Whether you want to master the art of boxing and MMA or are training to maintain a pristine physique, exerting your energy while practicing your punches is essential. Skillfully hitting your target and trying different combinations on it can not only increase your offensive capabilities but also your reflexes while helping you out in maintaining a shredded physique. One of the best ways to perfect your punching speed, agility, reflexes and power is by working a punching bag.
A punching bag is typically a bag made of leather or PVC bag that’s stuffed with cotton textile, along with sawdust or sand to increase its density. Sometimes the walls are padded with EVA foam to allow for responsive and injury free training.. Although it’s not established when punching bags were invented, Simon D. Kehoe was awarded the patent for the bags by the United States Office of Patents and Trademarks in 1872. The punching bags were made out of kangaroo skin during the start of its production. However, in the current era, premium bags are being made with cowhide leather. Punching bags come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They also vary depending on what technique you want to improve. When looking for a punching bag, it’s crucial to choose the bag that helps you improve your desired punches. In this article, we’ll be discussing different types of punching bags, their pros and cons, their designs and functionality and how each of them can improve your offense.
Types of Punching Bags
Punching bags come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. However, athletes use different types of punching bags on the basis of their desired functionality. Each type of punching bag helps an athlete to work on different movesets. Following are the different types of punching bags and their respective pros and cons.
The most common type of bag used in boxing and MMA is a heavy bag. As the name suggests, a heavy bag weighs more than other types of punching bags. This is so that the bag can withstand powerful blows from the athletes and helps in strength training. Typically, it’s hung from the ceiling with the help of chains.
Heavy bags can weigh between 70 to 150 pounds (32 to 68 kgs). The general rule of training on a heavy bag is that it should be half your body weight index. They're normally filled with cloth, and sometimes are foam padded. Unlike most bags, they have less mobility allowing them to stay in place. That’s why heavy bags can be used for practicing kicks as well.
Strength Training - Due to its weight, it can resist more powerful blows from athletes. This helps in increasing the strength and power of your punches and kicks.
Practice Kicks - unlike most punching bags, a heavy bag can be used to practice your kicks. MMA practitioners use heavy bags to practice kicks as kicking is a part of MMA.
Combo Practice - As heavy bags have lower mobility and zero to none swaying, a series of punches can be displaced on it. Athletes can try out different combinations of punches and kicks while the bag remains stationary.
Conditions your Fists - Heavy bags are very rigid as compared to many other types of punching bags. Punching a rigid bag conditions your fist and increases your endurance and strength. It also conditions your wrists to the point of smashing bricks and prevents them from wriggling.
Requires space - To prance around while bombarding your heavy bag with a series of attacks, you will be required to hang them in a spacious room. Although punching the bag itself only requires an arm's length of space, practicing your footwork and kicks requires at least 8 to 10 square feet of space around the bag.
No Reflexive Training - Heavy bags are impractical if you want to improve your reflexes as they remain stationary. The bag is mostly for strength training so there are other types of bags that athletes use to train their reflexes.
Lack of Focus - Hitting the same bag repeatedly does not require a lot of focus on it. In a real match however, all your concentration is towards your opponent. If you're only training with a heavy bag, you can lack the vision required and reflexes needed during a fight. It will be difficult to adjust to the movements of your opponent.
No Defensive Training - To train your defense, you’ll require equipment that can strike back or rebound. Unfortunately, a heavy bag lacks the properties of defense training. The bag is mostly used to withstand attacks and nothing more.
A teardrop bag is a spherical shaped bag hung from the ceiling using chains. It's made out of leather and is filled with a mixture of cloth and sand or sawdust. It is commonly used by Muay Thai practitioners and mixed martial artists. That’s because it has a lowered center of gravity, allowing athletes to strike with their knees and elbows. It can also be used to practice clinches, elbows, punches and kicks unlike a standard heavy bag.
Typically, athletes use a slimmer teardrop bag as it is lighter in weight and can swing more effectively. The swinging of the bag allows you to practice your head movements as well as your footwork. Training with a teardrop bag can increase the speed of your strikes and its different angles allows you to practice a variety of attacks and helps in building a strong defense. It also allows you to practice a combination of fast paced strikes, improving your agility, speed and defensive capabilities.
Enhances Agility- With the help of speed drills, a teardrop bag greatly improves your reflexes and agility. Due to its light weight and how it’s hung near your waist, it can rebound swiftly after each hit. This allows you to maintain quicker footwork and in throwing fast paced strikes.
