YES, it’s true – hitting a punching bag all day might hurt your boxing skills. The main reason why is because over-training on a heavy bag makes it easy for boxers to develop bad habits.
Honestly, heavy bags don’t suck. There are just some negatives and disadvantages to using heavy bags all the time.
I had a feeling many people might be turned off by the title but I will ask you to please give me a chance to explain. The main purpose of a heavy bag is to increase your punching power. Yes, boxing is about punching but it’s not always about punching hard. Boxing also requires fast punching, combination punching, accurate punching, and timed punching. You can sure as hell bet that the heavy bag won’t help you in any of those departments!
Here goes, 10 reasons why a punching bag CAN hurt your boxing ability!
1. Lazy Eyes
MISTAKE – The number one problem that I’ve seen with heavy bags is that it develops what I like to call “lazy eyes” in boxers. What happens is boxers get a little too comfortable with the bag and start developing bad habits. They lose focus and take their eyes off the bag. The eyes start wandering past the heavy bag to look at other fighters in the gym, or they wander over to the mirror to check out their own punches. Some people look at the bag but aren’t really focused on what they are hitting.
CONSEQUENCE – Have you ever sparred someone in the ring and got punched by an easy punch that was coming straight for you? I remember getting frustrated because I kept getting hit by the same easy straight punches over and over again. If this is happening to you, chances are, you’re training too much on a bag that doesn’t challenge your eyes to look for movement.
CURE – Use a double-end bag or a trainer with focus mitts. You need something that will grab your eyes’ attention. If you have to use a heavy-bag, make sure you ALWAYS keep your eye on the bag. When the bag is too close to you, back up so you can see it. Don’t get too close to the bag that it’s touching your shoulders and you’re looking behind it. Always keep the punching bag in your field of vision.
2. Bad Distance Control
MISTAKE – Some people will never learn how to control their distance with the heavy bag because they’re probably too focused on punching hard. The two common problems are letting the bag get too close, and letting the bag get too far. A lot of beginning boxers love to get real close to the bag as they unload a barrage of 20 punches to push it away. Other beginners will shove the bag around with their shoulders as if they’re mimicking a clinch. This is a HUGE NO-NO! Don’t ever get use to this, if you try this in a real fight, you will get uppercutted easily every time. As for letting a bag get too far, this is just plain laziness. Don’t ever let a bag swing too far away from you, quickly step in with fast footwork, plant your feet and hit it 2-3 times before you step and pivot out of the way. Don’t get into the lazy habit of always waiting for the bag to come at you. Start chasing the bag more often and circling it to keep up with the bag. If the bag doesn’t swing much, then the bag is too heavy. If the bag swings too much, you need to lighten up your punches or get a heavier punching bag.
CONSEQUENCE – If you don’t learn how to keep your distance and learn the exact reach of your arm, you will lose fights to other boxers that do. You might encounter a boxer one day that for some reason, always seems to be out of your reach yet you are always within his reach. You might also notice that every time you get too close to your opponent, he keeps beating you to the punch. The reason for all this is because he has a better sense of distance awareness than you do.
CURE – Be aware of your distance. Try not to get any closer to the bag than you need to land the punch. When you are in close against the bag, be VERY alert and quickly pull yourself out of range. Better yet, STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM THE BAG. Don’t hug it, don’t shoulder-push it, and don’t practice your Mike Tyson ducking movements around it. When the bag comes too close, make sure you back-step. When the bag swings away, step forward to reach it instead of waiting for the swing.
3. Bad Defense
MISTAKE – One of the biggest reasons against training too much on a heavy bag is because you might develop a bad defense. The bag is never going to hit you back so it’s easy for you to get carried away and drop your hands from time to time when you feel tired or over-confident. The punching bag can never tell a boxer if his stance or position has a hole in it. At the same time, it’s easy for a boxer to get carried away on the heavy bag over time as he slowly shifts his stance from a defensive one to an open one that allows him to hit harder.
CONSEQUENCE – The boxer might go into a fight and get beat up because nobody ever told him he had holes in his defense.
CURE – Work with a trainer or somebody who can punch back at you and make sure you can keep your hands up. Even someone throwing slow punches at you will help you keep your defense in check.
4. Push Punching
MISTAKE – Many boxers get carried away with the heavy bag and start trying to punch it as hard as they can. What happens is they try to make the bag swing as much as possible by pushing it as they try and punch through the bag. What this does is slow down their punches since they are busy pushing the bag but it also slows down their arm recovery time since they are too busy trying to push their fist through the back instead of pulling their arm back right away.
