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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Punching Bag

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Heavy bag trainingI’m a HUGE fan of training on the punching bag to improve striking. No matter what martial art you are using, the punching bag is designed to help you sharpen your striking tools. From improving power in your punches, to learning how to kick with more accuracy, the benefits are limitless when you are training on the punching bag.

Punching bags are a staple part of any strikers training regimen, equally as important as sparring, pad work and shadow boxing. When you are hitting the punching bag you can work on many different things to improve specific areas of your striking game.

It is an essential piece of equipment that you need if you want to do any training at home. You can work on either cardio, technique or a combination of both with a number of punching bag drills and exercises available.

Choosing the right punching bag will depend on a number of factors, specifically what area of your striking you are looking to improve. Each type of punching bag is designed to help you improve specific areas of your striking. Some punch bags are designed for speed and timing, while others are designed to help you build your power.

Benefits of Hitting The Punching Bag

  • Develop Better Timing With Punches and Kicks
  • Work On Your Reflexes and reactions Speed
  • Develops Faster Punches
  • Works on your footwork and movement
  • Increased coordination of punches and kicks
  • Work on your cardio and conditioning in training
  • Develop better accuracy with punches and kicks
  • Teaches the importance of distance and spacing
  • Work on building your combinations
  • Condition your knuckles and shins

Each punching bag will have a specific benefit that is unique to that bag. Some bags are designed to develop speed and timing, while others are better for working on combinations and power.

Finding The Perfect Punching Bag

The perfect punching bag will depend on a number of things that you need to take into consideration. Obviously your budget is probably the first and foremost thing that will determine what bag you get. You can buy cheap bags that cost less than $50 or you can buy good ones that are a few hundred dollars.

In addition to the price you also have to look at the materials used in the heavy bag. Cheaper materials may not produce an impact that you want when you hit the bag. Additionally, your martial arts background is going to also influence your bag choice. If you are a Taekwondo fighter you will probably look for a different bag than a Western Boxer.

A smaller speed bag can help you develop your timing and speed, while a larger heavy bag will allow you to work on your power and conditioning. Selecting the perfect punching bag for your training can be difficult if you don’t know where to look. With so many different shapes, sizes and brands, there are a lot of different options that you can choose.

To help you find the perfect bag, we are first going to talk about some specific factors you need to look at when discussing heavy bag. I will break down each of these factors in details and then we will talk about specific types of bags that you can choose from.

Quality vs Price

When you are searching for a new punching bag to purchase you may be tempted to look for the cheapest one online and buy it. While low prices are always tempting, the one thing I have learned throughout my years as a martial artists is that you get what you pay for.

If you buy a cheap $50 everlast bag, it will feel like your hitting a toy bag. It will swing wildly and you will be extremely frustrated when you start hitting with any bit of power on the bag. By spending a little bit more money you will be able to purchase a bag that can provide you with quality and a good feel.

Fill vs. Unfilled Bags

Another thing you need to pay attention to is whether a punching bag is filled or not. Most punching bags come filled, however some of the premium bags made in Thailand are unfilled and require you to fill the bags. If you want to have the best possible punching bag, you will fill it yourself. By filling the bag on your own, you can choose the materials that you put in the bag and get the perfect firmness for you.

Most heavy bags are filled with shredded fabric (old clothes that are literally cut up into small strips) and stuffed into the bag. Initially when you fill a bag it will be very loose because there will be air pockets between the fabrics inside of the bag. However, as you begin to strike the back, over time the fabric will squeeze together and become harder. This is often why heavy bags often become hard over time near the bottom of the bag.

If you don’t want to spend time filling a bag, then buy a pre-filled bag. Just keep in mind that you won’t be able to adjust the feel of the bag unless you take out the stitching at the top of the bag and reseal it after.

Materials Used

The next thing you should look for in a heavy bag is the materials used in the bag. Bags that are made from genuwine leather are always the most expensive. Leather is an expensive material and the cost of the leather is added to the bag. Leather is the most comfortable and durable of the materials that are used. There is something to be said about hitting a brand new leather punching bag.

The other popular material you see used on the outer shell of the bag is synthetic leather. Synthetic leather feels a bit cheaper than the real thing, but it gets the job done. If price is an issue for you, go with a synthetic leather bag. As long as the fill of the bag is right, you will be happy with a synthetic bag.

Most of the top brands like Everlast all use synthetic leather because it helps them lower their prices. You would never be able to buy a real leather bag for $50, but you can find a few synethic ones in that price range (I don’t recommend the cheap $50 bags).