Short Ranged Strikes - A teardrop bag is perfect to practice moves with shorter range like hooks, knees, uppercuts and even elbow strikes. Muay Thai practitioners use the bag to practice attacks that are possible during clinching it. A teardrop bag provides an effective medium to practice close ranged attacks and develop strategies to dominate your opponent through complex maneuvers.
Improve Reflexes - The teardrop bag rebounds after each hit as it’s lightweight. Through certain drills, you can learn to develop sways and ducks while striking back at the bag. Evading the bag through head movements can be an effective way to develop reflexes.
Enhances Footwork - The swaying motion of the bag can be unpredictable for the athlete to defend against. Skilled footwork and distance control helps in avoiding being struck back by the bag. The teardrop bag effectively improves your footwork during the training session.
Costly - As compared to heavy bags, a teardrop bag is more expensive due to its unique shape and design that increases complexity in manufacturing. It’s best to consider all options before buying one.
Impractical for Strength Training - A teardrop bag isn't the most effective bag to train the high levels of strength and power of your strikes. This is because it’s not as heavy as a heavy bag. If you were to improve the power of your blows, a heavy bag is a much better pick for you
While most bags are used to train the strength and speed of the punches, a reflex bag is specifically designed to train and improve your reflexes. The reflex bag has a spring based mechanism system with a rigid base. The base is made rigid to prevent the bag from toppling over. The height of the spring is adjustable. The bag is attached to the other end of the spring, opposite to the base and is filled with either sand or water.
When you hit the bag, the spring swings the bag back and forth. This motion of the bag provides the athlete the opportunity to improve their reflexes by either punching the bag repeatedly or by evading it through head movement. Due to the smaller surface area, successfully hitting the bag improves accuracy of your punches. A cobra reflex bag is perfect to enhance your defenses, improve your punching speed and accuracy and in developing sharper reflexes.
Enhances Reflexes - The reflex bag is used by athletes as a reflexive training equipment. The constant back and forth motion of the bag after each punch challenges the athlete's reflexive capabilities. It allows the athlete to make split second decisions of whether to evade the bag through ducks and sways or to punch back at the bag.
Improves Accuracy - The bag attached to the pole is very light and slimmer as compared to other punching bags. Hitting a smaller target is more difficult to achieve successfully. Every successful hit landing on the bag increases the accuracy of your punches.
Improves Hand to Eye Coordination - The motion of the reflex bag can be unpredictable after it gets hit. This is due to the spring system installed between the bag and the base. The athlete has to be on point of when to strike back at the bag which requires hand to eye coordination.
Easy to Set Up - Setting up a reflex bag is very easy to do. It doesn't require you to drill holes in your walls or attach it from the ceiling. You can set it up with minimal effort and time.
Only for Punches - The reflex bag is only used for practicing punching. Muay Thai and MMA practitioners can’t practice their kicks, knees and elbows on the bag. They will have to turn to other types of bags to practice their sport in its entirety.
Not For Strength Training - Although the bag is capable of withstanding punches, it does not provide strength training. The bag is mostly used to practice reflexes and can be damaged from powerful strikes by high strength heavy weight class athletes.
A wall punching is a rectangular bag screwed to the wall. It’s typically used for training fast punching combinations. It has specific target sections. The target sections are divided to practice hooks, uppercuts, jabs, body punches, and crosses. The bag stays in place when you strike it, limiting your defensive training. The wall bag also doesn't provide many angles to hit from as it's literally stuck in a place.
Although the bag is typically used to practice punches, athletes can also use it to train and improve strikes from their knees and elbows on it. However, It’s best to avoid kicking the wall bag in case you miss the bag and hit the wall behind it. A small miscalculation like that could lead to a severe foot injury.
Speed Combo Training - Combination of punches have a greater chance of knocking your opponent out. The wall bag is designed for fast paced punch combination practice. Its different sections allow the athlete to train several types of punches including hooks and uppercuts.
Durable - The wall bag can easily withstand the most powerful blows as it's very durable. It is perfect for training the strength of your strikes without slightest of worry for damage to the bag.
Less Space Required - When you set up your wall bag, it's fixed to the wall and doesn’t swing unlike other punching bags. There’s no extra space required around it for footwork either. You can train with the wall bag by standing in place.