CONSEQUENCE – In a real fight or sparring match, the boxer starts overcommitting himself just like he does on the punching bag and starts throwing slower punches because he’s trying to maximize the power. His arms don’t retract as fast and he starts getting countered all the time because he only knows how to throw push punches.
CURE – Many pro-fighters like to call this, “trying too hard”. I use to commit this mistake all the time, and pro-boxers use to tell me to just relax and not try to always use my power when I box. The opposite of a push punch is a SNAPPING PUNCH. The snapping punch is much sharper and faster. When you first practice it, it may not feel like it hits hard since the emphasis is more on speed than strength. Over time if you practice, you will learn how to throw very fast and also hard stinging snappy punches just like Muhammad Ali. They are the BEST type of punches in boxing and if you don’t get past the push punches, you will NEVER be able to compete at the elite level.
5. Bad Balance
MISTAKE – Another common result of hitting the heavy bag too much is the development of bad balance. Beginner boxers like to focus too much on power and hitting the bag that they let their feet tangle up as they walk around the bag. Another common mistake is overcommitting to the bag and pushing all their bodyweight into every punch.
CONSEQUENCE – The biggest risk of overcommitting to every punch and putting too much power is when you miss your opponent. If you’re throwing all your weight into a punch and you miss the guy, it’s very easy for you to fall out of balance and get counterpunched.
CURE – The best cure for this is learning SHADOW BOXING. Every boxer should know how to throw hard punches and hitting air without losing their balance.
6. Low Speed
MISTAKE – The problem with heavy bags is that there is no real emphasis on speed. I’ve seen boxers move around the heavy bag and throw all sorts of slow lazy punches because the heavy bag doesn’t force them to throw every punch with speed.
CONSEQUENCE – You’ll lose fights in the ring because your punches aren’t fast enough to get past your opponent’s guard. What’s the point having strong punches if they don’t have the speed to hit your opponent?
CURE – Use a speedbag or double-end bag to make sure your body is being forced to respond with fast accurate punches. This will also increase your accuracy in boxing!
7. No Uppercuts
MISTAKE – Many boxers that spend all their time practicing on a heavy bag often neglect two very under-used punches in boxing – the left uppercut and the right uppercut! The biggest reason is because they don’t have any of those specially designed bags that allow them to practice uppercuts.
CONSEQUENCE – Obviously, you’re going to have two less punches in your arsenal than your opponent does. The uppercut is very good at breaking tight guards as well as beating fighters that like to move their head a lot as they bob and weave inside your punching range.
CURE – Either start finding equipment that will allow you to throw uppercuts or get someone to hold the pads for you to practice your uppercuts. If worse comes to worse, you can still practice them on a regular heavy bag by throwing low punches with your elbows bent and palms facing upwards at the heavy bag.
8. Hand Damage
MISTAKE – One of the most common problems I’ve seen from over-training on the heavy bag is damaged hands. If you beat your fists against a very resilient object everyday, your hands will wear down! Your hand muscles will become bruised and your bones will ache. Sure bones and muscle can harden over time but you must give your body some rest. I see new boxers hitting the heavy bag for hours every single day in hopes of proving to themselves and other gym-goers how tough they are. Don’t become one of them!
CONSEQUENCE – Once you damage your hand, it will take a very long time to heal and you might not ever be able to punch as hard ever again. If you want some proof, please find someone who’s been in several bar fights and ask them about their hands. They’ll tell you all sorts of stories about how their hands can’t bend in certain ways or how their hands are always hurting. Of course, there will always be people who have higher density bones but don’t use this rare statistic as a reason for not protecting your most important weapons – your hands. If your hands aren’t damaged, you’ll develop other problems like tense shoulder muscles which will decrease your agility and punching speed.
CURE – Give your body some rest and do other exercises to work on your boxing.
Are Heavy Bags Bad?
Not at all. Obviously, a heavy bag doesn’t challenge your body in many different aspects of boxing other than power and it’s very easy to pick up bad habits. The heavy bag can give you a great workout but also very bad boxing habits. The remedy? Keep yourself in check at all times and do find the time to work on other boxing equipment!
