I remember the first time I ever decided to try boxing. It was in an old gym in a somewhat rough neighbourhood of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The gym was far from state of the art, full of old leather bags, often stitched back together like they were Frankenstein’s monster. If you can imagine Mick’s gym from the early Rocky films, you’re on the right track. With little of understanding of what care I should provide for my hands, I picked up some old, random 8 oz mitts and jammed them on without wrapping my hands up. I had no idea of how to stand, never mind throw a punch, but started to haymaker the old Franken-bags as hard as I could. I punched blisters onto my hands and then a few weeks later, punched blisters off of them. My hands wept tears as my eyes watered from the perpetual sting which seemed to last weeks. I’m glad to say I was undeterred from training, but from that experience, I knew that I was going to have to do some research into wrapping my hands and selecting a set of boxing gloves fit for purpose. In this article, I’m going to help you select the best gloves for bag work.
Without exception, every boxer from beginner to expert level has to work with a heavy bag at some point in their training. It helps you hone your skills and strengthen muscles. As bag work involves a lot of punching, it pays to have the correct precautions in place.
The first thing to remember about gloves is that their primary function is to protect your hands. Like any item designed for protection, they function better when they are sized correctly. Wearing the wrong size of glove can affect your athletic performance but also cause damage to your hands, particularly over prolonged periods of time. You should consider gloves which provide space for hand wraps.
Types of Glove
You can use almost any gloves for bag work, but not all will perform well at that level for extended periods of use. Sparring gloves are well padded for your safety and your partners, but this padding may make the glove less durable for high-volume use that bag work involves. Similarly, competition gloves, may have a great design for speed and less fatigue are ultimately designed for striking opponents, not equipment.
Bag gloves look like leather or vinyl mittens that almost always feature a wrap-around Velcro strap enclosure to making putting them on and taking them off a breeze. They are often made with thicker foam to absorb the impact received from hitting a harder, heavy bag. These aren’t the same type of mitts used for sparring, or hitting other boxers, because they are typically smaller, and weigh less than their more sparring-centred counterparts. When striking larger, heavier bags it is best to use fully padded, regular-sized gloves but when working on speed, smaller less padded gloves can fit the bill better. Some are little more than a leather cover for the hand, whilst other bag gloves even contain light weights to develop strength in arm muscles, usually around the triceps and biceps.
Training gloves are a hybrid glove that can be used for either sparring or bag sessions. They are generally firm enough for heavy bag work, but can also provide enough protection for sparring. That being said, it is better to have separate gloves for sparring and bag training. Extended heavy bag use will wear down the padding of the gloves, whilst making the contact surface of the glove rougher. The higher the number of strikes, the rougher the glove will be. This will ultimately make it ineffective for protecting you or your sparring partner. Training gloves are great for beginners who are unsure about the type of training they do, but once you have decided, it’s best to stick with the one intended use. This may seem more expensive but in actuality, having two sets of gloves will make each last twice as long if they are used for their sole purpose.
Size and Weight of Glove
Mitts should fit comfortably enough to not shift around, but if they are too tight, they will cut off circulation. Most cheaper or beginners gloves come in one size only and in order to get larger or smaller versions of the same glove, different weight of glove need to be purchased.
Professional gloves typically come in two sizes – (S/M or L/XL) with different fits for different genders. It is highly advisable to put on also hand wraps. This will be kinder on the knuckles and joints, especially wrists, and if you are like a young version of myself, should prevent those horrible, calloused paws. Try to find gloves with a design which minimize “floating in the glove” syndrome, which affects women and men with smaller hands.
Conversely, if you have big hands, don’t try to force them into tiny gloves with smaller hand compartments. As a general rule, smaller and lighter gloves will come with these compartments. They are also intended for lighter weight users.
Body weight should be considered when picking your gloves. If you are of shorter statue and weigh under 140 lbs, 10 oz gloves will likely be a good choice. Taller fighters and those weighing more than 140 lbs, but less than 190 lbs would benefit more from 12 oz gloves, whilst heavier fighters and power punchers who likely will have more wallop in their strikes should opt for 14 oz gloves when hitting the bag. The higher the ounce count, the more padded and protective the glove will be.
If you are buying gloves for your child, it is important to ensure the gloves are of the highest quality to prevent injury. For those aged between three and ten, they come in 2 oz, 4 oz and 6 oz in weight. Make sure they are snug without being too restrictive.
Wherever possible, go down to a local boxing or sports equipment store in order to try gloves on, or when ordering online ensure that the return policy is manageable and comprehensive. Spending money on gloves which aren’t going to serve you well is far from ideal.
Material and Fastening
When we hear the phrase “boxing gloves”, we almost automatically imagine a big pair of old school red leather boxing gloves, like the ones Reyes and Ringside. Whilst these can be great, gloves using advanced forms of polyurethane (PU) have been produced which both manufacturers and fighters believe outlast their leather counterparts. Budget gloves may be made of low-grade PU which breaks down or splits fairly-rapidly. Additionally, these gloves tend to be stuffed with poor quality padding and ultimately don’t last.
A premium glove with more durability is a long-term investment, but like any high-quality protective item, a worthwhile one. Save on medical bills, trips to the physio and additional sets of mitts by making an astute purchase. There are few items where the old adage of “buy cheap, buy twice” applies more than it does to boxing gloves.
Finally, consider whether you want lace-up gloves and those with Velcro straps. The wrap-around style is highly convenient and are found more commonly in bags designed for bag work, but traditional lace-up gloves can often offer a more secure, custom fit.