Muay Thai Boxing Hand-Wraps & Ankle Support
What is the first item of Muay Thai equipment you should buy?
Probably one of your first purchases when you decide to take up the sport of Muay Thai will be a set of hand wraps. They are not pricey, flashy or even all that interesting in any way, shape or form. And the reason that most new fighters buy them doesn’t even have anything to do with their actual purpose- protection, but more to do with the fact that many people find the idea of wearing loaner handwraps wholly unappetizing.
Before Covid, there was a definite “ick” factor to loaner wraps at a Muay Thai gym. As in they were icky, gross, disgusting, etc. I’ll be honest, most gyms in Thailand were in the habit of washing their loaner wraps sporadically. Quite possibly, as little as once or twice a month. Looking back on that practice is crazy in terms of where we are now. In the Covid-19 days of Muay Thai training, cleanliness is at a premium.
For close to two years now, when we are even allowed to open, my gym has been washing our wraps after EACH use. That was unheard of at a Muay Thai gym in Thailand before 2019! It sounds absurd now, but we pride ourselves on having a very clean gym, with 2 full time cleaners and equipment that looks good and is relatively new. And pre-Covid, even our place only cleaned the handwraps on Wednesdays and Sundays!
To be fair, it’s a good practice anyway from a customer service point of view. The increased health benefits in terms of not potentially spreading a deadly virus throughout our clientele should result in an economic boon for us, as well!
Most gyms you go to in Thailand will offer you a set of handwraps and gloves to use for training. But most gyms also have a fair few trainees who are on holiday and just want to try out Muay Thai once while they are in Thailand. Anyone who has trained a few times and is trying to make an effort to fit Muay Thai into their life will invest in a few items of equipment.
Handwraps are mundane, but every Nak Muay (Muay Thai student) should probably have their own, chiefly from a sanitary perspective.
What size hand wraps should I get in Muay Thai?
For the most part, you have two options. There are 180-inch and 120-inch standard sizes. The majority of adults would choose the longer 180” wraps. Even if you have smaller hands and don’t need that much padding across your knuckles and between your fingers, you can just wrap your wrists a little extra. And if you have particularly small hands and wrists, you can wrap further up your forearms. The 180’s are fine for the majority of people.
The 120” handwraps are sufficient and actually even preferable for young children with smaller hands and wrists. Usually, there’s not much of a difference in price, so you may want to just stick to 180’s. And if they prove to be too long, you can always just snip them down with scissors.
They do make longer 200” versions. These are best for people with larger hands or who require a bit more support across the wrists.
What are the best brands of Muay Thai hand wraps?
You wouldn’t think it, but there is a large difference in quality between the lesser known brands and the most popular Thai brands- Top King, Twins, Fairtex. Amongst the big 3, all of them are great. The materials used are strong, comfortable and they have both a standard and an elasticated wrap. Most people (me included) prefer the elastic ones. There is a slight bit of stretch to them which allows for more comfort and a better fit.
Fairtex wraps seem to last the longest, but the stretch on them wears out after a few washes. The Top King wraps are really comfortable and stretchy, but they seem to stick to any Velcro they come into contact with- such as that on the gloves. And this can cause some pilling. As always, Twins misses out a bit on the flashy design elements and colors, but they more than make up for it in quality.
In Thailand, there are also a lot of off brands of Muay Thai gear with names like Sairhill, Thaismai, Action, etc. Avoid these. They are usually poorly constructed of cheap materials. Even the Velcro wears out after a few uses. Strangely, most of the knockoff Muay Thai equipment is produced in a place called Sialkot, Pakistan. I don’t know why that is, but I get emails and WhatsApp messages all the time trying to sell me gear from this city.
How do you wrap your hands for Muay Thai?
There are probably about as many ways to wrap your hands as there are trainers in Thailand! Some trainers start with the loop at the end around the thumb, and then work their way around the wrist before making the way to the palm of the hand, then the knuckles, then between the fingers. Others start with the palm then knuckles, then fingers and wrists, etc.
However the first person teaches you how to wrap your hands, that will likely be the way you stick to. At least until someone teaches you better. In honesty, you’ll figure out what you like and need if you just pay attention when you are training.