After synthetic leather the cheapest option is canvas punching bags. Canvas bags are by far the cheapest option you will find because canvas is a cheap material. Most of the time these bags come unfilled and can be found for as low as $25. I don’t recommend you use canvas bags because they feel terrible when you impact them. The canvas material does not feel great against the skin when you kick.

Shape and Size

Another important factor you need to decide when choose the right punching bag is the size and shape of the bag. If you are buying a punching bag for your children, you can probably go with a lighter 70 lb bag. However, if you are getting a bag for someone who kicks or punches hard you will generally want something that is heavier so it can absorb the impact.

Very light punching bags can be annoying because they will swing wildly every time you strike the bag. Imagine throw a kick and having the bag swing rapidly back and forth for a minute before it stops. This gets extremely annoying after a while.

When you get a punching bag that is the right weight, it will have less of a swing and allow you to work on more techniques without always trying to stop the punching bag from moving. I recommend you get a good pair of Boxing Gloves for the bag to ensure you don’t injure your hands when you punch.

Firmness of the Bag

The softness of the bag is another factor that you will need to consider. While you may want to purchase a soft heavy bag that has no impact on your body, I don’t recommend it. Harder filled heavy bags are going to allow you to develop tougher shins and build up your bodies natural toughness.

There is nothing worse than kicking a soft heavy bag and then kicking a real one and realizing how little your shins are conditioned. Obviously it depends on your goals. If you are only hitting the punching bag for conditioning and cardio, then choose a soft bag. However, if you want to develop more toughness in your shins you can choose a heavier filled bag or fill it yourself.

Hanging the Bag

When you purchase a punching bag you will need to know where you are going to put the bag. If you have a wall beam or area you can purchase a wall mount attachment, you can buy a regular bag that you can hang with a chain. Hanging bags are by far the most popular bags because they have full swing and allow you to move around the bag.

The other option for people who don’t have much space is to get a free standing bag. These bags have a built in stand and can be placed anywhere. The downside of the freestanding bag is that they don’t feel great when you hit them. I’ve used a few free standing bags and I can say that I don’t really recommend them unless you need to.

Most people have to purchase a wall mount bracket so that they can attach the bag off a wall. If you have a beam that is in a garage or outside your house you can also place a bag there. The key is to found an area that can hold 100-150 lbs of weight that will be swinging around.

Most bags come with a chain attachment to allow you to adjust the length of the bag. If you have a high ceiling you may need a bit of extra length if you want to get the full extension on your bag.

Different Types of Punching Bags

Punching bags can be separated into three general categories: Heavy bags, speed skill bags and free standing bags/dummies. Heavy bags are designed so you can throw hard strikes at the bag and develop your power, conditioning and technique. They come in a number of different shapes and sizes, with each bag allowing you to work on specific aspects of your game.

Speed/Maize/Slip bags on the other hand are designed to work on individual skills like your timing, slipping, and movement. These bags are particular to boxing because you can only throw punches on these bags. They are an excellent accessory to have in addition to the traditional heavy bags.


Heavy Bag

heavy bag

Ideal For: Boxing, MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Taekwondo, Karate

The heavy bag is the most common punching bag that is used in most martial arts. It is a big enough bag that you can throw punches, kicks, elbows and knees on it. Depending on the fill of the bag, it can either range from soft to hard as a rock (sand fill).

We wrote an article on the Muay Thai heavy bag that you can also check out.

You can expect to see the basic heavy bag at any Muay Thai, MMA, or Boxing gym you train at. It is the most versatile bag and allows you to work on most of your basic strikes. The heavy bag will allow you to work on your technique, power and conditioning. It is by far the best all purpose bag that can be used for everything.

Most heavy bags are hung about waist high and have varying degrees of swing depending on the fill and weight of the bag. Most people fill their heavy bags with shredded fabrics so it gives it a realistic and satisfying feeling when you punch or kick the bag. After time heavy bag swill always get harder near the bottom of the bag when the fill starts to compact together and become more dense.

If you fill your heavy bag with a hard material like sand, expect to be hitting a rock. If you fill your bag with lighter materials the bag will swing back and forth very rapidly. The benefit of the harder fill materials is that you will be able to conditioning your shins better compared to soft filled material.

This video showcases Muay Thai fighter Saiyok utilizing the heavy bag for his training.


