Choosing a Heavy Bag

Choosing a heavy bag can be an important choice in your martial arts training. Get a good heavy bag and you can really develop and hone your striking skills. But choosing a bad heavy bag can be detrimental to your training.

We’ve reviewed some of the top punching bags available and encourage you to check them out for more information. You can also take a look at our complete heavy bag comparison chart. In this article we’ll cover some of the basic information about how to choose a heavy bag so that you can find one to match your training needs.

Free Standing Vs. Hanging

how to choose a heavy bagThe first choice you should make before looking at different heavy bag options is whether to get a free standing bag or a hanging heavy bag. Both have their positives and negatives, so which option to get really depends on your needs. Below we’ve listed the positives and negatives for each kind of bag.

Hanging bags positives

  1. Provide a better striking experience.
  2. Tend to move around when struck, so they can help you work on your timing, speed and accuracy.
  3. Often cheaper than free standing bags.

Hanging bags negatives

  1. Can be hard to set up and need a ceiling that can support the weight (or need to buy a separate heavy bag stand).
  2. Can’t be easily moved after the bag has been set up.

Free standing bag positives

  1. Easy to move: You can set it up in any room and then roll it out of the way when you’re done with it.
  2. Easier to set up than a traditional hanging bag.
  3. Can be placed on the floor for ground and pound training.

Free standing bag negatives

  1. Not as sturdy as hanging bags and hard strikes can make the bag move
  2. Usually more expensive than traditional hanging punching bags

Recommendations: The Everlast Polycanvas Bag is a great choice if you are looking for a good and affordable hanging bag. The Wavemaster XXL is definitely our top choice for free standing bags. Click here to see some Century Wavemaster heavy bag reviews.

Choosing a Punching Bag Weight

choosing a heavy bagChoosing the right weight is very important when selecting a heavy bag. Choose a bag too light and it could go flying with a powerful kick. But choose a heavy bag too heavy and throwing punches or kicks can hurt your hands and legs. One thing to note about weight is that this rules only applies to hanging bags as free standing bags are designed differently.

In general, the rule we suggest to follow is to choose a heavy bag that is approximately 1/2 your body weight. Of course MMA punching bags won’t be exactly half your weight, so you can either round up or down a little. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds then a 70-80 pound heavy bag is probably a good choice. If you weigh 180 pounds, then you probably want to consider a heavy bag that weighs around 80-100 pounds. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule:

  • If you are an experienced martial artist you may want to go with a heavier bag.
  • If you have powerful strikes then you will also want to lean toward heavier bags. Otherwise the bags may move too much when hit with strong kicks and even punches.

Recommendations: The Everlast Powercore Nevatear Bag comes in two weight sizes (80 and 100 pounds) and it is a great choice at either weight.

Choosing a Bag by Filler Material

Generally MMA training bags are made from fiber (synthetic and natural), foam, sand or water. Each material has it’s advantages and disadvantages and below we cover the basics of each kind of material.

Fiber: Fiber has become one of the most commonly used filler materials. It generally provides a nice even resistance throughout the bag, so no matter where you punch or kick it you should get the same striking experience.

Choosing a Heavy BagFoam: Many top martial arts training bags are made with high-density foam, especially free standing bags. Foam generally provides a consistent striking experience and it doesn’t settle, so you don’t need to worry about  bottom of the bag becoming stiff. The Wavemaster XXL punching bag is a very highly rated foam heavy bag to check out.

Sand: Sand is another commonly used material and it also provides a nice striking experience. Sand can occasionally settle on the bottom, which can make the bottom of the bag a little harder to hit than the top. Pockets can also occasionally form in sand bags. This isn’t usually a big deal if you buy a high-quality bag, but it is something to consider.

Water: We really like water filled heavy bags as they provide a consistent experience and feels more natural to strike than any other bag. However, this is just a personal preference and not everyone has the same opinion.

If you are looking for a good bag that uses several of the materials, then definitely check out the Everlast C3 Form Heavy Bag which uses, fiber, foam and sand in it’s design.

Wrap Up

Hopefully this article has given you the basics on choosing a heavy bag. For more information, make sure to check out the reviews on this site before buying a bag. You can also take a look at our interactive punching bag chart to learn more about the different heavy bags that are available. If you have any questions about how to choose a good punching bag don’t hesitate to contact us. We are always happy to answer questions about MMA and martial arts equipment. After you get your heavy bag you can also check out our heavy bag drills for some good practice tips.

Exciting Heavy Bag Drills

Heavy bags are very dynamic tools for martial arts training. They can be used in numerous exercises and drills and below are 8 exciting drills you can implement in your training regimen. The heavy bag drills fall into 3 distinct categories, including technical drills, power and speed drills, and endurance drills. Read below to get specific and actionable training suggestions for each drill.

