Just about anyone can punch a boxing bag around, and done right, a boxing bag workout is one of the best forms of exercise for both mind and body. But it's important to know how to hit the bag properly so you don’t injure yourself in the process.
Bag work is a great cardio workout, and the perfect way to de-stress after a long day. But there’s a little more to it than you think. So we’ve put together this guide on how to use a punching bag to help you get the best out of it, with some workout drills for beginners and some handy tips to get you started.
Why use a punching bag?
If you’re looking for a fun workout you can do at home or in the gym, then bag work could be the perfect answer. All you need is a punch bag and you’re good to go. You don’t need a huge amount of space, and they can be hanging or free-standing.
It’s highly recommended that you practice on a bag around half your weight. This will ensure the right amount of resistance to your punches. Most gyms will have different weights and sizes. And if you’re practicing at home, you should choose a bag that works specifically for you. Take a look at our guide on how to choose a punching bag.
Using a punching bag is great for improving strength, stamina and cardio fitness. It keeps your muscles toned and your body in shape, and it can immediately reduce your stress. Working on your bag will also improve your hand-speed, power, and coordination. But it’s important to use the right technique as it’s easy to cause injury if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Check out our ultimate guide to boxing for beginners.
How do you use a punching bag?
Punching a bag wrong is a waste of time, and you can cause serious harm to your hands and wrists. You can skin your knuckles, sprain your wrist, or even break your hand if you don’t use the correct technique. Punch bags are heavy pieces of equipment, so it’s a good idea to wrap your hands before you start training. If your hands and wrists are not properly secure, you risk injuring yourself.
Then, as with any sport or exercise, it’s important to warm up before you start. Spend a few minutes lightly punching the bag while circling it to increase your heart rate and get your blood flowing. You should focus on your breathing throughout too; inhaling during a resting motion and exhaling during exertion. This will allow oxygen to flow through your body to fuel your muscles.
Hitting the bag
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your front foot facing the bag (boxing stance). Plant your feet whilst throwing your punches and move around on your toes when you’re not, thinking about your next shot. Look to throw an array of combinations, making sure one punch flows nicely into the next. And be sure to hit the bag with powerful, snappy punches. It’s easy to get into the habit of pushing the bag instead of punching it.
Even though your bag won’t hit you back, practice getting your hands and feet back into your guard position as quickly as possible.
Punch bags are a great way to practice mixing up your combinations, throwing punches that you might feel less confident using on pads, or whilst sparring.
Here are some techniques you can use and mix up during a standard session. You can use whichever shots suit your discipline. And use your size as a reference when hitting the bag, striking high for headshots, lower for the body; clenching your fists at the point of impact.
- Jab: You should throw a higher volume of jabs than any other punch. This is generally the first punch thrown in any combination. The jab is thrown with your weaker hand and used to keep distance. A jab is also used to open up your opponent’s guard.
- Cross: This is the shot thrown with your stronger hand, and should be used when you’re sure that it’s going to land. The cross will generally use up more of your energy, as you need to use your legs and body to throw it effectively.
- Hook: This should be thrown with the same hand you jab with. The aim is to come around your opponent’s guard and strike them on the jaw or temple. Your arm is slightly bent when throwing a hook, meaning you’ll need to adjust your range accordingly.
- Uppercut: To be used when fighting up close, an uppercut comes under your opponent’s guard, meaning they often can’t see it coming.
- Kidney punch: This is a hook aimed at your opponent’s side, just under their rib cage. It’s a difficult punch to perfect as you can often leave yourself exposed to a counter.
- Straight body shot: This is aimed straight at the solar plexus (the pit of the stomach) with your dominant hand. You’ll need to crouch slightly with both legs, and make sure you rotate your shoulders for extra power.
- Over-the-top right: A punch made famous by Mike Tyson, the over-the-top right is thrown over your opponent's guard, aiming for the temple or jaw. When thrown correctly it can be a lethal shot. However, do be careful, it’s very easy to lose balance and difficult to throw accurately as your opponent will see it coming.
- Body kick: This shot is used a lot in Kickboxing and MMA. You pivot on your weaker foot and throw your stronger foot into your opponent’s rib cage. If not thrown with speed and snap, it can be easy for your opponent to catch your kick and counter.
- Front kick: Another shot used in Kickboxing and MMA, the front kick is thrown with your stronger foot, aiming for the solar plexus. This is an effective kick used to stun your opponent and stop them in an attack.
Take a look at our Angle 500 punching bag in action - perfect for practising all types of punches and combinations.
Where’s the best place to hang a punching bag?
If you want to take up boxing but don’t have time to go to the gym, why not have a punching bag at home? Whether you’re planning to use it in your spare room, garage, or basement, you’ll need to ensure you hang it correctly. There are a few options to choose from:
- Hang it from a ceiling joist: The best way to hang a heavy punch bag at home for your boxing workouts is to chain it over a ceiling joist. Drill a hole in the ceiling joist beam, and secure an eye bolt into the hole. Connect the chain to the bag and then the chains to the S-hook. Lift the bag up (with help from another person) and hang the S-hook to the eye bolt. Give the bag a few test punches to check it’s secure.