Long (Banana) Heavy Bag

Ideal for: MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing

Banna heavy bagThe long heavy bag is ideal for people who want to work on their low kicks, in addition to the other strikes. These bags are around 72 inches in height (6 ft) and are designed to be the full length of a person.

Long heavy bags do not swing as much as other bags and are tend to be more solid towards the bottom of the bag as the material starts to compact towards the bottom over time.

These bags are ideal for Muay Thai or MMA training because you can incorporate all of your weapons into your training. The Banana heavy bag is thinner than the traditional heavy bag and the firmness will depend on the material you use to stuff the bag.

Banana bags are usually made from vinyl or synthetic leather and are designed to give you a complete workout. They usually come with a bottom D ring so that you can attach it to the floor to prevent it from swinging too much.

This video showcases Kwonkicker utilizing the Banana Bag for training


Angle Heavy Bag

Ideal for: Muay Thai, Boxing, Kickboxing

angle heavy bagThe angle heavy bag is designed allow you to throw uppercuts and body hooks in your bag training. The unique shape of the bag is top heavy and thins out towards the bottom. This allows boxers to get underneath the bag and throw uppercuts and angled hooks that could not be possible on other bags.

These bags are made from synthetic leather and are designed to be durable. You can fill an angle heavy bag with different substances depending on the feel that you want to have. Most people fill their bags with shredded fabric as it gives the best resistance when you punch and kick.

The angle heavy bag can a good choice if you only want to own one heavy bag. This bag will allow you to perform all of the strikes on the bag and improve your striking skills.

It is a good compromise between the traditional heavy bag that is a fixed height and width and the tear shaped bag (Maize Bag) that has a unique shape to the bag.

This video showcases Thai fighters utilizing the angled heavy bag


Teardrop Heavy Bag

Ideal for: Muay Thai, Kickboxing

Teardrop bagThe final heavy bag that you will see is the teardrop heavy bag. These bags are unique shaped like a teardrop to allow you to hit the bag at different angles. Teardrop bags are great for working on your hooks to the body and upper cuts.

In addition to throwing uppercuts, body punches, and hooks extremely effectively, you can also kick, knee and elbow these bags. The swing of the bag will depend on what you use to fill the bag.

You can either fill them with a lot substance or you can fill them with something that is a lot heavier. Teardrop heavy bags are better suited for kickboxing/Muay Thai as the bag allows you to incorporate better knees, and uppercuts.

This video showcases the teardrop heavy bag in action


Free Standing (B.O.B) Bag

Ideal for: Taekwondo, Kung Fu, and other traditional Martial Arts

Not Recommended for Muay Thai or Boxing

free standing bagThe standing bag is a heavy bag that stands upright. These types of bags are usually only found in homes and are ideal for people who don’t have any space to hang a real bag in their home. You will not find free standing heavy bags in gyms because they are not very practical if you are hitting hard.

The biggest benefit of the free standing bags is that they can be stored away when you are finished using them. Since they are standing upright, you don’t need to drill any holes into your wall or hang the bag from a bracket. The only thing you need to do with the free standing bag is make sure you fill the base of the bag up, so that it doesn’t move.

A popular free standing bags is the B.O.B. heavy bag (Body Opponent Bag). These bags are made from high-strength plastisol body filled with urethane foam. The base of the BOB heavy bag is filled with either water or sand to ensure that it does not move when you strike it.

bob heavy bagBecause the bag is in the shape of a person, you can work on targeting different areas of the body when striking the bag. While there is little movement when you strike the bag, it can help you get used to targeting different areas of your opponent.

BOB bags also allow you to raise and lower the bag depending on your height. This can allow you to practice against short, medium, or taller opponent.

You will often see BOB bags used by traditional martial artists like Kung Fu and Karate and are not generally used by boxers because they cannot take a lot of impact and are quite easy to knock down.

This video showcases a Karate fighter using the freestanding bag


Speed Bag

Ideal For: Boxing

Speed Bag Pacquiao

Another common type of punching bag that you will come across is the speed bag.The speed bag is an essential training tool for Boxers because it helps develop and speed and timing. In order to keep the bag moving back and forth, you need to hit the bag at the right time or you will lose your rhythm.

Another benefit of the speed bag is that helps boxers learn to keep their hands up during training, which can translate to sparring. Because your hands need to be up to hit the bag, you will develop a good habit of always having your hands in front of your face. When you are using the speed bag it is important for you to focus on keeping your hands high and make sure you are alternating your hands when you are punching the bag.

This is a piece of equipment that you will generally only find in a boxing gym or a gym that has boxing classes.

