Punching bags are perhaps one of the most well known pieces of boxing equipment. They are one of the first things that new fighters are drawn to and many who have been practising boxing, martial arts and combat sports for years may still not know exactly what each type of boxing bag is and what each one is best used for. Knowing in more detail in which training situations a particular type of bag is more appropriate allows you to make more progress and take even more lessons from each and every workout. Read below to find out the different types of punching bags and what they are used for.
Heavy Bags (AKA Jumbo Bags)
We will start with the most well known and sought after boxing bags, the heavy bag. As the name suggests, these bags are heavy in weight and more often than not in size to. There is a number of different ways you can set one up (depending on the size, use, brand, make and design). Interestingly there has been a lot of innovation recently when it comes to the heavy bag and what materials/designs are most effective for training. These bags have been used for decades and are the stars of the boxing training world.
The heavy/jumbo bag is used for developing strength and power behind your punches. Hitting the heavy bag can be intense and make for an exhausting workout. Not only will your strength improve with regular heavy bag work but also your muscle toning and definition due to the work that such exercises puts on your key muscle groups. It is not only your arms that get involved when hitting the bag, you twist from the legs and keep the core engaged which is what makes this training so effective for shedding fat whilst improving technique and punch power.
Usually heavy bags will be made out of a strong material such as leather or nowadays synthetic leather. They will be stitched together with a blend of nylon/polyester materials. This allows them to take a beating without falling apart. This is vital so that the filler can be kept securely in place inside the bag. Also, due to how you can hang the bag (often from the ceiling) and their total weight, the material used needs to be durable so that the bag can remain hanging for years throughout countless intense training sessions.
The filler used on most heavy bags will be sand and/or foam (usually a mix of the two). Some newer more innovative bags use water filler for various reasons which we will elaborate on. Sand is a strong, solid material which offers a ton of resistance when the bag is punched. Not only is this great for muscle toning and conditioning but it is also a step closer to replicating the resistance you might meet when throwing punches in a competitive fight. The issue with sand is however that it increases the chances of an injury. The delicate bones, joints and tendons found in the hands, wrists and forearms are not used to such resistance, shock and vibrations (especially the amount generated when hitting the bag at speed and full power). To help reduce the risk of injury, boxers should wear proper training gloves which are made with heavy bag training in mind. Bags with water filler still offer a hard surface to hit but can better absorb shock, resistance and vibrations. Many local gyms are starting to take a hybrid approach of keeping their sand filled bags but ordering in one or two water filled ones to give newer boxers the option of both.
There is multiple ways that you can set up your heavy bag and each option has their own benefits. There is the option of free standing, hanging/suspended and angled.
The free standing bag comes with a base which is usually filled with water or sand and the bag on top ready to hit. These tend to be lighter and easier to move but they also rarely offer the same kind of resistance as other types of bag. This is good if you are not looking to make any adjustments to walls or ceiling in your designated training area as they can be quickly positioned where ever is convenient.
Hanging/Suspended Heavy Bags
This is the type you will know from the movies (or your local boxing gym). Most often suspended from the ceiling, setting up your bag in this way allows you to hang a durable and higher weight bag ready to train with. Often times you can position the bag so you can manoeuvre around it during your workout (better for cardio and stamina training).
Angled Punching Bags
An angled punch bag will allow you to get some unique hits when practising your striking form and technique. These might be a better option for mixed martial arts training as typical boxing punches rarely require you to experience multiple angles (you can get that practise from shadow boxing, pad work and in the ring!).
This is perhaps the second most popular type of punching bag you will find in a boxing gym. Excellent for developing speed and reflexes as well as exhausting the shoulder muscles, you will want to regularly use one of these in your training sessions.
Air filled/inflated and light weight, the bags move quick (as the name suggests). They are great for improving the speed of your punches and really powering up that muscle memory!
A spring mechanism and strategic design means that the bag bounces of the ‘back board’ and comes propelling back to your fists ready to be hit again. The initial aim should be to keep punches consistent one hand to the other in an almost rolling motions. Once you have got the hang of it you can start changing up your routine and punching movements to make the exercise more challenging.
Top Work/Upper Cut Punch Bags
An upper cut bag is mounted on a wall at about shoulder height (so the bottom of the bag comes down as far as the waist) and has a front punch area, a side area and a angled area for striking. These bags allow you to practise your upper cuts (as the name suggests) as the angle is perfect for practising rotating the legs, hips, waist, shoulders and arms upwards to connect your first with the chin area.
Double End Bag (Commonly Known as ‘Mexican Style’)
The double ended bag could be considered a mix between the speed and the heavy bag. It is slightly heavier than the traditional speed back but by no means as heavy as the heavy bags you will find. Attached to two bits of string (top and bottom), the bag springs back to the centre towards you when hit. This allows you to practise both punching with power and speed and also dodging return shots. It can be used to develop both offence and defence techniques, form and best practises.
Many will tell you and claim that this bag is a bit closer to how an opponent might punch you back in a bout. It is good to add this bag to your regular routine to develop your all round boxing skills, reflexes and muscle memory.
These are just some of the types of punching bags available to trainers alongside some more detailed information on each and what they are best used for. We will be updating this post going forward with new bag developments and innovative designs so be sure to check back!
If you are looking for the right punching bag for your or your friend/relative/loved one, be sure to check out our punching bag buyers guides and other related articles: