Punching bags are a staple of any modern gym, martial arts studio, or boxing ring.
Apart from the fact that it just feels good to hit inanimate objects as hard as you can, punching bags are a great way to practice your technique, build your muscular strength, and boost your stamina. Who doesn’t want to feel like Rocky Balboa?
There are two types of punching bags you are likely to see in a martial arts gym or boxing ring. There are the historically popular hanging bags, which hang from the ceiling or a stand from a chain or rope. Meanwhile, there are standing punching bags which stand upright in a base rooted to the ground, which have become more popular in recent years.
Which one is better as an at-home punching bag? Well, more people use hanging bags, but there are advantages and drawbacks to each. We’ll compare hanging punching bags to their free standing punching bag counterparts, and measure them in terms of resistance, cost, installation, and use cases.
Hanging bags, also known as heavy bags, are more commonly found in most gyms. Different variations exist, such as speed bags - bags meant to be struck at a consistent rhythm.
Hanging punching bags are filled with sand, water, or foam to give it weight and ballast. The best heavy bags have a leather exterior to give it shock absorbency. Hanging bags come in many varieties. Muay thai bags, for example, or typically longer and thinner. Boxing heavy bags, by contrast, are shorter and thicker.
Haitian martial artist and movie actor Emmanuel Buriez is on record as stating that he prefers hanging bags to free standing bags, though he goes on to say that bags are for building power and he prefers to focus on technique.
Some of the advantages of a heavy bag include:
- Simulates a real opponent: The swinging motion of a hanging bag allows you to practice your footwork as if you were in a real bout. By moving forwards and backwards with how the bag moves, you can lean to lean and duck in between strikes
- Cost: Heavy bags are substantially cheaper than punching bags with stands. All you need is a wall mount or a stand, and a good quality bag. Hanging bags are more economical since they cost less by weight.
- Compact: Another worthy advantage of heavy bags is t they don’t take up much space. They’re small and compact, which means you can fit them around your surroundings and store items underneath.
- Durability: Hanging bags are built to last. These punching bags are heavier, and therefore able to withstand more powerful kicks and punches. You can hit them with more force without fear of damaging them.
- Versatility: hanging punching bags are able to be used in a variety of different ways, making them ideal for different workouts and routines. You can alternate between different types of techniques, while at the same time building up your strength and endurance.
Now let’s review the cons. Hanging bags also carry a number of drawbacks.
- Installation: Hanging bags are tricky to install. You need strong rafters or a support beam to carry their weight. You’re also likely to need other equipment such as a drill, a ladder, screwdriver, and a pair of pliers.
- Limited portability: Heavy bags are hard to set up and their installation is more permanent - once they’re installed, it’s difficult to remove them.
- May need a trainer or partner: You may need someone to hold the bag in place as you strike and move around the bag.
Free Standing Bags
Although not as widespread as their hanging counterparts, free standing punching bags have become more popular in recent years. These bags tend to be lighter than heavy bags. Rather than hang down from the ceiling or a stand, standing punching bags are positioned directly on the floor and placed over an empty base, which is then filled with sand, water, or foam.
Standing bags have become increasingly popular due to their portability and ease of installation. Here are a few of the other reasons why they stand out:
- Require less space: Heavy bags need space to swing around in, but not these! Standing punching bags need only move from the base, so you have more control over where and how it swings.
- Easy installation: standing bags are simple to install. All you have to do is just stick it in the base, and you’re good to go.
- Easier to use: One of the biggest advantages to using free standing bags is that they’re easier to use. They’re easier on the bones and knuckles because they’re made with a softer foam. This makes them ideal for slow striking, and workouts which favor speed and stamina. Consider using them for muay thai.
Free standing bags have some noteworthy advantages but also come with significant drawbacks. A few of them include:
- Less durable: Free standing punching bags are made out of less durable material. These bags will accumulate wear and tear more quickly, and will need replacing more often.
- Less footwork: Because free standing bags are stationary, they give you less of an opportunity to rotate around them like you would in a real match. That means your footwork training will be more limited.
- Less resistance: Free standing bags can withstand less force than heavy bags. They will bounce around more with each strike, and you’ll have to wait for it to stabilize before you hit them again.
- More expensive: Free standing bags are significantly more expensive than heavy bags, not including the stand and/or wall mount. A high-quality free standing bag will cost you at least £200 pounds sterling, and less expensive ones will either be lowerquality or intended for children.
What’s our verdict?
Most experienced boxers prefer the standard hanging bags to free standing bags. However, if you’re tight on space or a beginner boxer or martial artist, then a free standing bag might be a better place to start. It all depends on your needs, as well as your experience level.
Punching Bag Workouts
Now that we’ve gone over some of the pros and cons of heavy bags and free standing bags, let’s discuss some of the best ways you can use them.
