Choosing The Right Punching Bag

Right now it seems like the whole world wants to build their own home gym. Lockdowns and social distancing have encouraged many people to turn their sheds, garages or just a corner of their bedrooms into training spaces. For those of us who are fighters, or just fancy a bit of bag work now and then, we’re going to want a bag. For the fighters, it’s pretty vital to have something which can act as a target practice to develop and perfect techniques and combos. For the casual, it’s hard to find a home cardio exercise that provide more fun and catharsis than punching an inanimate object. This is particularly great when you need a break from the stresses of working from home.

There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a bag. We’ve first got to figure out if it’s OK to install a wall bracket. If after checking with the landlord or housing association, we find out they’re not happy with any holes being drilled into walls, we might opt for a free-standing bag. If we don’t, we’ve got to find a wall we can drill into without damaging a supporting structure, or bursting a mains pipe. Once the location has been figured out, we can figure out what kind of bag we’re looking for – which size, style, and material needed is key to your workouts. So the punch bag would match with your athletic goals.

Different boxing bags

Different Types of Punching Bags

Punching bags come in several different forms. A speed bag isn’t great for developing your kicks but can be great for developing reaction time and hand speeds. For all-round technique development, a standard heavy bag is often the go to choice, but there may be certain skills which can be more finely tuned with other ones.

Heavy Bags

Heavy bags are most widely used because these give the best training experience – the area for hitting is large and you can hit the bag with maximum power without hurting yourself. Heavy bags are usually hung with a chain from the ceiling for maximum impact. A wall bracket can be used as well. They are generally made for developing overall striking techniques. Usually, heavy bags have a cylindrical shape, but there can be some exceptions as well. A good weight for a heavy bag is typically around 110 pounds (50kg), but anything between 70 and 150 pounds (30 to 70 kg) is usually fine, depending on where and how hard you train. The heavier the bag, the less movement, hence harder training. These bags are usually used by boxers, kickboxers, Muay Thai, and also MMA practitioners.

Suggestion: Ringside heavy bag on Amazon (very well priced, 100LBS bag)

Round Heavy Bag

Round heavy bags are usually either short and spherical in shape, designed to sharpen body punches and in some cases, more targeted kicks and knee strikes. Especially good for training body uppercuts (a.k.a. body rips). If you get one, make sure it is not the lightest one, as otherwise it will swing after every punch and the training won’t be too effective.

Suggestion: Prolast round bag on Amazon

Banana Bag

A banana bag is a longer and thinner form of the traditional heavy bag usually found in Muay Thai gyms. It is designed especially for low kick training, but also knee strikes from both long guard and in clinch form. But you can punch them as well. Banana bags usually weigh around 130 pounds (60kg).

Suggestion: Meister banana bag on Amazon

Angled Heavy Bag

The angled heavy bag has a slimmer trunk and a wider top. That enables to throw better uppercuts, so it is well suited for boxers.

Suggestion: Outslayer angled 80LBS heavy bag on Amazon

Double End Heavy Bag

This is kind of like 2 angled heavy bags on top of each other. Good for training body shots (body rips) and uppercuts.

Free-Standing Punching Bag

These punching bags allow you to dodge any problematic wall drilling, meaning the owner won’t have to worry about sweeping up the plaster, or not having to or calling emergency plumbers. They are placed on heavy, durable bases, usually filled with sand or water to keep them relatively anchored to the ground. Some have even suction cups for better anchoring of the stand. This means that they can be placed almost anywhere, well – provided there aren’t neighbors downstairs concerned about the noise. They normally have springs that makes the bag return to the athlete after the hit. This is quite movement and speed compared to a hanging punching bag. Those training Muay Thai or MMA can develop their low kicks. Overall this is a very convenient option for an apartment, though the training may not be as effective as with a hanging punching bag.

Suggestion: Century Wavemaster XXL on Amazon

American Bob

The American or Century “Bob” is a type of free-standing punch bag with the model of a grumpy man’s torso in place. This is in order for the fighter to have a more realistic idea of a real life encounter. Like the free-standing punch bag, they need to be anchored down with either sand or water in their base. A slightly more expensive option for most, but another very convenient option.

Suggestion: Century Bob XL on Amazon

Speed Bag

Generally speaking, speed bags are the nimblest of punching bags, moving quickly and snapping back and forth when punched. They are small and lighter than other bags, filled with air, designed for improving rhythm, timing, and coordination. Working on a speed bag can be a great aerobic exercise workout, developing your arms, core, legs and back. Newcomers to the speed bag will benefit more from larger bags as they move slower and are easier to hit, allowing for more gradual progression. Use a speed bag as an additional, not as the main tool, in your training.

