A heavy bag is an excellent tool when it comes to working out or training for Boxing, Kickboxing, MMA and Muay Thai. In addition to boosting your conditioning, it can drastically improve your power and striking skills.
Pro fighters, aspiring amateurs and workout warriors alike use heavy bags to improve their technique and strengthen their arms and legs. Also known as a punching bag - this article will teach you all there is to know about using heavy bags.
Different Types Of Heavy Bags
Here are some of the most important types you should know about:
A free standing heavy bag is rooted to the floor using a weighted base. It's perfect for people who don’t want to risk compromising or weakening the structure of their home wall or ceiling.
Here are a few advantages of using a free standing bag:
Hanging Heavy Bag
A heavy hanging bag is an excellent choice for serious fitness or kickboxing experts. Since the bag hangs from the ceiling, you don't have to worry about storage space. On the downside, the bag cannot be easily moved and stays in one place. Some notable benefits of this workout tool include:
Muay Thai Heavy Bag
Muay Thai heavy bags are perfect for those who want to practice kicking techniques. They are typically longer and skinnier than other heavy bags on the market, and also suitable for Kickboxers.
They have a harder stuffing compared to regular heavy bags, which are tailored more towards boxing / punching techniques.
It is ideal for people who want to workout and practice technique on their own. Some notable benefits include:
Suitable for those who want to incorporate upper cuts into their training routine. This type of heavy bag features a unique bulky shape on the top, while the bottom part is a lot thinner.
Common Types Of Fillers
Before investing in a heavy bag, it's key to know what kind of filler / stuffing is inside the bag.
The most common types are covered below.
Most heavy bags in the market are stuffed with foam or have some foam padding. This type of heavy bag offers a nice bounce when punched or kicked, something that most boxers and strikers appreciate.
These heavy bags are stuffed using old clothes / fabric (cut into pieces). This offers a good level of resistance and durability.
These bags are typically harder at the bottom, and softer towards the top. This is because sand is usually placed at the bottom of the bag, to prevent it from swinging too much.
The most recent heavy bags in the market feature gel foam / padding. It offers more cushion and is easier to strike than cloth / fabric filled bags.
Some heavy bags use water as a filler. These bags are specially designed to hold water, so don’t try filling a regular heavy bag with water or it will leak.
Also known as aqua heavy bags, they are significantly easier on joints and hands. Offers the sensation of striking a human body (we are made up of about 60% water after all).
Sand Heavy Bags
This type of heavy bag offers very strong resistance, which makes the bag incredibly hard to punch or kick.
However, sand bags are an excellent option for those who want to focus on low kicks and condition their shins in the process. Punching this type of bag can be risky for beginners as you risk injuring your hand or wrist.
Benefits Of A Heavy Bag Workout
A heavy bag workout has many benefits:
Working out with the heavy bag will improve your conditioning. For maximum intensity and benefit, include a variety of leg work - this can be footwork for boxers and kicking techniques for MMA and Muay Thai Kickboxers.
MMA fighters can also use a heavy bag to practice their ground and pound striking. Switch positions regularly to mimic a fight and work on striking from different angles.
Improved Striking Accuracy and Footwork
When working out with a heavy bag, the bag will swing and move. This will improve your footwork, striking accuracy and balance, as you will have to evade and punch the moving bag. The lighter the resistance and greater the swing of the bag, the more you will have to move your feet and be more accurate with your strikes.
Using full force to punch a heavy bag can significantly boost your punching power. To work on and develop power, you need a bag that offers good resistance and does not swing too much.
Strengthens Upper Body
Heavy bag workouts help you tone your body and get in better shape. While beneficial for the entire body, it is particularly beneficial for strengthening the upper half. Punching a heavy bag for a couple of minutes every day can contribute to strong biceps and triceps.
After a long day, punching a heavy bag can provide a much needed outlet to relieve stress.
Striking the bag releases endorphins, commonly referred to as feel good hormones. This will elevate your mood, ease stress levels and improve your overall mental health.
How To Punch A Heavy Bag
Not being careful, hitting the bag too soon or losing balance can cause injuries. To avoid these problems, follow our instructions on how to punch a heavy bag:
- 1Wear gloves - To avoid injury to your hands and wrists, it is essential you wear a pair of boxing gloves. This will help cushion the impact when striking the bag.
- 2Ground your feet - Dig your toes into the floor to retain balance, as you throw punches. The force should rise from your toes to your legs and up your shoulders. Maintaining your balance will generate more punching power and make you more mobile on your feet.
- 3Punch the bag, don't push it - a lot of beginners make the mistake of pushing the bag instead of punching it. Pushing the bag can cause it to move too much. While this may look good to the untrained eye, it's not the goal - it will make it difficult for you to throw solid punches and improve your punching technique.