Don’t worry. I want you to keep working that heavy bag and while you’re at it, here are some other guides on heavy bag training:
fair play id agree, off putting title but very valid points id say all points correct but can never disregard the fact that a heavy bag is always an integral and valuable asset 2 boxing gyms worldwide. But i think more emphasis should b made on a variety of training it the most valuable tool 2 any un or experienced boxers out there. good artical.
Interesting , but heavy bag work is still a good general excercise, it can improve your timing and if taught correctly learn how to punch with your legs.All boxing is timing , balance and body weight. A punch as long as there is body weight will hurt if it connects. Sparring and relaxing when sparring are also very important. Speed is only good with body weight . The trouble with pad work is as long as he calls the punch with the pad position not by command. the excecise will be benificial. Most importantly you can teach , train or whatever to a novice as soon as he has his first fight he starts to learn. gl
greeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaatttttt post thank you soooooooo much xxxxxxxxxx
Michael- boxing name- Mighty Mike
I have to say I agree with everything that was posted. As a short compact fighter at 135 I have to learn alot of reaction timing, trapping/tracing, and getting in or taking away a punch in order to counter because of the dis-advantage of my size. But for the work I do to over come this situation, I rely on the speed drills and working with someone. To be honest i can do without the heavy bag i enjoy the double-end bag and mitts more. Im a south paw and I depend on this advantage and my one hand combos. To me they are very important.
Good article, but misleading title. All of the tools in the Gym have their pros and cons. You just need to consider and think about them all, the same way that you did in this article, and make sure you always keep the cons in mind when using the bag. For example, if you only hit mits and neglect the bag, your hands and joints wont build the resiliency they need; like for when you crush you first body hook onto your sparring partners elbow. The best cure is to maximize every tool throughout your trainning weeks. Still a great article here. I’d like to see how you break down some of the other tools of the gym in this same -Mistake, Consequence, Cure format.
I agree with what you and I use 1 solution the maize bag you can do all your usual punches plus uppercuts and I find overhands easier another thing is that the bag swings more which means I get into the habit of slipping and ducking also if I take my eyes off the bag Ill probaly get hit with it so my eyes dont get lazy and I like to throw counters just after dodging which I believe will help my speed with returning punchs before my opponent can bring back their hands through there are cons like hand damage is probaly increased with theses usually solid bags push punching can still become a habit and finaly you cant throw punches low down
so I’m a beginner, working with the heavy bag, and my hands and wrists have been pretty achy. Now I know why.
Note to self: Punch less hard and punch faster. Use heavy bag (the one I use is really heavy) correctly, and less frequently. This was helpful, thanks!
i don’t agree with the article
heavy bag is the best! DEVELOPS POWER! DID YOU HEAR POWER! yeh u can hit pads yeh you can hit each other in sparring but nothing will develop your power like the heavy bag so get on them asap!
I’m punching the heavy bag with 65 lbs dumbells on each hand, 2 hours everyday for 2 months. Sparring day comes & I’m swinging & miss.
65 lbs dumbells ??!??!?!??!
ARE YOU SUPERMAN?!
No I’m a NORMALMAN.
Try the Rocky Balboa 65 lbs dumbell punches like he does in this clip at mark 2:21.
You can do it easily when you’re hitting a heavy bag, so there is no deceleration.
Hahaha, that is so bad! I can assure you real boxers (outside of hollywood) do not train like that.
Ross Enamait trains like this. Would you like to fight him to find out?
Ross Enamait trains like this. Dont wanna fight him to just find out after he rips you apart.
Great videos but they don’t prove your point. He is NOT hitting the heavy bag while holding dumbbells or throwing punches with weights strapped onto his arms. There’s a big difference between what Ross is doing (real life boxing trainer) and what Rocky is doing (Hollywood movie).
Holy wrist and elbow destruction that terrible for your body. I mean it’s already widely known not to run with ankle weights if you value your long term mobility. Also it should be widely known never to endurance exercise with wrist weights exceeding 3 pounds (guaranteed to shorten your joints life). You put 65 lbs in FRONT on your wrist with a dumbbell and that’s just…well sorry to say flipping stupid! I kind of don’t believe your telling the truth about the weight of the dumbbells and duration of the practice. First of all NOBODY can hold two, 65 lb dumbbells at their sides of 2 hours let alone box. If you are able to you might be superman. Conclusion…BS, or superman.
Who told you this?! I would say the focus mitts develops more power than the heavy bag, easily.