If you need a heavy bag for training, we have an excellent interactive chart and reviews of some very popular heavy bags. Learn more at our interactive heavy bag guide.

Technical Heavy Bag Drills

heavy bag drillsTechnical drills are designed to help fighters develop their fighting skills. These skills include basic technique, accuracy, timing, and footwork.

Basic Technique Drill

Have a training partner hold the bag steady for you and count off your set. Simply focus on a specific technique and repeat it over and over, in order to reinforce it in your mind. Stand directly in front of the bag and don’t worry about moving your feet. Stay grounded and deliver your shots directly to the bag in sets of 10 or 20, before moving on to the next technique. Ex. 10 jabs, 10 crosses, 10 lead hooks, 10 rear hooks, etc. The focus here is not power or speed, rather proper form. Do not rush; focus on the technique.

Accuracy Drill

Put some duct tape at various points around the heavy bag and try to aim for the tape. The better you get at this, the more challenging you can make it for yourself. You can start out with a partner holding the bag and use pre-determined techniques or combinations to start. Then you can move to a freestyle round in which you can throw what you want. This will help you develop your accuracy on a moving target.

Timing Drill

Work your timing on a punching bag by getting the bag to swing, either by pushing it or getting a partner to swing it for you, and then try to time it so you hit the bag as it swings back to you. The challenge is to hit the bag at the right moment, not over extending or smothering your technique. This works well for kicks, like push kicks or side kicks, as well as punches (although we would suggest a lighter bag for timing punches).

Footwork Drill

Using a lighter heavy bag that can swing freely, try to keep a consistent distance in front of the bag as it swings. You do not have to hit the bag at full power, rather keep your power at a level where you can keep your stance and still move around the bag without tripping yourself up. Increase the difficulty by trying to keep a specific point on the bag in front of you at all times.

Power and Speed Drills

heavy bag drillsDeveloping power is one of the primary uses for a heavy bag. Speed is more difficult to develop, but a punching bag can be useful for this as well. The benefit of training with a punching bag instead of a human being is that you can hit it as hard and fast as you can and it will never get hurt, complain or get upset.

Here are some examples of heavy bag drills that can help you develop your power and speed:

Power Drill

Most power drills involve slowing down the pace of your punching bag routine and focusing on delivering as much force as possible in each shot. Start in sets of 10 and stand at the optimal range for your shots without too much footwork movement. You will want to work on going from a steady state to exploding into the bag with your strikes.

This drill will work with multiple techniques. It can be done with straight punches, hooks, and even kicks and knees. Take a break in between sets so that you have time to recover your energy. This is not a drill that you want to do constantly until you burn out, as your body will get used to throwing softer and softer as you fatigue. The focus here is consistently hitting as hard as you can. An alternative to working in numbered sets is working in shortened free style rounds (60-90 seconds) with emphasis on maximum power.

Speed Drill

Speed is difficult to develop on a heavy bag. It is important to make sure that you do not sacrifice your technique in order to gain speed. A good drill is to pull your power back to about 60-80%, stand slightly out of range of the bag, and practice springing in and hitting the bag with a quick combination of 3-4 punches and then springing back out of range. Focusing on speed involves relaxing and snapping your shots out as quick as you can. Take a short rest in between each combination to recover your speed. Similar to power drills, this type of hand speed drill should not be done as a burnout set, as your body will get used to throwing slower and slower as you fatigue. Work in sets of 10 to begin with, and then increase when your endurance allows you to.

Endurance Training Drills

heavy bag workoutEndurance is one of the most important skills that a fighter needs to build up in order to be successful in the ring or cage. You might have all the technique in the world, but if you lack the endurance to drive it then it won’t make any difference in actual competition. The ring is the wrong place to get tired. There are many endurance drills which can be done on a punching bag. Here are a couple of examples:

Interval Training

Hit the bag with a basic short combination (i.e. 1-2 punches) as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. Then take an active 30-60 second rest (i.e. jogging on the spot) back to the bag as hard as you can for 30 seconds,. Then substitute a different exercise for 30-60 seconds. Do this for 3 repetitions and then take a longer break. If the interval training drill takes too much energy to begin with, then try to substitute the active period with less strenuous exercises.

30-30-30 Drill

Hit the bag in normal freestyle mode for 30 seconds. Then hit the bag as hard as you can non-stop for 30 seconds. Then hit the bag with continuous 1-2s as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Repeat this a couple of times to begin with and then increase it to more repetitions as your conditioning improves.

Wrap Up

If you start implementing some of these drills into your workout you will begin to develop you speed, power, endurance and technique. Make sure to read the reviews and visit our homepage to get all the details on the best punching bags. You can also see a few more drills here. If you are new to heavy bag training, make sure to read our how to use a heavy bag guide.

