In every combat sports gym across the world, most notably boxing gyms, you will see a collection of different heavy punching bags that often show the markings of years of constant pounding.
They also help you to work on your footwork, upper body movement and physical endurance. Each type of heavy punching bag is designed specifically for a certain aspect of your boxing training, and in this article I will be giving an explanation of each one.
In order to pick the best heavy punching bag for your needs, you must take the following factors into consideration:
When it comes to boxing equipment, especially heavy punching bags, brands matter. Ideally, you want to go for a brand that has had a long history and experience in manufacturing combat sports equipment.
The type of heavy bag that you decide to get will heavily depend on how much space you have in your home. Hanging heavy bags are best, but require a free standing system or wall mounted bracket.
If neither are suitable, then the next best alternative will have to be a free-standing heavy bag. If this is the case, I wouldn’t recommend buying the Body Opponent Bags (BOB) unless you’re a martial artist, or plan on just working on accuracy and light punches.
Build and Material
This is the most important aspect of a heavy bag, and it will determine how many beatings the bag can take, and how long it will last. The outer material must be tough so it doesn’t tear – leather, synthetic leather and heavy duty vinyl are the best options.
The inner material is even more important because if it’s inadequately built, you’ll find that after a while of constant pounding, much of the material will sink to the bottom of the bag leaving the top area non-padded and the bottom rock solid. This will just end up damaging your hands and wrists.
All areas of the bag have to remain consistent with no area softer or harder than another. For lower end heavy bags, sand is typically used, and tend to sink to the bottom after a while. If you want higher quality, you have to aim for bags that have fiber type material that is specially compressed and inserted to maintain consistency.
Some heavy bags have a foam layer which helps to absorb punches better, and a newer type of filler is water encased within a hard plastic shell. This is designed to give the sensation of striking a live person, and these types of bags from reputable brands have typically received good reviews.
Size and Weight
The general rule of thumb is for a heavy bag to be half your body weight. Though this rule can be broken if you’re light but still want a heavier bag for more stability. However, if you’re a hard hitting heavyweight, it’s not a good idea to choose a light weight bag.
To work on your strength and power, you need a heavy bag with a thick diameter, and most heavy bags typically have this. There are also thinner longer heavy bags also, which are Muay Thai style heavy bags. They’re designed for kicking as well as punching. If you’re a boxer, then you’ll just be aiming for the top half of the bag, meaning that it’ll swing less compared to hitting it at the bottom.
Below are the different types of heavy punching bags.
Hanging Heavy Punching Bags
The most common and most effective heavy punching bag is the type that is hung either from a free standing support or a wall-mounted bracket. They are a staple piece of furniture in every gym.
Due to their center of gravity, consistent shape and swinging movement, they are considered to be a lot more effective than free standing heavy bags, in terms of helping you with timing, speed, power and technique.
I find it better for heavy bags to be hung using chains instead of straps, because they’re sturdier, often adjustable and have a swivel for more flexibility.
Conventional Heavy Bag
The classic conventional heavy bag is the most commonly used type of punching bag. It’s completely cylinder shaped, thick in diameter and designed to take a pounding. You can work your combinations, strength, power, punching technique and stamina on this bag.
It’s back and forth swing motion as you hit the bag allows you to use your footwork to circle around the bag while peppering it with punches. You can also allow the bag to rest on one shoulder and work on your inside game, while you cannot do this with most of the other heavy punching bags.
Certain heavy bags have a loop beneath the bag, which allows it to be stabilized to the ground, or legs from a stand, so that it doesn’t swing as much.
One of the best ways to work on your stamina on a heavy punching bag is to set your timer to 3 minute rounds, and for the first 2 minutes, work on your power, accuracy and short explosive combinations, and for the last remaining minute, continue with non-stop quick punches.
Angle Heavy Bag
The angle heavy bag is constructed similarly to a conventional heavy bag, but it’s usually shaped so that the upper half of its body is larger in diameter, with it curving downwards to a thinner lower half.
