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Boxing Coach Freddie Roach on Hand Conditioning

Our hands are precious tools. 

We use them for work, for play, to feed ourselves and our children. Everything! The tools that dwell at the end of your arms are multifunctional and critical to everyday life.

This is why, for those who participate in any boxing routine, hand conditioning is important. This doesn’t mean run out and start jackhammering through walls with your hands. That’s a sure way to become injured and unable to use your hands for anything. Instead it means we need to condition our hands, so they’re able to perform at their best!

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast, amateur, or professional fighter — your hands are literally and figuratively the key to opening doors of opportunity.

Freddie Roach, the iconic boxing trainer who trains Manny Pacquiao and has helped guide the careers of champions like Julio Cesar Chavez, Migeul Cotto, Georges St-Pierre, and James Toney to name a few, sat down with Hayabusa for an exclusive interview. During that chat inside his Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California, Roach talked about his missed opportunity for a title fight and what played a part in ending his professional boxing career.

“I broke my hand,” he said. “I had 27 wins … getting ready for a world title fight. I break my hand in the second round of a 12 round fight. I won the 12 round decision and I can’t take the title fight because my hands are just so messed up. I had to have surgery, I tore the ligaments and tendons, I cracked the capsule on top. It was a mess.

“That kind of ended my career. I still fought for the title twice against Hector Camacho and Bobby Chacon, good names, but I really wasn't at that level, so I had to make a decision in my life and it was the hardest decision I ever made.”

So his message to anyone who puts on a pair of gloves: Take care of your hands.

Instead of conditioning your hands in a manner that cuts, bruises and brings them to the brink of damage, be smart by strengthening them. This can be done by anyone through exercises that promote a stronger grip, which will then fortify your clenched fist. Build up the muscles in the hands and wrists as well as the muscles in your forearm that promote flexion and extension. Each of these muscles works in conjunction to deliver your punches together with the right equipment. The gloves used during training sessions must properly protect you. Hayabusa boxing gloves are designed to keep your wrists properly aligned and your hands fully protected with built-in proprietary splinting, closure and foam systems.

Roach has suggestions when it comes to strikers keeping their hands healthy. 

“Do a lot of exercises with the hands right away and start getting into that and getting used to that,” Roach suggested. “Have targets where you just keep drilling and drilling and drilling, making the hands tougher and tougher. Good hands are essential for a fighter.”

Hand conditioning on the heavy bag

His exercises highlight the importance of repetition. When targeting the heavy bag with properly wrapped and gloved hands, keep a spot on the bag in focus with your punches. Vary those tagrest to mimic jabs, crosses and hooks, which promotes impact on different portions of the fist. 

To help condition your hands for boxing, the following exercises, though not exhaustive, provide a starting point and should be performed multiple times a week. One of the most important of these drills comes from heavy bag work. Before jumping into this, ensure you properly wrap your hands before putting on your boxing gloves. 

Another strengthening tool is to do push ups on your knuckles. No need for wraps or gloves here. This prepares the knuckles for the constant pressure that comes with striking. It also properly aligns the wrists and hands. Traditional push ups force the wrists to bend in a way that can lead to injuries. To further condition the muscles in your hands, using hand grips are perfect for increasing strength. 

Deadlifts may sound out of place, but there’s a natural connection here. You’re able to activate the muscles in your hands and forearms in addition to strengthening your core, which is an important part of delivering a great punch.

There’s also a load carrying drill called the Farmer’s Walk where you hold weights in each hand and walk a designated distance. The exercise forces muscles throughout your body — forearms, biceps, shoulders, among others — to work together and stabilize as the load is being transported. Again, the muscles that are key to protecting the bones in your hands are strengthened.

As you continue to condition your hands remember, not all gloves are created equal, so choose the right boxing gloves. Men's Health recognized Hayabusa for having the best boxing gloves two years in a row. We own the patents to numerous protective features, including: Dual-X™ closure system, providing the best wrist support on the market; Our built-in Fusion Splinting™ wrist support system, which works in conjunction with Dual-X™ to maintain proper wrist alignment; Additionally, Deltra-EG™ is a special foam complex that provides maximum hand and knuckle protection.

Conditioning your hands can be done safely, leading to a healthier and safer experience for you.