How to Use a Heavy Bag

Heavy bag training is absolutely indispensable for any fighter looking to get into the ring or cage. From aspiring fighters to seasoned veterans, from boxers and kickboxers to Muay Thai and MMA fighters, one thing that unites all fighters in training is the amount of work that is put into hitting heavy. As a fighter, the heavy bag is your best friend. It is important; however, to make sure that you are using the bag properly in order to get the most out of your training and avoid injury. Below are 9 top tips on how to use a heavy bag (also known as a punching bag).

Also, if you want to pick up a good punching bag for training, make sure to check out our interactive heavy bag guide.

1. Setting Up the Heavy Bag

how to use a heavy bagBefore you can use your heavy bag, you need to make sure that it is set up properly. Different bags are set up in different ways; some hang from chains or straps, while others stand freely, just requiring that their base is filled with water or sand. The most important part of setting up a bag is simply following the installation instructions. Don’t hang a punching bag from a beam that cannot support its weight. Also, try to ensure that there is enough space for the bag to swing freely without hitting walls or other training equipment. Ideally there should be enough space for you to be able to circle the entire bag, although this isn’t totally necessary. Keep your training space clear of clutter or tripping hazards. If you are looking for a very good free standing heavy bag, make sure to check out our Century Bob review.

2. Warm Up

This is an important step that is frequently missed. Before you use a heavy bag, it is important that you get your heart rate going and warm your muscles up. This serves to avoid injury and also prepare yourself neurologically for your punching bag routine. We suggest 5-10 minutes of skipping rope to get your blood flowing, and a couple rounds of shadow-boxing to mentally reinforce your technique.

3. Protect Your Hands

We cannot emphasize this enough. Make sure that you protect your hands before any heavy bag workout. Wrap your hands with cloth or gauze hand-wraps, and wear proper bag gloves. Heavy bags are often packed very tight, and a stray punch without protection could lead to a serious knuckle, hand or wrist injury. This is a very amateur mistake, and not one that you will make twice.

4. Plan Ahead – Have a Goal in Mind

how to use a heavy bagWhen hitting a training bag, it is important to have a pre-established goal in mind. Swinging wildly as hard as you can for 30 seconds and then gasping for air will not help you become a better fighter. Having a specific goal in mind for what you want to work on in your heavy bag session will. For instance, today I am going to work on speed, or today I’m working footwork into my combinations, or today I am going to work on my power shots. You can work in sets (50 1-2s, 50 kicks with each leg, and so forth), or you can work in timed rounds, whichever lends itself to better training your goal effectively.

5. Keep Your Eye on the Bag (Literally)

When hitting a heavy bag, it is important to look where you are throwing. Don’t look at the floor, or worse look at yourself in a mirror. Your technique will suffer and you run the risk of injuring yourself with a mistimed or poorly aimed shot. Think of it like driving, you wouldn’t drive in one direction and look in another.

6. Range

Make sure to hit the punching bag from the correct range. Don’t smother you technique by being too close to the bag. Don’t shorten your punches or kicks. Likewise, don’t try to hit the bag from too far away, as this will also hinder your technique, causing you to overextend or lean on your punches, or land your kicks with the delicate bones in your feet instead of your shins. Work from a range that allows for full, proper extension and thus maximal power development.

7. Work Your Basics

A lot of people who don’t know how to use a heavy bag try to jump right to advanced techniques. However, successful fighters need to have a good foundation built up. Thus, in order to be a successful fighter, you must reinforce your basic technique on the punching bag through seemingly endless repetition. If you were to ask a top level professional boxer how many times they have thrown a jab on a bag, they would give you an answer in the tens of thousands. The same is true for a Muay Thai fighter and their round kicks. Just as you cannot play hockey without the basic foundation of ice skating, you cannot fight effectively without having a basic foundation. So, work your basics, work your basics, and then work your basics again.

8. Keep Your Eye on the Bag (Metaphorically)

how to use a punching bagThe seemingly endless repetition of hitting a bag can at times feel like a monotonous boring grind. However, make sure that you stay focused on the task at hand and keep your pre-established goal in mind. Keep your eye on the bag, metaphorically speaking. That is to say that you need train deliberately and not to let your mind wander to other things. Stay focused. This will help you develop your mental toughness, which is an important part of being a successful fighter.

Don’t get lazy and be mindful of not cutting corners with your technique. Heavy bags do not hit back, and if you repetitively cut corners (such as holding your hands low), you might end up developing openings that a future opponent could capitalize on. If you need it, try asking a training partner or coach to help motivate you to stay on task, to keep drills fresh and interesting, and to keep an eye on your technique.

9. Cool Off

Make sure to always cool off after an intense training bag workout. Drink some water to rehydrate and let your heart rate return to normal. We always advise doing some stretching afterwards.

Wrap Up

Hopefully this guide has been useful and provided you with some tips on how to use a heavy bag properly. The best way suggestion we have is to get started training with the basics and the rest will follow. Click to see some exciting heavy bag drills. Have fun and practice safely!