Limited Movement - The wall bag stays in the same position through the entire training session. This is why your movement around the bag and training your footwork is restricted.
Difficult to Set Up - To set up the wall bag, you have to screw it in place to your wall. It's not an easy feat to accomplish on your own as one person has to keep it in position while the other one screws it into the wall. Once you do set it up, removing the screws and setting it up some other preferred place can be a hectic chore. The holes of the screws will also be left behind damaging the aesthetic of the wall.
No Defense Training - To master the art of combat sports, mastering defense is as important as offense. The wall bag is purely designed to practice your offense. It does not improve your defense in the slightest.
Angle bag is specifically designed for uppercuts, which makes this bag very ideal for boxers, MMA and muay Thai fighters. It can also be used for kicks, knees and elbows as well. The bag has its center of gravity optimized to reduce swaying and to prevent wrist injuries from impact by rebound of the bag.
The bag is made up of heavy duty vinyl and is filled with compressed fabric to achieve perfect angles during practice. The bag is good for practicing uppercuts and low kicks and great for practicing combos, sharpening reflexes, precision and developing striking power.
Good for Uppercuts - Bag provides nice shape and angle to specifically practice uppercut which is a great bonus while training for combos in MMA and Muay Thai.
Provides Good Angles - The bag provides very great angles while rebounding which can be great opportunities to initiate combos or to sharpen reflexes.
Very Costly - It is made up of premium materials and the complex design for manufacturing adds up cost.
Low Protection against Impact - The bag provides minimal protection from impact thus requiring a decent pair of gloves. This is due to focus on getting powerful strikes from the athlete, So good strength and endurance is required to practice combos or punching with the bag which makes for a pretty demanding workout.
Headhunter bags are designed to develop precision at punching and for training head movements. It has an ultra slim design, having the crux to provide the target zone that only allows for a precise hit to land upon. Its low weight allows it to move around when punched. This motion of the bag is used by athletes to train head movements and reflexes. The Headhunter bag is made up of extra heavy duty synthetic leather and tightly packed with sand which makes it ideal for high intensity strength and precision training.
The training session involving the bag helps in achieving high levels of accuracy while enhancing strength and endurance, all which translate to good offensive capabilities. Alongside offense, it is an effective defense tool for training footwork, ducks and sways.
Durable - It sports an excellent build quality which makes it withstand a harsh beating while still retaining a new and freshly bought look.
Perfect for Defense Training - Sways and ducks are a detrimental part of defense in boxing and MMA that require enhanced reflexes. The Headhunter bag helps athletes improve their head movement due to its unpredictable motion when hit.
Used for Intensity Training - The bag requires a lot of effort while training to achieve good combos and get in the game. It requires good reflexes and precision to practice your techniques in the bag flawlessly.
Requires Precision – To get the desired results the athlete must have some level of precision just to land the hits onto the bag but for starters or amateurs it is a tall order to start hitting a rock hard bag with precision repeatedly.
Requires Prior Experience - Those who practice on the bag have to have good technique developed for punching and combos. Before starting practice on your boxing from scratch better to practice on a heavy or aqua bag before switching on to the headhunter.
An Aqua bag, as the name implies, is a bag filled with water. Hitting water disperses impact in a uniform manner providing great feedback. The bag greatly helps in training punches for kickboxing and boxing while reducing backlash of those punches delivered onto the bag. It is good at training combos of punches and kicks with lower rebound impact to the body.
The bag is made of PVC material and is filled with water. It reportedly takes under 5 minutes to set it up which makes it easy to change locations. It can be used outdoors as PVC is very impervious to the elements which makes it ideal for outdoor training sessions.
Easy to Set up - Setting up an Aqua bag is remarkably easy and a simple process. Just fill up the bag with water and hang it up. All of the process takes under 5 minutes which makes it easy to change location multiple times or to set it up when needed.
Good to Hit - Hitting an Aqua bag provides a pleasant feeling to the athlete as there is negligible backlash from the impact, ensuring safety to the joints of your knuckle and wrist. So, it’s a great way to learn combos and develop reflexes, accuracy and agility while receiving minimal impact from your own punches or kicks.
Outdoor Friendly - Aqua bag is not only easy to set up but also PVC used to make the bag is a very resilient material against rain and other natural elements.This is why it can be used for outdoor training sessions.
Uncomfortable for Your Skin - As they’re made out of PVC, striking it with knees and elbows gives an uncomfortable feel to your skin. This is why it's best to use it for punching only.