Tbf Rocky’s trainer does state at the start of that clip that he’s going to have to train for sheer strength as he’s too old to move very fast lol
I would say you are extremely wrong, and you actually said that the heavy bag may hurt you’re boxing skills ? is totally ludicrous.
Angel martinez (13yr old)
I agree with a many of the comments, a lot of top professionals like Nigeal Benn and Joe Calzage steered clear from heavy bags due to the wear and tear aspects, especially in the hands,sholder and elbow joints. I think the bag is a fundamental tool to develop power and stamina for beginners, but not as compulsary for experienced fighters. I tend to vary my bag workouts nowadays working on heavy bags and light bags and concentrating on either speed or brutal power, and will always finish off on a medium weight bag where I put the too aspects together. However nowadays i tend to prefer the floor to ceiling ball and don’t use bags every session.
As someone said the problem is noy the bag itself, because each tool has it’s advantages and disadvantages, i think the problem is that normally people always dedicate more time to the bag than other tools, so that’s when it becomes a problem.
Also i’m sure most beginners love to just punch the bag as hard as they can, and because it doesn’t punch you back they feel very comfortable in there. Well, i think it happens to us all xD
Btw, great post and amazing website, i’m learning a lot =)
*sighs* That’s all I have is a heavy bag. I have about 5 heavy bags….and literally EVERY mistake you listed, I’ve done. 🙁
Lol, I’ve done all the same, too. I guess you could say we’re “experienced”.
I’m guilty of all this. Thanks Johnny. I was thinking of buying a “BOB” punching dummy. Til I read this.This is the reason why someone would look really amazing in the speedbag, heavy bag, & punchmitts. But when it comes to sparring they SUCK big time.
How does one suck at sparring but be amazing at everything that’s made to improve your sparring? That someone would really be the worst.
You can skip rope, speed ball, or work the pads, but if you don’t spar, you won’t get better, plain and simple.
Obviously, hitting a heavy bag is nothing like a real fight. …. To paraphrase the late Bruce Lee, “Bags don’t hit back!
To develop real power without getting locked(up) or sending someone to the emergency room, the heavy bag is a staple for getting ur WHOLE BODY in to punches…respect training, all training!
Just so we are clear, getting locked up or sending someone to the ER will not increase your power in anyway. Where are these magical people one pummels to near death to be granted “real power,” and the mystical prisons that bless you with ability.
You must have been hit in the head too many times. Is your comprehension impaired or what? He implied that the developed power would be from street fights leading to those 2 consequences. Nice smart ass comment. Although it makes no sense given the context.
MeatDogz!….. love, train
Don’t u find that these days everyone is all about giving advice. All these comments, you’d think everyone was a pro boxer. Irritating
LOL, colin! I know what you mean 😉
Are you that one guy who hates good advice? Nobody likes that guy because he doesn’t take advice. Q: How many boxing trainers are or were professional boxers? A: Out of them all practically none! I mean really what kind of comment is that? As if you have never giving anyone advice on punching to anybody? In boxing the only thing that will give you the title of a professional boxer is being paid to do it for a living and possibly sponsors. You can even be a terrible boxer! Maybe you should stay away from comment sections of pages. Did you know that they exist for the reason that irritates you? Sorry for the rant but that was truly, truly and irritating comment. Just so blatantly unintelligent.
Good article as usual!
One issue which I suppose occurs quite often when hitting the heavy bag is that you often hit too low. I’ve trained with heavy bag for a few months now (done 6 months of boxing) and it wasn’t until very recently when I realized that when I’m aiming to the “head” I actually hit the chest. I hit over 10 inches below than I should! Also I learned that when I tried to hit the body level, I actually hit the height of the genitalia. So now looking backwards it seems that I spent like three months how to crush balls and hit the chest. Then I started looking at a few (novice level) friends of mine who were doing pretty much the same thing.
Great Article! I find it can be easy to make mistakes solo on the heavy bag. During bag rounds my club is always punching, holding, or squatting at any given time during the round. If your bag partner messes up, you let them know. This eliminates a few issues however this article holds it’s own, the bag is inherently flawed.
hi johhny, im 57 kilos and i was wondering if hitting a heavy bag 100 lbs would slow your hands down if your hitting the bag everyweek but not over training and hitting the bag for to long and by the way thanks i really appreciate your articles they have been a huge help to me, keep it up.
Conor, the bag won’t slow you down. It’s just that you could be spending that time and energy working on other exercises that are better for developing speed.
