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For someone untrained, if you hit a human body with open palm (think slapping or spanking type hit), the hitter usually discovers that it hurts the surface of his palm and bottoms of fingers significantly more than expected.

Are there any exercises to improve this situation (lessen the amount of pain when hitting)?

I'm looking for details specific, so "hit something with your open palm" is a bit too generic.

What should be hit (something hard? Something with consistency of human body? Shape? weight? mobility of object being hit?)? How many hits in a row and how many sets a day to avoid actually damaging your hand?

Should there be some specific muscle groups that can be strengthened to help?

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4 Answers 4

I think you need to consider your palm technique rather than do conditioning exercises. A slap by its very nature is done with the palm relaxed while a palm strike is done with the palm tensed (and you should be striking with the heel of the palm, not the palm itself. When done in this way your fingers don't make contact with the target at all).

If you are specifically striking with the palm itself then try ridging your fingers almost like a slight claw, this should produce maximum tension across the bottom of the fingers, although the tips of your fingers will probably strike the target as well.

Most of all, I would question whether a slap is a practical strike to be using, the physics of it means that it is of very limited usefulness. Should you be using palm strikes instead?

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In martial arts, that is the reason for conditioning of the hands, so that when you hit a person or object, it breaks, not your hand.

Any strengthening of the hands using things such as a Windlass, wrist curles with weights or other finger strengthening exercises, including finger push ups, will strengthen the muscles and tendons around the fingers and palms and thus give you some increased endurance in regards to striking.

But the real method which allows the hand or other body parts to withstand strikes is to condition the hands correctly to make them harder and to condition the nerves for shock over time.

Check out my video on Iron Hand Conditioning that I have up on youtube for the proper way to do this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZrfuknGr44

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You want to toughen your hand to reduce pain while avoiding damage. The body gets stronger and tougher in response to stress placed on it. Not enough stress and no change. Too much and you get injury. It's going to be up to you to find the right combination, but it's no more simple than repetition x times a week and tracking progress. Be patient with outcome because it's a process of body conditioning and healing. Also, it depends on how hard you expect to be hitting... sparring with light touch? Street fighting? The latter might suggest tougher hands. On the other hand, you have a limited amount of training time each week and there are other things to consider, such as grip strength and resistance training, which can also toughen your hands.

In general, don't screw up your hands. They are needed for much more than karate, and people generally get hurt more by over-training than anything else.

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I would suggest practicing on surface that you would practice closed-handed strikes on, such as a punching bag. Simply keep hitting it until your hand gets sore. Do this a few times a day, and you should be able to more and more before your hand gets sore.

This is what I call a custom workout fine-tuned to each individual participant.

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