A heavy bag is a training tool for fighters from many disciplines, including boxing, kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). The bag is used for building striking power, improving technique, coordination and cardiovascular endurance. The bag itself usually weighs between 40 and 100 pounds (you will need heavy gloves!) It is generally found suspended from a ceiling, although in some MMA gyms you may find it on the ground.
This post will look at some of the many benefits of Heavy bag training. It discusses how introducing heavy bag workouts may be just what you need to jump-start your own training!
10 Reasons You Should Be Hitting The Heavy Bag
1. Improved cardiovascular fitness
The continual changing your body position whilst firing off striking combinations is incredibly taxing. On a cardiovascular level, several rounds on the heavy bag are certainly as exhausting as a run or spin class. It also has the added benefit that smashing the heavy bag is much more fun!! For a good workout, try to have a workout consisting of 4-5 rounds.
The length of the rounds should be dependant on your level of fitness. For example, 1 minute for beginners, 3 minutes for intermediates and 5-minute rounds for professional fighters or the clinically insane. As time progresses and your fitness improves, aim to have longer rounds with less rest in between.
2. Improved power
Unloading on the heavy bag is what it was designed for! To allow fighters to give it their all and develop that knockout striking power. No distractions of having to avoid the blows of your opponents.
Simply concentrate on using proper technique and gradually developing explosive kicking and punching power. This will also allow for time to focus on recruiting as many muscles as possible to power the moves.
3. Targets all of the major muscle groups
Striking the heavy bag will work all of the major muscle groups of the upper body, core and lower body. Regardless of what move you are using the body is constantly working as a whole to direct striking power whilst maintaining balance. For example, when using a standard front thrust kick, the whole body is utilised. From the muscles of the leg kicking, the rooted leg providing stability; to the core and arms that will provide balance and defence.
Likewise, a straight punch will require the arm muscles delivering the blow, as well as the hips, core and legs to provide power to the strike.
4. Improved coordination and core stability
Great coordination is required to employ striking techniques effectively. Without the correct application of technique, the moves are nowhere near as effective. Continuingly moving around the heavy bag and utilising strikes from a variety of angles improves coordination and balance.
Core stability will also be greatly challenged since many of the strikes require you to be off your centre of balance for short periods. This means the core will have to work harder to ensure you stay upright and keep your balance.
5. Improved technique
The bag cannot hit back, so using it in training is a perfect opportunity to work on technique. Concentrate on getting it right and then gradually work on developing power behind the move afterwards. As with anything, start small, correct imperfections, work your way up. Use a mirror or record yourself on video if possible so you can watch yourself and correct poor technique where you can.
6. Develop the ability to strike with confidence
Using bag work in no way not make you an expert fighter. However, it can give you confidence in throwing punch/kick combinations and getting some idea of how it feels to strike other objects. Here is to hoping that you’ll never have to strike anyone! However, it’s good to have the confidence to unload with experience gained from undertaking bag-work if you’re ever faced with that situation.
Whilst on the subject of streetfighting/ self-defence if you want to be an expert fighter, please go and find a martial arts expert. The bag alone will not provide you with adequate defence skills and/or fight experience!!!
7. Improved body shape
Bag work is an excellent workout for stripping down fat and developing lean muscle. Bag work is especially good for fat loss if combined with other exercises, skipping, TRX, kettlebells etc. Incorporating it into your weekly workouts will enable you to drop weight rapidly. Stick to the rounds and try to keep the rest periods relatively low to ensure you maximise your gains.
8. All you need is a bag, some gloves, a stopwatch and some space!!
The good news is that purchasing a heavy bag is easy enough, they are readily available, inexpensive and quite easy to set up. Most gyms have access to at least one bag these days. Alternatively, if you have a garage or spare room perhaps you would consider purchasing your own? All good boxing/martial arts clubs should definitely have a heavy bag of some description, although that comes with the extra cost of a gym membership.
Heavy gloves are essential if you don’t want to have broken or bloodied knuckles. Again many clubs with have their own (usually smelly) gloves available. However, buying your own is another good option and they are relatively inexpensive. Finally, give yourself some space, and be wary of people in the gym who might not be as spatially aware as yourself!! It might not be an actual opponent that takes you out but an unintentional clumsy gym-user!
9. Build strong bones and ligaments
Most exercises involving cardio or weighted resistance and supported with the right nutrition will improve your body’s bone-strengthening mechanisms. Boxing/kickboxing is no different. The increased blood and nutrient supply from exercise will improve bone density and reduce the chances of getting osteoporosis in later life. Furthermore, striking will strengthen the ligaments and tendons supporting the bones as they’re continually challenged by working against resistance.
10. Decreased stress levels
Hitting the bag is a physically demanding, exhausting and aggressive exercise. Heavy bag training is also a great way to de-stress and release negative energy gained from everyday life stresses and strains. It does this by purging the body of excess stress hormones cortisol and noradrenaline, whilst similarly releasing feel-good hormones serotonin and endorphins. Naturally, this purging creates a calming effect on the body and creates a natural high post-training.
Using Heavy bag training in your regular workouts is challenging on many levels, mentally and physically. They can complement your other training methods perfectly and are a great deal of fun! If you are new to this type of training, it can seem a bit daunting to start in a packed gym full of people. However, once you get a few rounds in and are gushing sweat, you will not care about appearances too much! On a personal level, I find them ideal for combining with functional training or as a post-workout cardio blast. Give Heavy bag training a go and do not be surprised when your fitness levels surge whilst your stress levels dissipate!!