I KNOW YOU MET BOB. HOW ABOUT RICHIE OR LITTLE JIMMY?
Punching bags (also known as heavy bags or boxing bags) are an essential part of every fighter’s training. Their main purpose is to develop your punching technique, speed, power and endurance, but you can also practice your defence and footwork, depending on the type of the equipment. They come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. Some of them can hardly be categorized as “bags”, but I will include them here too, as they serve the same purpose. So let’s look at some of these great toys you can find in most boxing gyms.
STANDARD HANGING HEAVY BAGS
The hanging heavy bag is the most common type of a punching bag. You can find a variety of these in most boxing gyms. They can be mounted on the ceiling or on a wall and they come in many sizes, providing different resistance. This also depends on the type of filling used inside the bag. The heavier the bag, the less it’s gonna swing and the more resistance it will provide, making them ideal for developing power and endurance. Smaller, lighter bags will swing around more, allowing you to work on your footwork and timing, Standard, straight bags are mostly used for throwing straight punches and hooks, but not ideal for practising your uppercuts, which is why in a better equipped gym you will come across some other weirdly shaped hanging bags.
ANGLED HEAVY BAGS
Nice and curvaceous, these bags can have different looks, depending on their main purpose. The curves allow you to land your shots at an angle. Some of them are angled specifically for uppercuts, some of them for body shots, some for both. So if you’re looking to develop power in these shots, choose one of the curvy ones, rather than the straight bag.
These bags are (as you could’ve guessed) shaped as a teardrop. The different angles on this bag allow for a variety of punches, including uppercuts. Heavier bags are great for developing power in these shots, while lighter, slimmer ones can be used for training head movement and defence. These bags are also great for landing elbows and knees in Muay Thai.
THE WRECKING BALL
The wrecking ball is another great tool for working on your uppercuts. Unlike the teardrop, this one is more boxing oriented and not suitable for kicks or knees. Its round shape, thicker and heavier build, makes it perfect for landing uppercuts with some good power.
Aqua bags are special punching bags filled with water. They usually come in a teardrop shape and you can choose from different sizes. These bags provide a number of benefits, compared to standard heavy bags:
-they provide a lot of resistance for the size – even though they look small, the water filling makes these bags really heavy, so they don’t start flying around once you start putting some power in your shots. This makes them ideal for small places.
-less impact on your joints – the water inside the bag takes away a lot of the impact that would normally go into your hand, wrist and shoulders. This means you can hit them with some serious power, and the risk of injury will be smaller than on other heavy bags.
-the teardrop shape allows you to practice all your punches, including uppercuts.
-they never need re-stuffing – unlike standard punching bags, where after a while the filling starts settling at the bottom, requiring you to dismount and refill the bag, aqua bags will save you this trouble. You fill them up and you’re good to go (unless, of course, they start leaking..)
Some people say these bags have the most natural feel to them, the most similar to punching a real person. I’m not sure about this statement (unless you’re punching Aquaman in the face), but it is, for sure, a very different feel to hitting a standard bag. Try it and let me know what you think.
I, personally, would not categorize these babies as bags, but in the lack of a better word, let’s say they are. As the name says, these are mounted on the wall, hence they don’t swing around at all (not much footwork going on around here). But footwork is not the focus of these bags. They are used for firing fast combinations, with target sections for straight punches, hooks, uppercuts and body punches.
One of my favourites, the banana bag is usually longer and thinner than a standard boxing bag. This is because they are developed mostly for kicking, rather than punching. Because they are longer and hanging low, they are perfect for working on your low kicks and level changing combinations. On the flip side, if boxing is your main focus, this one is not your best option, as they lack the usual swing a standard punching bag provides.
POLE BAG (THE JUMBO BANANA)
This bag is pretty much a banana bag on steroids. The pole bag is an absolute beast of a bag, probably the biggest thing you’ll see in the boxing gym. It’s so heavy, that it has to be mounted around a pole. Just like the banana bag it’s perfect for low kicks and level changing combinations, except on this one you can hammer in your shots with as much power as you want. Got some anger management issues? Do a few rounds on the pole bag and you’ll be good to go for the day.
THE BOWLING PIN
Another favourite of all Muay Thai enthusiasts, this bag is specifically designed for certain Thai boxing techniques, such as teeps and knees. The bottom heavy part allows for landing hard teeps, while the thin section on the top is perfect for practising your clinch knees. While not ideal, they can be used for punching and kicking as well.
These bags are mounted on a stand, rather than hanging. They can be convenient if you don’t have anywhere to hang a heavy bag or you need to move it around a lot, but keep them as a last resort. They lack the swinging movement a standard hanging bag will provide, ad they are often too light to hit with power, making it easy to knock them down. The wide base used to hold them upright can also get in your way if you try to get close, so all in all, if you have a choice, go for a hanging one.
BODY OPPONENT BAG (ANGRY BOB)
Similar in features to freestanding bags, but designed more like a real opponent. With BOB, you can literally aim for his chin or his ribs, rather than guessing the proper height on the bag. His size is usually adjustable to better replicate a shorter or taller opponent. If hitting a dummy is your thing, then BOB is your man. Keep in mind though that all the downfalls of a freestanding bag apply here as well. BOB is generally very static and will fall easily if hit with power.
This is the go-to bag for trying to look cool with your super quick hands. I’ll tell you straight away: I’m a hater when it comes to the speed ball. The one thing they are good for is making a lot of noise. And yes, they are literally in every single boxing related movie, and because of that they have become one of the symbols of boxing. But the truth is, as a training tool, the traditional speed ball is long outdated. It is said to be good for developing hand speed. But speed in boxing does not come from the hands, it comes from the hips (if you haven’t heard me say “Boxing is all in the legs”, you haven’t read much of my work before). Speed development is also very movement specific. For example, in running, developing linear speed will not transfer to your speed of changing direction. Similarly, developing speed in an ice picking type of movement (which is what you do on the speed ball) will not transfer to your punching technique. So if you want to make a lot of noise, and annoy me in he gym, then go for it. If you want to work on your speed and timing for real, there’s a couple of much better options. Read on.
STANDING SPEED BALL