- Mount it to the ceiling: Punching bag ceiling mounts usually come with everything you need to install the bag at home. Find a suitable point in the ceiling (ceiling joist or support beam) and hold the mount in place so you can mark where the bolts go. Drill holes in the ceiling and use a screwdriver/spanner to install the mount. Attach the chains to the bag and the S-hook. Lift the bag (with the help of another person) and hang it on the mount with the S-hook. Give the bag a few test punches to make sure the mount is secure.
- Mount it to the wall: A punch bag wall bracket will also come with all the fixtures you need to install your bag at home, just make sure you choose a supporting wall and not a partition wall. Hold the bracket in place on the wall and mark out where the bolts need to go. Drill the holes, and secure the bracket using the hardware provided. Attach the S-hook and the bag to the chain as before, and hang the bag on the wall mount. Again, give your bag a few test punches to check it’s securely in place.
- Use a stand: If you don’t want to drill holes in your ceiling/wall, or want the flexibility to move your punching bag around, then a free-standing type of support could be the better option. Just remember you’ll need to weigh the punching bag stand down so it doesn't move or wobble as you punch.
Decathlon’s free-standing inflatable punching bag is also great for boxing beginners. It’s easy to use, move, and store, and you can fill the base with water or sand for better stability.
Punching bag workout drills for beginners
Using a punching bag is a great way to train your muscles and enhance upper-body strength. And a good beginner punching bag workout can improve your fitness and help you lose weight. Plus, regular practice can increase self-defense skills too. But although many punch bag workouts focus on speed and power, it’s important to remember that proper technique is essential to help avoid injury. That should be the main focus from the start. Power and speed will improve with practice and time.
Whenever you hit a punching bag, you engage your fist, feet, and knees. Your entire body is activated, including your core, shoulders, and hips. You also engage your arms, chest, back, waist, and legs. When you do hooks and uppercuts, you use your arms and back. And with straight punches, you strengthen your chest and shoulders.
If you’re a boxing beginner, it’s best to take things at your own pace and introduce punching bag workouts to your routine gradually. You can start out with basic punches and then combine them and intensify your workout as you progress. You won’t get an effective workout just randomly punching the bag. Instead, focus on throwing 1 or 2 types of punches at a time. Basic boxing punches include jabs, crosses, left and right hooks, and left and right uppercuts. You can combine these punches to work different areas of your body or to improve specific boxing techniques.
Below are three simple punching bag workouts to get you started. But before diving into a high-intensity workout like boxing, it's important to spend at least ten minutes getting warm so you don’t injure yourself.
Punching bag workout 1
Warm up with five minutes of skipping, 20 squats, 20 push-ups and 40 crunches. Then move on to some shadowboxing:
- basic jab, cross, and hook punches
- rest for 30 seconds
- repeat four times
Beginners should start off with three-minute rounds and then gradually increase to five-minute rounds as you gain fitness and strength. Give yourself a minute’s rest between rounds.
Punching bag workout 2
Warm up by jogging on the spot for two minutes. Then do 30 jumping jacks and 30 air squats. Then onto the drill:
- jab, cross, squat
- 45 seconds work, 15 seconds rest
- Repeat five times
Stand to face the punching bag in a boxing stance (feet shoulder-width apart, one foot in front of the other). Raise your hands so you’re ready to punch, remembering that one hand should always be protecting your face. Throw two punches in quick succession—first jabbing with your left arm, then crossing with your right—before performing a squat.
Punching bag workout 3
Mix up your routine by adding in a kick to work different muscles. Warm up with high knees, butt kicks, mountain climbers, and some light shadow boxing to get your heart rate going. And then do some arm circles to loosen up your shoulders, forward bends to stretch out your back, and basic lunges to work your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
- lunge, kick and jab, cross
- 45 seconds work, 15 seconds rest
- Repeat five times
Face the punching bag, standing a metre away. Step backwards with your right foot into a reverse lunge. Then explode up, shifting your weight to your left foot as you return to standing. As you do, swing your right knee up in front of your body to perform a front kick, powerfully extending your right leg to kick your right heel into the punching bag. Then bring your right foot down into a boxing stance before performing four cross punches, alternating hands with each punch. Then repeat with the other side.
You should keep your core engaged throughout your drills and keep your feet moving so you stay active and work your entire body. It’s also a good idea to vary your workout routines to target different areas of the body.
At DECATHLON, we have everything you need for your at-home boxing workouts. Hanging or freestanding, a punching bag makes a big difference to home training. Our boxing bags are heavy, to withstand repeated impact, and many are adjustable to cater to different heights and spaces. Take a look at our online BOXING SHOP.