In boxing and mixed martial arts, the hands are among the most important weapons to a fighter. During competition and training, care should be taken to provide support and padding for the tiny metacarpal bones that make up the hand. Hand wraps and gel-insulated neoprene gloves are common choices for training because of their ease of application and the fact that both of these hand supports can be reused.
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Hand wraps and gel glove wraps serve the same function as pieces of protective equipment for individuals participating in combat sports. The protection that both provide reduces the chances of injuries to the bones of the hand. Traditional-style cotton hand wraps are wrapped around and in between each finger to provide padding against impacts; the wraps continue around the wrist to add extra support. Gel glove wraps provide a layer of padding that performs as a shock absorber to the hand during impact.
To use traditional-styled hand wraps, you wrap the strip of cotton around the hand, making sure to surround each individual finger, the palm and the wrist as well. Beginners can use several methods, including the figure 8, which is a technique that can be achieved within minutes. Gel hand wraps are easily slipped onto the hand and fastened with the use of hook and loop material on the back of the wrist.
As far as protection goes, the gel hand wrap does not provide close to the level of support that a traditional-styled hand wrap does. What the gel hand wrap does is excel in impact absorption when hitting a heavy bag or during sparring sessions. However, that will be negated if you are throwing punches hard enough to need next-level padding of the knuckles.
Some boxers and mixed martial artists use hand wraps in conjunction with gel glove wraps to provide maximum protection. Some competitors choose to use each hand support on a conditional basis according to how much support they need for a certain segment of training. Lighter acts such as focus mitt work and speed bag work call for gel glove wraps, and heavy punching activities require traditional hand wraps. In the end, individual preference should be the determining factor. You should never engage in an activity in which you feel your hands are not protected enough.