Not Ideal to Build Endurance - Aqua bag disperses impact while athlete feels negligible force of impact which is great for further punching but not ideal for developing endurance.
Not a Good Choice for Cold Areas - For those who want to practice boxing in a cold environment where the weather is below freezing point, the bag is not a good choice. This is because water inside the bag can freeze.
Uppercut is one of the key punches that offers evasion against hooks and breaks guard of the opponent. It can be difficult to train your uppercuts on most bags due to their designs and shapes. An uppercut bag helps you train your close and long range uppercuts and work on its speed, power and accuracy. Although its main purpose is to perfect your uppercut, you can also practice your jabs, power punches, hooks, angle shots and combinations.
The uppercut bag is a cylindrical shaped bag that is hung vertically around chest level. The bag is filled with cotton shredded textile to maintain its shape. Due to its durability, athletes use the bag for power and strength training. The uppercut bag is perfect for working out your hard hitting combination.
Highly Durable - The bag is filled with high density cotton shredded textile that allows the bag to absorb heavy hits. This is why the bag is highly durable and perfect for long-term use
Strength Training - Due to its design, athletes use the uppercut bag for strength training and performing heavy hits. The bag can absorb powerful strikes which helps in developing striking power.
Provides Uppercut Training - Uppercuts are essential punches learned by athletes to counter gapped blocks and hooks. Although you can perform any combination on it, the uppercut bag is mainly designed to perfect your uppercuts.
Lack of Defensive Training - The bag is purely designed to improve your offense and develop strength in your punches. It doesn't enhance your defense other than footwork
Risk of Injury - When throwing an uppercut on the bag, stretching your arm for it can injure your elbow joints. To avoid it, you have to stay closer to the bag when throwing your uppercuts. You can also miss and hit the bag if the bag is hung on it which can fracture your knuckles.
Advantages of Punching Bags
A fighter must be aware of his equipment and what benefits can be derived from them. This is to properly work on converting their weaknesses into strengths. A punching bag provides the athlete with numerous advantages that help improve their fighting techniques and offensive skills. Following are the advantages of utilizing a punching during training:
Full Body Workout
Constantly punching the bag while focusing on your footwork provides you with a highly intense workout. Moving back and forth while attacking the bag requires an abundance of energy to burn. When this energy is released onto the bag, it leads to a lot of sweating which burns your fat. For someone who weighs around 130 pounds (59 kgs), an estimate of 558 calories are burned per hour while punching a heavy bag, according to Valdosta State University, Georgia, USA.
Enhances Punching Skills
If your aim is to improve your punching techniques then training with a punching bag can help in achieving your goal. Hitting the bag from different angles can enhance your speed, precision, power and agility. It also helps you learn different techniques and combinations that you can use in a real fight. Moreover, you can improve your footwork, punching speed, power, agility and accuracy.
Stress has a massive negative impact on your cognitive function as well as your physical and mental health. It can result in decrease in productivity, hyper-tension, lack of sleep, high blood pressure, memory loss, anxiety, gastric or digestive problems and even muscle tension. Exercising is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress. Exercising releases stress relieving hormones like norepinephrine that improves your mood. As you hit the bag, hormones are released into your bloodstream which is responsible for reducing stress and anger. So by releasing punches onto a punching bag is one of the best stress relieving ways out there as it is said that hitting something with brute force can rapidly decrease stress. US Marine Corps heavily focus upon punching during Marine Corps Mixed Martial Arts program or MCMAP for short.
Cheap but Effective
If you’re training boxing in the gym then you'll need handwraps, boxing gloves and workout shoes. Your gym will already have a punching bag you can train on so you won’t have to buy one. However, if you’re training at home, you can buy a punching bag along with its chains or springs to hang it in place. Training with it does not even require the assistance of a coach or trainer. It is very economical way to fitness as it burns high amount of calories reducing the need of torturous and expensive dieting or the need of buying heavier and expensive equipment with multiple sets like bench press dumbbells rows etc.
The various types of punching bags are to develop different fighting techniques and improve your defense or offense. Specific training programs require specific bags to achieve maximum results. Punching bags are commonly used pieces of equipment as they're cost effective, easy to use and don’t require a trainer.
All bags have their respective strengths and weaknesses depending on what you’re trying to improve. So only your training requirements may shape your choice in choosing the right bag for you.