In almost every gym, there is usually a bag or some other apparatus that is specifically for punching and other forms of hand-to-hand combat. Whether trained in some fighting sport or not, many students enjoy using this equipment. It can be useful for a plethora of reasons, from practicing self defense skills to just letting off some steam.

However, if untrained in some of the basic skills needed, as in most physical exercises, there is a good chance of getting hurt. One of the most prevalent injuries one could receive is the “boxer’s fracture,” which is a fracture of the metacarpal that runs across the top of the knuckle of the little finger and sometimes the ring finger too, according to assistant physician Everett Miller, PA-C. There are two types of punches that are seemingly thrown incorrectly, these being the cross and uppercut.

Kathy Marlor is a fourth degree black belt and former kickboxing world champion who visits the Eckerd twice a month for self defense classes. In an interview she stated, “If your wrist bends while you punch the bag, you can damage your wrist and forearm. Also, if your arm is straight and the bag comes back around, you can injure your joints during hyper-extension.”

The Straight Punch or Cross

Though this may seem obvious, this punch is actually thrown incorrectly by many who are just starting out with bag work. The secret to carrying out the basic straight punch, or cross, correctly is predominantly based around the proper alignment of different parts of the arm and hand. The first and foremost of these alignment issues has to do with the hand’s alignment with the surface of the bag.

Most people do not do this properly and contact the surface around the pinky finger knuckle of the hand. However, contact should actually be made at the knuckles of the index and middle fingers, where the bones are the strongest. It is also extremely important to remember that for any punch, the thumb must be resting outside the fingers. Further, other alignment factors have to do with the wrist and elbow when punching straight. The wrist is the weakest part of the arm and is therefore most susceptible to taking recoil damage.

It is imperative to keep the wrist completely straight, because wrist bending can cause many major injuries. Keeping this in mind, the elbow should be focused on as well and be kept close to the body. If it is not, the recoil force essentially stops at the elbow instead of being absorbed by the whole body, potentially causing long term injuries.

The Uppercut

The uppercut is an extremely useful punch in close quarters situations and is also, by far, the punch thrown the most incorrectly. An uppercut is a punch aimed upwards into the bag. To complete an uppercut correctly, one’s fist should begin at the waist with the side of the fist in which the thumb is resting facing upwards. From here the fist should be launched up into the bag in a half-arcing manner.

It is important that the hand makes contact with the surface at the same knuckles described in the cross. Further, to prevent all of the shock being absorbed by the arm, the hips and body should rotate with the punch in an effort to absorb the impact, as well as increase power. A problem that is often present and has to do with this essential rotation of the hips is that the punch is overextended. This means that the punch continues after the hips have reached maximum rotation, which can cause the same negative impact in the arm, and cause a much less effective punch to occur. TThe last and most important tip to remember when completing the uppercut is to make sure that the wrist is tense enough that it will not bend on impact and cause major injury. If the wrist is kept too relaxed this is incredibly easy to do, and can cause anything from tendon tears to fractures.

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