- 4Use both hands and throw combinations - As you withdraw your punching hand, your other hand should slide forward - this will result in back-to-back consistent motion. Aim to throw punches in combinations of 3 to 6 strikes.
- 5Move your feet and keep your hands up when not punching - These are both fundamental to ensure your defense is sound. Fighters who are flat footed and / or keep their hands too low are easy to hit. Doing this will help mimic competition and also improve your conditioning.
- 6Breathe - Focus on your breathing as you strike and move around the bag. This will prevent you from getting tired too quickly.
Are You Punching Correctly?
The heavy bag is supposed to pop / snap when you hit it right. If your shoulders, wrists and elbows hurt, you're probably doing something wrong - talk with your trainer and go over the steps above carefully to correct and/or hone your technique. There is also a plethora of videos online outlining how to strike a heavy bag.
How To Hang A Heavy Bag
There are a number of ways to do this - you can attach hanging heavy bags to the wall, ceiling or a mounting stand. In this section, we will teach you how to hang a heavy bag using a support beam.
Deciding On Where To Hang The Heavy Bag
A heavy bag is going to take up plenty of room, so it's essential you pick the right place to hang it. Depending on your preference, you can opt for a wall mount or a ceiling mount. Ensure you have enough space to move comfortably around the bag, which will allow you to work on your footwork - this is particularly important for those who will use the heavy bag to practice their kicking techniques. Most people hang their heavy bag where they work out or in the basement.
Locate The Support Beam On The Ceiling
Once you’ve identified the location, it's time you hang the heavy bag. Hanging the bag on the ceiling is a good idea since it will give you optimal mobility and plenty of space to move around.
Support beams (pictured below) run along the spaces between the ceilings. Some structures may be wider than others. Find a strong support beam.
You can find the support beam by using a stud finder. Another simple way to locate support beam is by conducting a knock test. Start by knocking along the ceiling: you'll notice your knock will make a hollow sound because there is no support behind the ceiling. However, once you hit the beam, you will no longer hear a hollow noise because the entire structure is wooden.
Drill Holes In The Support Beam
Use a drill to make holes in the support beam. Fasten an eye bolt in the hole and twist it in place so that it remains secure. Tighten the eye bolt using a wrench. Don't use hooks as they might not be able to support the heavy bag.
Hang The Heavy Bag
Use chains to hang the bag onto the beam. Most heavy bags include a chain so you can easily attach it without any problems.
Disclaimer - be very careful when hanging a heavy bag and consult a professional if you are unsure what you're doing or don't feel comfortable. Installing the heavy bag in the wrong spot can lead to structural damage in your ceiling
Test It Out!
Before you getting started with your first workout on your new heavy bag, it is essential you test out the bag first. Try hitting it a few times to ensure it does not fall off. Consider rehanging the bag if it does not look secure.
Top Manufacturers Of Heavy Bags
Are you planning on investing in a heavy bag? Here are a couple of top brands you should consider if you want to purchase the best heavy bags:
A reputable, American brand that is famous for producing mixed martial arts, boxing and fitness related goods, including exercise equipment, accessories, footwear, and clothing. Everlast produces a large variety of heavy bags.
A boxing/martial arts equipment manufacturer based in Los Angeles, California. Each Outslayer heavy bag comes with a whopping 10-year warranty certificate. Each heavy is constructed using quality, heavy-duty materials.
Combat sports is a leading brand that specializes in the manufacturing of MMA gear, supplies and equipment, including heavy bags.
This brand has been around for years and is known for high-quality heavy bags. Century manufactures affordable yet high-quality products for beginners.
Heavy Bag Workout Tips
There are a few critical factors you should keep in mind to maximize the effectiveness of your workout.
Warm Up First
For a safe heavy bag workout, it is crucial you begin with a warm up first, e.g. light shadow boxing and jumping rope.
When ready to workout on the bag, relax your muscles and hit quick punches to get started. Don’t use too much force or power initially or else you will get tired easily.
Use Heavy Bag Gloves
These gloves provide padding and protect your hands and wrists from injury. Consider investing in a pair of high-quality leather gloves with straps or Velcro fasteners, which will prevent the gloves from sliding off. Opt for quality leather gloves, with ample amount of padding.
Ground Your Feet When Punching
Plant your feed on the ground while hitting a punch, which means you should keep yourself steady retain your balance while punching. It's perfectly fine if you move around before hitting the punch but when it's time to make your move, ground your feet. If this feels rather difficult, try taking only small steps to move around.
You may be compelled to take a break and lean on the heavy bag once you start feeling tired. Here's the thing: don't stop moving. Move around slowly and hit light punches even when you start to feel fatigued. This is referred to as active recovery and will improve your conditioning.
I hope our guide was helpful and has taught you everything you need to know about heavy bags! If you want help with purchasing the best heavy bag for you