Suggestion: Title speed bag on Amazon

Maize Balls and Bag

Similar in contents, the maize balls and bags differ in their use and size. Each is filled with either fake granules or fabric and fake granules, although the maize bag is heavier and used for endurance punching, a ball is smaller, great for developing head movements how you guard and how to track an opponent’s movement. Again, this is an additional tool, not your main one.

Suggestion: DIY solution (string, small bag, maize)

Wall Bag

As a consequence of being mounted to the wall, they don’t swivel or rebound – which is a big drawback. These may be an option where hanging a bag from a ceiling isn’t possible.

Suggestion: Title wall mounted boxing bag on Amazon

Water-fillable (Aqua) Punching Bag

Basically, these are round punching bags, made of rubber and filled with water. It’s a good option, if you need to store your punching bag during the period you are not training – you just drain the water and pack it up. It’s very light on your hands and wrists, but gives a good workout, so it’s not a bad choice at all.

Suggestion: Aqua bag on Amazon

Surface Material

Bags are almost always made either of leather or a man-made material like vinyl. Leather boxing bags are the best and prized for their durability, comfort and classic aesthetic. As a result, they cost more than their synthetic counterparts. This means some producers use synthetic leather to for a similar look and feel as genuine leather with a cheaper price tag.

Synthetic bags do provide some advantages, particularly in some environments. Nylon and vinyl may be more suitable to spaces with high humidity levels due to their resistance to mould and mildew. From time to time, you may encounter canvas bags. Although these are not as durable as either genuine or synthetic leather, they are usually much cheaper and absolutely fine if you don’t use the bag that often.

Boxing Bag Fill Material

The fill of a punching bag will determine how hard it is, how comfortable it is to use and even its cost. In many cases, bags are pre-filled and there are benefits to this in terms of convenience. Once a filled bag is brought to the training space, it can be hung up and smacked around straight away.

Unfilled bags on the other hand may provide some level of frustration, but having the ability to customize the feel and firmness off the bag can be incredibly useful. Once the material has settled at the bottom and has hardened, unfilled bags are easily adjusted.

Sand is heavy, so it is great for maximum weight. It is easily to fill and won’t cause much of a mess if the surface material breaks. Its main drawback is the hardness changes if there is much moisture in the air.

Water-filled bags are very convenient, particularly as almost everyone has a tap in their house. They are becoming increasingly safer for the wrists and more reliable, usually containing a specific reservoir to reduce chance of breakage and make filling easier.

Air can be used in the more reflex orientated bags such as speed bags. Unsurprisingly, air is pretty cheap and is great for martial artists who want an extra light-weight bag. When used often though, these bags will deflate slightly and need inflation regularly. Drawback is that training is not too efficient.

Textile-filled bags are designed for lowering strain on the joints. As the textile is deforming, lightweight and soft, then striking them will put less impact on the wrist, elbows and shoulders. Most heavy bags have a sand and textile as a combination for the filling for a good weight and shock absorption ratio.

Size and Weight of Bag

Just like when it comes to picking the type of bag, the size of bag should be chosen to suit your training needs. For punching only, choose a punching bag measuring 2.6 to 3.6 feet, but kickboxers and Nak Muays benefit from bags as long as 4 feet in size in order to practice low kicks.

Along with style, the age and weight of the fighter is also important. Some punching bags have integrated mechanisms that allow you to adjust the weight as needed.

As a good rule of thumb, an adult heavy bag should be at least half of the user’s weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, buy a minimum 75 pound bag. Be ware though, that the heavier a bag is, the harder it is. The harder it is, the more strength based your training will be. If you want to develop lighter but faster punches, a lighter bag will be more beneficial.

As a final note, kids’ punching bags weigh significantly less than standard, adult-sized bags. As the blows will be less powerful than from a child fighter, these bags don’t need the same amount of impact absorption and the bags are used more for developing technique than strength or power training.

Conclusion – One Bag To Rule Them All

All types of punching bags have their own purpose, but you probably wouldn’t want to get yourself 5 different bags to your home gym. So, if I’d have to suggest you one, and you’re a boxer, then get yourself a decent 100 pound (and 70 inches tall) heavy bag. If you are more into Muay Thai, then a banana bag. And if there is no way you can mount a hanging bag, then the heaviest free-standing bag you can find.

Shadowboxing is great, but a real punching bag is an incredible useful tool for boosting confidence and self-esteem, developing self-defense technique and enhancing well-being and mood. Even having the option of doing 10 to 15 minutes a day will leave almost anybody feeling a lot more positive and stress free every day. Go and download Heavy Bag Pro for an effective virtual coaching for your bag work.

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