If you feel that your wrists are tweaking when you punch, then you may want to address that the next time you wrap. If you feel that your knuckles are hurting, you may want some extra padding along them. And if your knuckles are getting scraped up, you need to reevaluate because that means your wraps are slipping.
One thing to be aware of is not to wrap your hands overly tight. They will swell a bit during training and you don’t want to have to take a break to rewrap your hands in the middle of your session. You will feel it if they are too tight. Your fingers will hurt, throb and you will notice they are blood-engorged when you take off your gloves.
If you’ve bought your own wraps and nobody’s there to help you figure out how to wrap your hands, head on over to Youtube. There are many different tutorials on how to wrap them.
You can make your life much easier if after your wraps are dry, you roll them. Start with the Velcro end. Double it over onto the wrap so that you can see the logo, then start rolling. When you put them on, you can start with the loop and make sure as you unroll you are unrolling from the top- like a properly placed toilet roll will come off it’s spool.
Do you always need to wear hand wraps when doing Muay Thai training?
Short answer, yes. There is no time you should be without your wraps. In addition to protecting your knuckles, fingers and the many small bones in your hands, they help to support the wrists. This is hugely important.
Even the heavy bags are round, they move, get slick and are easy to miss-hit it or slide off of. This could result in a little injury which could sideline you for awhile. Not fun if you are on a mission to grind, work and get better with your Muay Thai skills. Hand injuries suck. Ask anyone who has been training awhile and they will tell you that they are to be avoided. If wearing your handwraps will help to cut down on those nagging little tweaks, then do it.
Many boxers and Muay Thai fighters do train to build up the bone density and strength in their hands and wrists by doing heavy bag rounds without gloves. This is a solid practice. However when doing this, it is imperative that wear your wraps. This is the time when you are even more likely to incur an injury.
If you will practice without gloves, make sure that you start light and slowly build up power in your punches. I would never go beyond about 50-60% power on a bag without gloves as I have many times given myself some little stingers from a punch. These are like electric jolts, which start in the back of the hand and move past the wrist and up the forearm. Usually, these little pains are nothing serious, but they remind me to take it easy.
If you’ve ever been in a streetfight, you’ll know that punching someone in the face is a risky business which is fairly likely to result in an injury to yourself. So, keep that in mind when you are doing your gloveless rounds.
Can you wash Muay Thai boxing hand wraps?
As I said, in my gym, we wash them after each use since the beginning of this terrible pandemic. If you have your own wraps and gloves, washing after each use is overkill. It would probably be enough to wash them every 3-4 uses. But it is important to leave them hanging in the sun between uses. As long as they get a chance to at least air and dry out, you aren’t going to promote the growth of bacteria too quickly.
If you are using loaner gloves and your own wraps, you probably should go ahead and wash them between each use. There’s no way around it, gloves are not likely to get any sort of antiseptic treatment at all in Thailand. The best you can hope for is that they will be given a chance to dry out thoroughly every now and then- either from non-use or during a day when the gym is closed.
It’s enough to give your wraps a bit of a soak in a sink with a little bit of soap for 15 minutes. Then give them a good scrub, rinse and hang to dry.
I used to add a few drops of bleach to help with cutting down on the odors. But then my business partner, who teaches jiu jitsu, put me onto the virtues of distilled vinegar for that same purpose. It is infinitely better than bleach and doesn’t cause the colors to run. If you can find a place outside in the sun, this will be better to help kill bacteria than a dryer, and will also improve the life of your handwraps.
If you will be using a washing machine, I would recommend putting your wraps in a small washing bag. Otherwise, they are likely to become an entangled mess after the spin cycle. The first time you wash them, be aware that the colors will likely bleed, so you may want to hand wash them the first one or two times before popping them in a machine.
Are hand wraps important for Muay Thai boxing?
Hand health is hugely important in all the pugilistic sports, including Muay Thai. The proper use and care of the lowly handwrap is one of the biggest factors in ensuring that health.
So, make sure that you choose your wraps wisely, clean them regularly and use them religiously!
What happens if you don't wash your hand wraps?
Bacteria will accumulate in your hand wraps. In the short term you might encounter some foul odor (sure to help make friends and influence people) or start to find the hand wraps less comfortable to wear.
In the longer term you can suffer hand hygiene issues included rashes, irritation, right through to swelling and infection.
So please, wash you hand wraps after each time you wear them.