Can You Spar With Training Gloves? [It’s complicated]

Until you take up boxing, you can be forgiven for not knowing how complex boxing gloves can be. There are several different types of glove and once you understand those – there are different weights of boxing glove to choose from too.

So can you spar with training gloves? You can spar with training gloves. Both sparring gloves and training gloves protect your opponent but training gloves also give more protection to your hands. This means that sparring in training gloves provides less real-world training than sparring in sparring gloves, which are meant to mimic real fights as closely as possible.

Let’s have a good look at how sparring and gloves actually go together.

Can you spar with training gloves? -
Can you spar with training gloves? –

Why Is Sparring Important?

Sparring is a vital part of boxing and, indeed, many of the other “hard contact” martial arts. For example, Muay Thai fighters will also use sparring in their practice.

Why do they do it? Well there are some core benefits to sparring:

  • It makes fighting “real”. Sure, you can practice your moves on a bag but it’s not the same as fighting with another person. Bags don’t fight back.
  • It helps you build your stamina or as they say in medical school, “cardiovascular strength”. Working out with someone else can help you build up stamina better than bag work.
  • It helps you develop a strong mind. Learning a martial art without ever getting hit means that you’re completely unprepared for a real fight. Sparring reduces the fear of getting hit and helps you come back when it does happen.
  • It develops fighting awareness. When you spar, you get to observe other boxers and their styles. You start to learn how the movement of your opponent’s body is telling you how they intend to approach the fight.
  • It improves your reaction speeds. Nobody likes getting punched. Sparring helps you learn when to move so that you don’t get punched. A bag simply can’t teach this to you.

How To Avoid Injuries When Sparring (Gloves Included)

Firstly, it’s important to remember that you can’t keep sparring all day, every day. More than 2-3 sparring sessions a week can lead to severe brain damage in a boxer. Sparring is a vital component of boxing, but you still need bag work and regular training.

Then you need to ensure that you have the right equipment for the task:

  • A mouthguard. If you want to keep your teeth, then you need to protect them with a mouthguard. It is a common misconception that boxing gloves take the “sting” out of being hit – they don’t. In fact, some people argue that boxing should be bare knuckle because while it may look more brutal, bare knuckle punches have less force behind them than gloved punches.
  • Boxing gloves. As you’ll soon learn, your choice of boxing gloves is important when fighting an opponent and you need the right gloves to minimize the chances of hurting your opponent.
  • Protective headgear. While a full boxing match won’t typically involve protective headgear – a sparring session will. This reduces head injuries and means that you’re less likely to end up with brain damage in the long-term.

Those involved in boxing-styles such as Kickboxing or Muay-Thai that also involved the feet will want to invest in a set of shin guards too. You don’t want to break your legs during practice, either.

The Three Types Of Boxing Glove For Training

Firstly, let’s take a look at the three main types of boxing glove used in training and the differences between them:

Bag Gloves: For Protecting Your Hands

Bag gloves are designed so that you can batter a bag without taking any damage to your hands. That means they tend to be employed on heavy bags, double-end bags and other specially designed bags.

They tend to be easy to remove or put on because of the “wrap-around” style closing mechanism that they typically incorporate.

It is a bad idea to use bag gloves for sparring because they are padded to protect your hands from damage, they can encourage you to hit your opponents too hard. This won’t win you many friends in the boxing gym.

Sparring Gloves: For Protecting Your Sparring Partners

Sparring gloves do what they say on the tin – they’re designed for sparring with other people. The idea being that boxers need to get “real world” practice between fights or they’d find their skills lacking in a boxing match.

When choosing sparring gloves, you need to watch out for a designed that has laces or which, at the very least, covers up the wrap-around design. This is because the wrap-around systems use a hook and loop set of fasteners which can cause serious injuries to a sparring partner.

When you hit someone with sparring gloves, they offer less protection for your hands than bag gloves. This is quite deliberate. The idea when sparring is to improve your skills, not to beat your opponent to death. Sparring gloves ensure that you can feel the power of your punches and conduct yourself accordingly.

Training Gloves: For Protecting Both Your Hands And Your Sparring Partners

OK, now to training gloves. These are a sort of hybrid design which is firm enough to be used when pounding on a bag but also sensitive enough to incorporate sparring where you don’t hurt your opponent too badly.

So, yes, to answer our original question you can spar with training gloves.

However, it’s important not to use the same gloves for sparring AND bag work even if you own training gloves.

Smacking a heavy bag causes the glove to start breaking down. This is because of the uniform hardness of the bag. Over time, the protection that training gloves would offer a sparring partner would be destroyed by the bag work.

So, no matter what kind of boxing gloves you buy – you want to ensure that you stick to a single use for them.

How To Choose The Right Boxing Gloves For Sparring

When you’re choosing the right boxing gloves for your sparring sessions, you’ll want to keep some things in mind:

  • You want a snug fit. You don’t want your hands rattling around in your gloves when you fight. The hand is full of tiny delicate little bones that are really easy to break. One reason you wear gloves is to reduce the chances of breaking those bones.
  • You need room for hand wraps. A lot of first time glove buyers forget this, but you have to ensure your wraps will fit in your gloves.
  • Leather lasts longest. There are a few materials you can use for boxing gloves, but leather gloves are, by far, the most durable.
  • Try them on before you buy. This ought to be obvious but you can’t tell if the gloves are right for you from a size guide – you must put them on before parting with your cash or you may be throwing your money away.
  • Make sure they are the right weight. Gloves used for sparring should be heavier than those used for bag work. Consult a glove weight chart for this.

How To Spar With Training Gloves Safely

If you’ve decided to spar with training gloves, then we’ve got some great tips on how to do this safely without putting yourself or your sparring partner at risk:

  • Ask your coach to inspect your gloves before you spar. A coach ought to examine both sets of gloves prior to you stepping into the ring. What they’re particularly looking for is to ensure that there is enough padding on the knuckles to protect your fingers and your opponent’s face. It’s not unusual for coaches to reject gloves, so it can help to ask them what brands they recommend before you buy your gloves.
  • Do some shadow boxing before you start sparring. If you’re not used to fighting in the gloves, you ought to see how they change your boxing game. Jump in the ring and do some working out with an imaginary sparring partner first. How do you feel? What’s the difference between these gloves and your last ones? How will you change your approach because of this? Answering these questions can really inform the way you spar in the new gloves.
  • Start by using controlled sparring techniques. If you begin with just jabs, you and your sparring partner can see if there are any problems with the gloves. Then work up to 1-2 sparring which adds crosses to the mix but only at about ¼ of your usual power. The idea is not to hurt your partner but to see if you can land your blows. Then it’s on to 1-2-3 sparring where hooks are now allowed but again only at ¼ of your usual power.
  • Start full sparring only after working through your controlled techniques. This should still be at 25% of your maximum power. The rule is that neither boxer should be using flinch blocks (e.g. they can’t just jerk their head back – if the blows don’t hurt, they don’t need to be avoided).


Can you spar with training gloves? Yes, you can but you should only spar with training gloves if you’re not using them for bag work. Bag work will decay the gloves so that they are no longer suited for sparring.

Choosing boxing gloves is quite simple when you use our guide above and you should now be able to extend the life of your gloves too.

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