This is a great video explaining how to use the speed bag


Floor To Ceiling (Double) End Bags

floor to ceiling bags

Ideal For: Boxing

Another type of punching bag that is popular is the floor to ceiling bags. These are similar to speed bags except they are attached from the ceiling and the floor. When you hit the bag it will bounce away and come back at you.

The size of the floor to ceiling bag will determine how hard it is to punch. If you choose a larger floor ceiling bag then you will have more surface area to hit. The smaller bags are designed for more experienced boxers who have good timing and rhythm.

Floor to ceiling bags can be adjusted for their height and tension. The more tension you have on the bag, the faster it will rebound after a punch. The Double end bags are longer versions of floor to ceiling bags that can resemble a torso and give you more areas to target.

These bags are similar to the speed bags because they will help you develop timing, speed and accuracy in your punches.

This is a great video explaining the reaction bag.


Slip Bags (Maize Ball)

Ideal for: Boxing

slip bagsAnother important punching bag that can develop better head movement for strikers is the slip bag. The slip bag is designed to work on your head movement. While the speed bags are designed for hand speed, the slip bag doesn’t involve any punches, and only head movement. Once the bag is swinging your goal is to slip left and right, pretending the bag is throwing punches at your face.

If you are looking for a tool to help you build your head movement, this is definitely something that you should consider looking at. Slip bags are an excellent piece of equipment for teaching you how to react to punches, without getting hit with real punches.

This video is a great video explaining how to use the Slip Bag


Maize Bag

Heavy maize bag

Ideal For: Boxing

In addition to the slip bag, there is another variation of these bag called the Maize bag. The maize bag is a small tear shaped bag (similar look to the teardrop heavy bag) that is great for allowing boxers to work on movement and punching at the same time.

These bags are filled with maize and will have a unique response when you hit them. They usually come in either a small size or a large size. The smaller maize bags are not designed to be hit with power and work on your reflexes and timing.

The larger maize bags can be hit with more power, however it will not have as much swinging. So if you want to work on your head movement and slipping, the smaller maize bag will give you a better workout. Conversely, if you want to throw harder punches the larger maize bag will be the right choice.

This video demonstrates a boxer working on a Large Maize Bag


Wall Mounted Bags

Wall Mounted bag

Ideal for: Boxing, Muay Thai (punches/elbows)

The wall mounted bag is designed to be mounted on a wall so that you can utilize different boxing combinations and footwork drills as you are boxing. Wall mount bags are ideal for people who want to work on boxing combinations that involve uppercuts.

If you are looking to create a home boxing gym, the wall mounted bag would be considered an “Extra” and not an essential piece of equipment. Wall mount bags are usually found in Boxing/Muay Thai gyms so that students can work on different drills on the bag.

They are typically used as additional pieces of equipment and should not be the main bag you have in your home. So if you only have a enough room to add a few pieces of equipment in your gym, the wall mounted bag would be considered an “extra” that is not essential.

This video showcases a boxer using the wall mounted bag for his training


Choose A Bag That Works for You

When it comes to choosing the right punching bag for your training, it is important to understand what each bag is good for. Some bags are better for working on your boxing skills like speed and timing, while other bags are better for working on your overall striking.

If you are a boxer, then you will choose bags that will help you work on your punching and movement from the boxing stance. Conversely, if you are a Muay Thai fighter you will need to own a bag that you can use all of your weapons on.

For most Martial artists, the long bag or the basic heavy bag is going to be good enough to work on all of your striking techniques. While it can be cool to hit a dummy, they are not necessary to improve your striking. If you are serious boxer and want to improve your hand striking, there are a lot of boxing specific punching bags that are designed to work on different elements of your game.

It often comes down to space and training goals. If you have the space then I suggest you own at least one heavy bag. The heavy bag will allow you to work on your boxing, kicking, knees and elbows. This will ensure that you are not limited to only throwing a few types of strikes at the bag.

If you are a beginner or intermediate martial artists just start off with the basic heavy bag. If you want to throw low kicks on the bag then get a longer banana bag. This will allow you to work on the full variety of strikes without having to adjust the level of the bag.

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About Author

In 2011, Stephen decided to move to Thailand in search of 'real' Muay Thai. After training MMA for 5 years, he wanted to focus solely on his standup striking. After gaining a few years of experience in the ring, he decided to start Muay Thai Pros with his brother Ben, to share their experiences from the land of Muay Thai. You can follow Stephen on Instagram or read about his Muay Thai journey HERE.

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