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
Before 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
When 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.
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)
The 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.
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!