Very rarely, when picking a workout for yourself, can you find something that works on power, endurance, and weight loss all at the same time. The heavy bag, however, is one of those rare workouts that allow you to do just that.
Also known as a punching bag, the heavy bag is a classic and effective training tool for fighters. This tried and tested piece of exercise equipment has shaped many boxers in the ring and continues to be a key piece of any boxing club. It is the symbol of punching power and rightfully so - a heavy bag is big, strong, and durable. It’s made to be hit and temps you to test your power with every shot.
But there’s much more to a heavy bag than just power. Use it to develop your punch accuracy, punching speed, and even your footwork! Heavy bag drills can greatly improve your boxing workout. If you're new to the world of boxing or just want to learn a thing or two about the classic punching bag - keep reading.
While the most obvious benefit of the punching bag is a chance to practice a flurry of kicks and punches, it carries a variety of other benefits that you may not be aware of. Heavy bag drills improve technique, increase strength and power, build better balance and coordination, and reduce stress. For these reasons, heavy bag drills are great not just for the big names in boxing like Floyd Mayweather and Sugar Ray Robinson, but for anyone looking to improve their physical fitness.
Improves Boxing Technique
One of the best and most apparent benefits of hitting the heavy bag is that it improves your technique. Regardless of what many people may think, boxing is not just about throwing punch after punch; it’s about executing each movement with precision and proper form. Striking the bag while practicing good form will improve your punches, body movement, and overall performance.
Unlike shadowboxing - another popular boxing drill to help with technique - heavy bag drills allow you to experience the force of impact with every punch you throw. This way, you can practice as if you're actually in the ring and in contact with an opponent.
Improves Strength And Power
Your heavy bag drills will also focus on building as many muscles as possible, which makes it an excellent exercise for building strength and enhancing power. The muscles in the shoulders, arms, chest, back, core, and legs are all engaged during a heavy bag drill, making it an extremely effective full-body workout.
With a punching bag, you can practice hitting the bag with the greatest possible force, which, over time, will improve your upper body strength and power.
Builds Your Endurance
Putting everything you got into a heavy bag workout is definitely no easy feat. This extra challenge will push you past your limit and beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone - which will build your endurance over time. The more you push past your limits and break boundaries, the more you’ll be able to endure.
The impact on your endurance will be noticeable both when you do heavy bag drills as well as when you practice other forms of physical activity. Whether you’re in the ring sparring or simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator, training with a heavy bag will help to keep you going.
Improves Balance, Stability, And Coordination
Generally, during a heavy bag drill, you’re not just standing still and hitting the bag. You’re moving around it and incorporating footwork into the workout. Circling the bag and throwing punch combos will greatly improve your coordination and balance. Staying light on your toes and transferring your weight from one foot to the other while moving around the bag is a great way to build stability and balance.
Also, it’s not just your body that’s working. While throwing a flurry of punches, the bag will come back unexpectedly and suddenly. For this reason, you have to remain attentive and alert. This improves your sensory-motor coordination and reaction time.
Heavy bag drills can also decrease anger, improve your mood, and help to relieve stress. Its both a form of physiological and mental stress relief.
Physically, exercise promotes the production of feel-good neurohormones like norepinephrine, which is associated with improved mood and heightened cognitive function.
Mentally, punching the heavy bag acts as a symbolic release of stress when you image the bag as a representative of your frustrations and burdens.
The effect of stress on your health has been well documented over time. During high times of stress, large amounts of the hormone cortisol are released in the body. Cortisol increases appetite and drives those dreaded sugar cravings. It affects your cognition, sleep, and energy levels. In addition, stress increases visceral fat, which is linked to harmful metabolic disturbances such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
In today’s fast-paced world full of high-stress responsibilities, it’s imperative to have healthy methods of relieving stress.
As we mentioned, there’s much more to a heavy bag than just punching power. You can use a heavy bag to develop your punching endurance, punching speed, punch accuracy, and your footwork. Here are five heavy bag drills to show you how:
The most obvious way to improve your punching power on the punching bag is to throw as hard as you can. However, it’s better - especially for beginners - if you can resist this urge and limit yourself to only 50-80% power output. Why? Because believe it or not, power comes from good technique more so than muscle effort, so power drills should have a major focus on technique rather than pure athleticism.
It’s best if you can throw punches in a realistic manner, which would be to throw combos instead of single shots - to throw quick punches instead of charging up like a karate master breaking boards in half. Use good technique instead of mindlessly wasting your energy with uncontrolled power shots.
Regular Heavy Bag Drill. It might not be so much a drill, but one of the best ways to use the punching bag is to simply follow it around and throw heavy punches with good technique.
Repeat Combo Drill. Try spending an entire round, throwing the same combination or series of power combinations to help build muscle memory. In a busy boxing club, this drill can be run with multiple boxers taking turns striking and holding the bag for each other while the coach yells out combinations. For example, the coach might yell out 1-2-3, in which punchers throw jab-right-hook continuously until he or she gives the next combo.
Endurance is without a doubt, one of the most important parts of boxing. Until you have actually stepped into a ring with an opponent, you won't realize how every single muscle in your body is being utilized. It is much more taxing than full-court basketball even without factoring in the part where your face is getting punched. With this in mind, it goes without saying that endurance drills are of the utmost importance.
Small Punches Drill. Hit the heavy bag non-stop with small repetitive punches as fast as you can for an entire round. Your primary focus here is to get in as many punches as possible and breath properly throughout the round. Some coaches will tell you to lift your legs as if you’re running, which makes it look like you’re taking a step with each and every punch. Endurance is all about volume - not power.
Many people generally associate speed workouts with the speed bag, but the punching bag can be just as useful. With speed drills on the heavy bag, you will increase your reaction time and learn to throw faster combinations.
Tabata Interval Drill. To develop punching speed, use the same drill you did for endurance but do them in intervals. This type of workout is known as Tabata drills. The most common interval would be to punch the bag for 15 seconds straight, followed by rest for 15 seconds. Repeat this until the end of the round.
The idea with footwork drills on the heavy bag is to improve and solidify your footwork. Just as your feet are the foundation of your body, footwork is the foundation of all the boxing basics.
Move With The Bag, Use a punching bag that’s able to swing around freely. It’s best if you can find one around 50%-75% of your body weight. (Ask your coach if you need help figuring out which heavy bag is best for you). You need a bag that is heavy enough to take punches without flying away with each strike but still light enough to swing away from you.
Punch the bag as you normally would but keep moving with it. As the bag swings in circles, you circle around with it. The primary goal is to move with the bag rather than being stationary and waiting for it to return to you.
So, can heavy bag drills improve your boxing workout?
Heavy bag drills are extremely beneficial and can help to improve technique, increase strength and power, build better balance and coordination, and reduce stress.
If you are looking to improve your workout, look for an incredible gym like Legends Boxing that incorporates heavy bag drills into each workout. Trust us - you’ll be glad you did!