I find this article interesting and highly agree. What’s also interesting I am the inventor of mechanical punch arms that punch at real human speeds and attach to any heavy bag or BOB. You mentioned that you have to admit you don’t see much benefit to them, yet you go on here to say a bag does not punch back, focus loss, poor defense, slowness, distance, etc, etc. Can you at least see why I laugh at the “logic”?
Other than that, I think you’re a great person and I enjoy all the knowledge you kindly share. Read your article about gloves because I am seeing the need for better gloves than the light ones I have been using. Like you said, you have to protect your hands.
John, the heavy bag was intended to be used for taking punishment. For this purpose, it has served amazingly well.
Your mechanical punching arms were intended to be used as a substitute for an attacking opponent. Because of that difference, I assumed your equipment would fall short in some areas. I don’t know for sure because I’ve never tried it but I hope you understand why I judged it differently.
I just finished a heavy bag workout, and my hands are killing me. I am a southpaw, and for a few seconds my hand wouldn’t stop shaking. How can I prevent this, and how can I make my workout better?
I imagine it might be one or more of the following factors:
– ineffective hand wrapping method
– maybe you’re punching with bad technique
– maybe you’re training on the heavy bag too much
– maybe you’re injured (from one of the previous factors…or something else)
Hey Joey, i think you may be clenching your fists too tight. You need to relax your fists inside your glove before you connect and you may have the wrong gloves. Some gloves make it hard to form a true fist and you end up hitting more with your fingers than your fist. Try a new pair that allows your fingers to wrap a tighter fist.
excelent article again (my first comment here, but I am always visiting)…
I dont speak english very well and Im kind of new on boxing…
could you explain the “Mike Tyson ducking movements”? lol
congrats from Brazil
I will do that later! Thanks for your comment.
This is bull after learning how to use the bag you can work on your distance movement speed everything maybe you had a bad trainer I have seen kids not use the bag they get in the ring and they suck
Clearly you based this comment solely on the title without reading the article. The writer explains that relying on bags entirely at the expense of other training can be detrimental.
Your last comment is also a no brainer. If someone hasn’t used a bag, they obviously aren’t a boxer (no such thing as a boxer that doesn’t use a bag). Therefore, of course someone with no training will suck. Whoever let them even step in the ring in the first place is an idiot.
I’m not the writer, but seriously…..come on….
Very nice article.. and do you mind if I ask what kind/brand and model of the heavy bag hanger in your picture? I don’t like my heavy bag stand as its hanging it too low
I have no idea what heavy bag stand that is. I generally don’t like heavy bag stands. I recommend only to use heavy bags that are mounted off the ceiling so you can fully move around them as the bag swings with total freedom.
Title of the article needs to be changed, It should of been how to use a heavy bag effectively, plus some points need to be changed. There’s some points I agree and disagree, for instance shadow boxing will cause you to dislocate your shoulder if you throw hard, and if you don’t then you end up getting sloppy, thats the main reason for the bag to avoid that specific injury. If your new to the game, get someone who is well inform to teach you how to utilizing a heavy bag. Heavy bag and sparring training are the only best method in developing your skill as a fighter. Plus, speed bags are useless, they really don’t emphasis on striking or speed, just as worthless as a head gear for protecting you from brain damage. Heavy bags do increase speed, the bigger and stronger man you are the less endurance you have, so what your seeing is a lack of stamina and possibly his bad ability to conserve his energy . If your opponent has a better reach advantage, don’t waste your time with jabs, just take his jabs, move in and throw a hook or upper cut.
I agree with all that is said but still those are factors which would come into play if you don’t have a professional teaching you and guiding you. These factors are really not a concern if you have taken official classes for at east 6-months on a regular basis because a good professional teacher will always mention these things over and over again not just for heavy bag training but also for pad work, sparring and other things.
I have only taken karate classes for about a years and not thing more and I already knew these facts, so if you are taking boxing classes or mma or kickboxing or whatever these factors should really not come into play unless your teacher is a totally idiot or you really don’t care about whatever it is you are training in.
Exactly, many of these tips will not be necessary if everyone was being taught the right way. Heck, my site wouldn’t be this popular if great boxing instruction was readily available everywhere.
Love the Site keep up the good work and thanks
Got a question about boxing stands specifically the 3 way boxing stands that have a heavy bag, double end bag and the speed bag. Are they worth getting for an apartment if you don’t always have time to go to the gym?
If so, any recommendations on a brand or website?
