Punch bags are hung up in boxing clubs and home gyms across the UK, but how do you go about using one properly and getting the best out of it?
Choosing your bag
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. If you’re practicing at home, you should choose a bag that works specifically for you.
Straight / Heavy bag
This is the standard punching bag. It’s straight, bulky and attached to a ceiling or a bracket by a chain. The Straight Bag can be used across all disciplines, from Boxing and Kickboxing to Muay Thai and MMA.
The Angled bag is much larger at the top, angling down into a thinner base. This gives the user an upward resistance for practicing uppercuts and high head kicks.
Freestanding bags are very heavy at the base, meaning you don’t need to hand them up like traditional bags. They’re excellent for fight styles that require a lot of high kicks such as Kickboxing and MMA.
Benefits of bag work
Bag work is a great cardio work out. You’ll need stamina and motivation to get through the rounds. It Keeps your muscles toned and your body in shape.
Working on your bag will improve your hand-speed and power, whilst enabling you to perfect your timing.
How to hit your bag
Stand with your feet a shoulder width apart, with your front foot facing the bag.
Don’t be shy when unloading your punches. A lot of people stand and dance around their bag, which wastes time as your bag won’t hit you back! Plant your feet whilst throwing your punches and move around on your toes when you’re not, masterminding your next shot.
Look to throw an array of combinations, making sure one punch flows nicely into the next.
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. The only real follow-through shots you should throw will be a front-kick or cross. Other shots, such as your jab or hook, should make a nice snapping sound as your hand moves in and away quickly. Pushing the bag on every shot will simply soak up your energy, making you tire very quickly.
Even though a 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.
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.
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.
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 eat more of your energy, as you need to use your legs and body to throw it effectively.
Hooks 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.
Uppercuts are used when fighting up close, also known as “in the pocket”. An uppercut comes under your opponent’s guard meaning they often can’t see it coming.
The kidney shot 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. It’s common to mix up the kidney shot with the left hook, aiming to move your opponent’s guard to get a clear opening.
Straight body shot
This is aimed straight at the solar plexus with your stronger hand. You’ll need to crouch slightly with both legs to make sure you rotate shoulders for power.
A punch made famous by Mike Tyson, the over-the-top right is thrown over your adversary’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.
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.
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.