They can vary in shape, with some angle heavy bags having a thin middle with the top and bottom being larger, but they all have an angle that enables you to connect with uppercuts, as well as other angled and normal punches.
Uppercut Heavy Bag
The uppercut heavy bag can be described as a conventional heavy bag hung horizontally, instead of vertically. They usually weigh between 40-60 lbs, and held up by straps instead of chains.
The type of punches that can be practiced on the uppercut heavy bag, are like the name suggests, uppercuts, but you can it’s also good for practicing jabs and straight punches.
One of the most versatile bags around is the maize bag, as its tear or round shape allow you to practice an array of punches and defensive maneuvers such as slipping, ducking and rolling under the bag.
It also differs from other heavy bags because its filled with maize (corn) inside, which feels harder and absorbs impact rather than bouncing it back. Prolonged sessions can damage your hands, so it’s wise to limit your time on the maize bag, and don’t exert too much power on it.
Heavy Bag Support
Hanging your heavy bag consists of two main supports, a wall mounted bracket and a free standing support frame and a wall-mounted bracket. Again, your choice will all depend on the location and space availability.
Wall Mounted Bracket
The primary solution for hanging your heavy punching bag should be via a wall mounted bracket. They’re extremely sturdy when secured properly onto a solid wall, and it must be stressed that it is properly secures and your wall is built to withstand the weight of a 40-100+ lbs heavy bag with the pressure of consistent forceful impact.
Free Standing Support Frame
You will have to resort to a free standing support system if you cannot or don’t want to use a wall mounted bracket. They are designed more for home use, and you usually won’t find these in boxing gyms. The common problems with free stands are:
- They’re sometimes not tall enough to hang a heavy bag so it has an optimal punching level for people above 6 ft. tall.
- The frame can move around, even with weights stabilizing the legs.
- The frame doesn’t allow for free movement around the entire bag.
However, providing you have a enough space and purchase a high quality free standing system, it’s still a good solution for domestic workouts. Some free standing systems can hold several heavy bags, and you’ll usually see double sided frames that can support a heavy bag on one side, and a speed bag on the other.
Free Standing Heavy Punching Bag
If you’re really limited on space, then you can get a free standing heavy bag. It has a lower base, which can be filled with sand or water, with an attached vertical pole in the center, and the bag wrapped around it.
You’ll find that heavy impact will rock the base back and forth, with the entire unit tumbling over sometimes. Also, it doesn’t give you the swing and same feel as a hanging heavy bag, which limits versatility.
The good thing is that you can easily circle around it with your footwork, and it’s convenient for homes since it can be rolled on its base and stored away.
Body Opponent Bag (BOB)
You would normally find BOBs in martial arts gyms rather than boxing gyms, but since I’ve seen them in a few boxing gyms before, I thought I would include it also. A BOB is a lifelike mannequin consisting of an upper body constructed from high density plastics, rubber a foam interior.
It’s not very practical for practicing punching combinations or working on your power, simply due to its inconsistent shape. However, it is useful for target practice. I find that it’s more effective to wear smaller MMA type gloves rather than traditional boxing gloves for practicing on the BOB.
With so many different types of heavy punching bags to choose from, it can be confusing when deciding which one to go for, especially when you’re limited to just one.
A free standing heavy bag should only be considered if you’re limited on space you don’t do rigorously train everyday. However, they tend to be more expensive than conventional heavy bags, often being double the price for good quality models.
In any case, I would always recommend conventional heavy bags or the angle heavy bags. They’re essential for serious fighters and athletes that want to gain the most from their workouts. Not to mention that you can pick up decent quality heavy bags for less than $150.
To get the most out of your training, I highly recommend the following articles:
► How to Increase Punching Power
► 10 Tips to Improve Boxing Footwork
► Boxing Basics
► Top 10 Best Heavy Punching Bags
► Top 10 Best Boxing Gloves