I hate those stands as they aren’t particularly good at either one. The heavy bag and double-end bag are completely blocked off so you can’t move around them a full 360 degrees. The speed bag platform usually wobbles too much. And the whole thing is usually unstable and makes so much noise that you probably wouldn’t be allowed to use it in your apartment anyway.
If I had to choose, I would simply go with a double-end bag mount in your place. It’ll give you a full 360 degree movement and make minimal noise and take up minimal space. You can also do a heavy bag as well. But for the speed bag, you really need a dedicate high quality one or else it’ll wobble all over and mess up your rhythm. You’ll see what I mean.
Either way, I couldn’t do with these methods as there’s no substitute to training in a gym. (More friends and fun at the gym.) Then again, me and you may have different expectations of our boxing training.
you do realise that the second-hardest hitter ever (George Foreman) was a push puncher?
I dont see how push punching is a disadvantage
Perhaps you can go to a boxing gym and ask trainers and other boxers to show you in person. That would be the easiest way for you to learn.
What I have noticed about Foreman is that his push is more to set up. IMO Foreman and a lot of other knock out artists is that they have very little elbow extension but get a lot of power from their trunk twist. Foremans arm would already be mostly straight when he made contact on his knockout punches. But to your point, yes Foreman used the heavy bag a lot. But he also sparred a good amount, and he was bigger than a lot of people. In most combat sports, heavy weights can sort of operate under different advice.
George Foreman could push punch, therefore what is wrong with push punching?
Not that George Foreman is exceptional or one of the all time greats of boxing or anything…
What’s wrong with push punching? I don’t know, why don’t you go ask the snap-punching guy who knocked out Foreman. I don’t remember if he was great or anything…I think his name was Muhammad Ali? But jokes aside, you’re shining a light at the exception, not the rule. It’s all up to you who you want to copy. It makes no difference to me. If push-punching helps you, please keep doing it.
What’s the best way to determine the progress with punching bags? If you start doing weight training, its very easy to determine the progress. For example, you may start with 5 lbs, then reach to 7lbs, then 10, the progress is simple to note, how do you do this with punching bag workout?
With the punching bag…it goes by the way you feel. If you’re able to throw more punches and with more power and precision, you’re improving. If you can’t feel any difference, you might not be improving very much if at all.
Besides, the end game is to improve your performance in the ring. If the way you train doesn’t improve that fighting performance…then you need to be training differently.
i only started hitting the heavy bag recently (as of last week), and i think i’m doing it wrong, because i come home with elbow pain.
for some reason when i punch, i feel as if i push the bag away instead of punching it properly. when the trainer is beside me, i seem to get it correctly, but if he goes away and i practice on my own, i can’t get it right again.
i also tried to copy what’s in your other post on how to hit a heavy bag, but it seems impossible for me to “snap back” naturally.
These things take time to develop. Focus on being relaxed rather than being powerful.
Distance Awareness. This has gotta be one of the most important aspects of good boxing that always seems to get glossed over. Learning your reach and getting it well ingrained in your mind will help you understand how to hit hard and pivot out. I also liked the bit about how easy it is yo build bad habits on the heavy bag. That’s something I see all to often in the gym. Thanks again for the write-up Johnny.
I agree with 8) Hand Damage. But it’s not a black or white issue. You do need to accustom your hands to punishment to a certain degree, but it is important not to overwork them.
I half agree with 7) Uppercuts. You can still throw body uppercuts on a heavy bag, and that’s actually a great exercise for learning to throw your hips into a body shot.
I strongly disagree about not getting close to the bag. In fact, I think fighters don’t work at that distance enough. That’s why you see a lot of clinching and wide misses from boxers who are right in each other’s faces. Leaning up against the heavy bag will help you generate more power with your body and less with arm wind ups. This is critical for success inside. If you improve this skill, you can absolutely have your way with someone who has only worked at medium and long range distances (provided you can close the distance, of course).
I understand the general point of your article though. I just think that a lot of the bad habits you describe are more the result of lazy training than the specific equipment being used. You can develop bad habits in any training activity.
I agree about it being possible to practice uppercuts to some degree on the heavy bag. And yes, there’s a difference between “being lazy and leaning on the bag” vs “working your inside game”. Good comments.
I don’t train with boxing in mind, but more of the bare knuckle fighting related to street fighting and non-sport martial arts. So bag gloves and ring gloves are not even a part of my equation.
Without the extreme padding of gloves and training for bare knuckle use even the way you throw and land a punch is different than boxing.
