly. This will help you take jabs more easily, as it makes your skin more slippery, and thus less likely to cut or bruise. Focus on applying it to areas where your skin is close to the bone. Around the eye is a good place to start.

The skin inside your nose is another vulnerable area, but taking care of it requires a different approach. Moisturize this area to avoid nosebleeds. Saline drops, steam treatment, and moisturizing sprays all treat this area effectively. Treat your nose regularly to keep it conditioned for sparring.

Is boxing more dangerous than other sports?

The evidence indicates that boxing is no more dangerous than other contact sports.

In fact, some studies show that it is safer than many sports like football, hockey, and gymnastics.

Common Injuries

Note: See a doctor immediately if you experience any pain or injury from participating in exercise or sports.

The hand and wrist are, understandably, the main areas for injury with the sport of boxing. One study found that four injury diagnoses accounted for the majority.

  • Finger carpometacarpal instability.
  • Finger metacarpophalangeal joint extensor hood and capsule sprain, also called “boxer’s knuckle” or “boxer’s fracture”.
  • Thumb metacarpophalangeal joint ulnar collateral ligament first-degree sprain, better known as “skier’s thumb”.
  • Wrist sprains.

Symptoms of Boxer’s Knuckle include pain, discolouration, and swelling around the knuckles. Unusual rotation and poor alignment of the fingers indicate serious problems.

The recommended advice for dealing with Skier’s Thumb is to apply ice and wrap the thumb with a bandage to prevent movement.

Sprains to the wrist or hand are common in all sports, accounting for 3% to 9% of injuries. Many people experience wrist strains in everyday life from overstretching or twisting the wrist.  Loss of motion or movement and weakness, along with pain, are indicators that the wrist area is affected. Doctors diagnose with X-rays or MRI scans and divide the sprains into categories, depending on the severity. The usual treatment involves icing, immobilising, and resting the damaged area.

hand sports massage therapy

If your hands hurt after a session, try soaking them in warm water. This helps the muscles and tendons to release. It also helps prevent trigger finger, which is a painful condition where a finger can lock and release suddenly. Don’t be afraid to stretch and massage your fingers before, during, and after training. A sports massage is a great way to work out the knots in your hands, wrists, and shoulders after hard training sessions.

Dislocated shoulder, another common boxing injury, can prevent you from training for months. And before returning to the gym, it’s important to see a physiotherapist who will help your body return to pre-injury conditions. Healthy muscles tend to overcompensate for injured or underactive muscles and this is a situation that needs addressing. Your physio will create a plan for rehabilitation which prevents further injuries from overcompensating muscles.

Practice Technique

Learning to use hand properly will help keep you injury free. Your fists are the essential tools of boxing and are the most likely to get injured (Boxer’s knuckle). Boxing injury statistics show that many beginners suffer from wrist injuries, shoulder pain from using the punching bag and fractured metacarpal bones. In many cases, injuries happen when enthusiastic beginners exert themselves too early. Learn the right techniques before increasing the intensity. Your boxing coach should teach you how to turn your fist when punching, as this will align your wrist properly. Aiming for the knuckle of your middle finger to make contact first is important. This keeps your thumb from getting hurt.

boxing injury physical therapy massage

Strength training

Don’t forget about cross training with weights outside of the boxing gym. Strong, supple muscles are more resistant to the demands of fitness training. Improvements in strength can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury. Adding in some squats and other full-body strength conditioning exercises will benefit you inside and outside the boxing gym.

woman exercising in gym

Rest Up

If you believe that rest is for the weak, it’s time for a reality check. Rest isn’t about ‘chickening out’ or lacking toughness. It’s a tool for improvement. A way to get stronger.

Make no mistake, if you want to get the most out of your boxing practice, you should try to push yourself to the limit in training. However, any sensation of muscle or joint pain should make you stop. Working through this kind of pain is a recipe for disaster.  

Regular rest allows your body to recuperate. It’s an essential part of getting fit. Sports massage and dry needling can speed up recovery by relieving aches and pains, and can help you feel recharged when you step back into the gym.

And don’t forget that boxing training can be intense. You’re going to sweat, which means it’s crucial that you stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water every day for general health and energy. After training sessions and between bouts, incorporate sports drinks into your intake. These provide important electrolytes that your body loses when it sweats.

Use Your Doc

There’s nothing noble about trying to ‘tough out’ an injury. Ignoring pain will only make it worse, or keep it from ever healing properly. If you feel pain, see a doctor. A medical professional with experience in sports injuries (especially boxing injuries) will be better able to help, but any professional help is better than none. Don’t wait for the pain to become unbearable. See a doctor sooner rather than later and prevent a bad situation from becoming worse.

Boxing Injury Prevention Guide