Your legs should be spread shoulder-width apart. If you’re right-handed, put your left leg in front, jab with your left hand, and strike with your right.
Jabs are a quick, short punch with your non-dominant hand, intended to create an opening in your opponent’s defenses and make an opportunity for a more powerful strike with your dominant hand.
As you extend your non-dominant hand, turn your knuckles towards the ceiling as your arm reaches out.
A cross punch is a power punch with your rear hand. Pivot on the ball of your foot and turn your hips as you follow-through with the strike.
This traditional boxing movement is a power strike at an upward trajectory. Bend your elbows at 90-degree angles and shoulder-width apart, and lower your body into a slight squat. Scoop your striking arm under and up to the left, until you’re in a standing position and your fist is at chin height.
Try practicing each of these jabs on your punching bag. Alternate striking with each arm for 45-second intervals, while taking 15-second intervals in between.
Types of Heavy Bags
Heavy bags have many different varieties and ways you can use them. Here are some of the more commonypes.
Traditional Heavy Bag
These heavy bags, such as the Ringside Synthetic Leather punching bag, are like the kinds you see in most gyms around the world. This example includes a four-way chain, a reinforced canvas lining for extra shock absorption, and a D-ring at the bottom.
At a height of 4' and weighing in at 36kg, these bags are good for building up your muscle strength, improving your stamina, and working on your technique.
Just be mindful that these bags don’t fight back, unlike people.
Thai Punching Bag
These bags are suitable for muay thai, boxing, or other combat martial arts.
Thai punching bags are longer and slimmer than their traditional heavy bag counterparts. They’re outfitted with a durable synthetic leather finish, and hanging straps to attach to a mount or a ceiling rafter.
The ceiling-to-wall punching bag is somewhat less common, but still very useful. These bags connect from floor to ceiling by way of a bungee chord. Generally, they’re used to improve timing, rhythm, and accuracy.
You can use these to learn to effectively use the power in-between your strikes. Work on your technique, rather than focusing your brute force.
These are classic. When it comes to speedbags, the game is all about speed. These will having feeling like Rocky Balboa in no-time: eating lightning and crapping thunder.
Similar to ceiling-to-wall bags, the point of these is to hit the target in the right spot in quick succession. Use these to increase your hand-eye coordination, and practice your footwork. The example pictured here is made from a premium cowhide leather.
Free Standing Bags
So much for hanging bags. Free standing bags have less variety and less types on offer. However, among them are some standouts that you’ll want to be aware of as you go about setting up your training area.
Traditional Free Standing Bags
Bags such as the Century Versys VS.1 Fight Simulator are most commonly seen. Bags like these are great for aerobic conditioning, endurance, and technique refinement.
These standing punching bags allow for a variety of different techniques and strikes, and they’re good at simulating the kind of full-body-contact similar to what you get in the ring. The Century Versys VS.1 Fight Simulator is ideal for a multi-discipline martial arts practice, whether boxing, MMA, or cardio kickboxing.
A common drawback of many free-standing bags is that they’re easily knocked off balance - but not this one. The Versys Fight Simulator has natural rebounding, so that it stands back upright every time you give it a whack.
Punching Stand Man
Sometimes it’s hard to project the thrill of one-on-one combat onto a stationary sack of foam or sand. After all, it’s not as if you’re likely to fight a punching bag either in the ring or on the street.
Having a more realistic target might be useful for that reason. Enter the punching stand man.
The Century Bob Freestanding Punching Bag has a realistic body and shape that can be useful for practicing kicks, strikes, and grapples, as well as using different sparring techniques. It’s made out of a vinyl skin exterior that adds a realistic feel to self-defense training. The softer feel of the bag means you can use it with or without boxing gloves or handwraps.
If you want to work on your timing and accuracy but don’t have space in your gym or your house for a heavy bag, this might be a good option to go for.
The Ringside F.A.S.T. Cobra Bag is a good alternative if that sounds like you. These free standing bags take the place of hanging punching bags, and have a similar purpose.
Use this to build up your precision, hand-to-eye coordination, and speed. These have a sturdy base to help keep them rooted to the ground, and are spring-loaded so they stand back up-right every time you knock them down. It’s also adjustable and easy to put-together, so installation isn’t a problem.
While hanging punching bags are generally the way to go, free standing bags also have their uses. It depends largely on what your budget is, how much space you have to work with, what your experience level is as a fighter, and what your training needs are.
To summarize: Hanging bags are most cost-effective, are better for power and endurance training, last longer, have more variety to choose from, and are suitable for different types of workouts, but are harder to use and require a more advanced set-up. Meanwhile, free-standing punching bags are more expensive, can take less wear and tear before breaking, and take up more space. However, they are also easier to install, and have a lower barrier-to-entry for beginner boxers and martial artists.
Check out the different kinds of punching bags we have on offer, and pick the one that’s best for you!