I will use hand wraps and after a long time of hitting with bare knuckles, then wraps will switch over to a pair of MMA gloves if I want to extend hitting the bag without risking doing too much on the hands.
So I use a homemade 25 pound maize bag filled with rice and dried chick peas to hit with my bare fists and this is placed either at the body or chest level.
I use another fifteen pound maize bag mounted utop this larger maize bag at head level. In the beginning it was also filled with rice and beans, slowly over time, it has been replaced with ever increasing amounts of sand. As my hands have gotten conditioned over a couple of years this bag is now completely full of sand.
I use another sixty pound canvas bag as my heavy bag. This is filled with a bag of sand and lots of padding as it too is used without padded bag gloves, but bare knuckles, wraps or MMA gloves.
Try watching videos on youtube from “barefisted” for some advice in this regard.
Actually a really good article.
Depuis le temps que je voulais le lire cet article, finalement j’ai pas attendu qu’il soit attendu pour lire. Je rajouterai que les gros sac de frappe ne poussent pas les gens à être précis.
I agree with you for the average boxer but am wondering about my own boxing approach that uses the power of the the locked body core tri-muscle complex to strike through a standing opponent like a bullet would go through and send the opponent flying backward. For this punch that I aim at the middle of the chest sternum, blocking it with the forearms makes no difference in the result. This punch also requires a full wrist twist with most of the power at the hand end of the twist as it drills through the body. Everyone I have seen uses the snap punch on the large bag so that it never flies anywhere. I call punch that is powered by the body core that I also use for lifting as the “Tiger Lift Boxing Power Punch.” My boxing preparation joy is to send the large bag flying wildly and right into the ceiling. When the large bag is flying high all over the place like that I have fun striking it like a moving opponent. Since such punches can tear the large bag out of the ceiling and send it flying, the fun of striking it like a moving opponent did not last long. Actually, I was stopped almost immediately by the gym manager after barely missing a ceiling light. Even then it was already too late with the bag ceiling connection torn loose. I was barred on the spot from striking that bag. The gym had another large bag that was attached to a steel frame and held by a steel spring. That one I smashed onto the concrete pillar that was holding steel frame and the bag. My practices punches broke the steel spring in half. See my Youtube video, “Fifteen Minutes of Boxing Horror”.
Hi johnny ; we hang our heavy bags in the gym from the ceiling using long chains which will result in too much swings , is it normal ? to let experienced fighter work with them , we thought about changing it to wall brackets like ” RDX Heavy Duty Punch Bag Wall Bracket Steel Mount Hanging” , what is your thoughts on this , any piece of advice . thank you.
If it swings too much, you have to put more weight or hit it with less force. I do like long swinging bags. You have to find the perfect rope length and perfect bag length and the weight of the bag. Find the balance that works for you and there’s nothing wrong with having variation.
Aw, man, I just got a heavy bag for Christmas!
Please don’t believe that Rubbish. Speed is natural. Heavy bags are vital. Ali, Joe louis, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Marvin Hagler etc etc etc etc only used heavy bags. You can practice whatever drill you want on a heavy bag. Go 3 mins, change combinations every 30 seconds and make the session as hard as you want, then go freestyle using any combination you want. I lose power when only hitting PADS, if you can find a Qualified holder. I won a national Australian Cruiserweight title in 3 years. Only used the Heavy bag and sparred. If you can go 6 rounds heavybag 30 seconds rest between rounds, and go hard you are getting there. This is total BS.
Well you literally gave zero reasons as to why heavy bags suck. What you did was give reasons people train improperly. The title isn’t misleading its not relative. Now I’m sad because a bunch of people will see that article title not read it, and assume the heavy bag “sucks”. When in reality if you ask every boxer out their if they were on a desert island and had their choice of a single training item. No question the majority would go heavy bag all day. You can do more on a heavy bag then any other single peice of equipment. They even have ones shaped like people! Good article but it should be called “How to train on the most fundamental piece of boxing equipment.”
Exactly. If you want to train reflex/distance/timing/defense, then SPAR, as only an opponent can give you that training. Speed bags & double end bags make a boxers timing/rhythm monotonous. You can safely practice reflex/distance/timing/defense with a partner. The safest way to practice punching power is on a heavy bag.
Haha…great critique of my article, Nick. I wrote it 7 years ago when my writing skills and ability to articulate my thoughts weren’t as refined.
I understand about the “sensationalistic” title. That’s what you have to do these days to break thru all the noise people are exposed to online and catch their attention.
As you have seen by your comment thread, you can’t please everyone, and NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, a certain percentage of the people are going to have a problem with it.
You, my friend, are an AWESOME boxing trainer, your site/articles/videos are all top notch and very informative and useful.
You have one of the best boxing sites in the whole world: so keep listening to your inner self and doing what you’re doing. Its great, and you are a first-rate teacher. I’ve learned plenty from you, and still will!!!
I personally use the heavy bag to great effect, but then again I approached it as a mad scientist and “hacked” my way to a great System- at least for myself. The heavy bag is actually the ONLY tool I use, but then again, I’m not training for boxing, for sport, or to please anyone else. I have learned to overcome every disadvantage on the bag, and my fight skills have at least doubled since I started. (But I still suck at fighting. Probably. Don’t really want to find out! LOL)
Keep up the awesome instruction, my friend. You rock!
with that in mind johnny, should you re-write or at least “tweak” the article a little bit ?
This blog is ridiculous. You make clickbait articles based on “sensational” titles and stir the pot…presumably to sell more of your books.
I am 20 years old. Does practicing with heavy bag have any impact on height? I have never done any kind of exercise before ….
Getting good posture from exercise will help with looking taller. Hit soft with proper gear and distance measurement. All about getting that perfect distance for executing and landing punches.
Great article! With regards to distance and push shot versus snap shot….our trainer always tell us to hit the bag hard without moving it, which is quite difficult ;). You just hit it and retract your fist as quickly as possible as if it is elastic. In this way you create a great snap shot and proper distance as well (especially for your jab).
I know this is probably committing boxing heresy but honestly I barely ever mess with any of the training apparatus in our gym. I might hit the bags or skip rope a little for warm up but not much more than that. Most of the times I’m simply gloving up and sparring. I used to do a lot of mitts, bag training, speed bag shadowboxing, double end bag and the like. The problem is that I never felt I got the same kind of realistic training that I get from sparring. I suppose doing these things doesn’t hurt but it always seems when I get done with all these extraneous exercises there’s little if any training partners left to spar with. I don’t know it just seems to me that with the limited time I have to train I’m not going to waste it fake sparring with predictable inanimate objects. My coach barely messes with any of it either and is like 17-0 as a pro.
I can agree with you. There are pros, especially ones with hand problems, who will limit their time on the heavy bag. It doesn’t do much for them, they already have power…and so they prefer to work on other things like the double-end bag or mitts.
While I’m certainly no expert, I can definitely see the benefits of the heavy bag for conditioning purposes or maybe working a new combination or footwork to make it second nature. Especially if you have a fight coming up doing a lot of rounds on the bag can really build up your wind. On the other hand I never really learned to relax until I did a lot of sparring. I used to always get exhausted in sparring because I was too tense. Yes I could hit the bag all day but as soon as I stepped in front of an opponent I’d feel dead after the 1st round. This was mainly because I was terrified of getting hit and my body hadn’t learned to relax. I find that the more time I take away from sparring the more I start to tense up again and get exhausted. I think it’s because after awhile you start to get gun shy. As far as the punching power is concerned I’ve noticed that it’s much more about timing rather than how much your punches are caving in the heavy bag. I might be able to punch a hole through the bag but if my opponent is always either too close or too far away when I punch, all that power won’t mean anything.
I just want to lose weight, Can I train with heavy bag every other day? Will it damage my hands? Should I pick some other Cardio exercise? Kindly advise.
Was there any notable boxer who’s main piece of equipment used was a heavy bag? I have always wondered that. Also, can too much heavy bag take a toll on your punching power?
Many people like to glorify the use of a heavy bag such as in movies like Rocky. But I’d have to say the most used type of training I’ve seen amongst high level pros was nothing more than shadowboxing. Using the heavy bag too much can damage your hands, which will ultimately affect your punching power.
No Ali Foreman, Frazier, Rocky Mariana. Hands getting a bit sore, just wrap them. Hundreds of great fighters only used the heavy bag. I find I work much harder on a heavy bag than Pads, if I can find a decent holder. Just work the heavy bag, change combinations every 30 secs for 3 minute rounds. Like double left right hand if orthodox of course, then Left jab, right cross, left hook, hundreds of combinations. I only used Pads about 2 times if I never had access to heavy bags.
Many valid points but ultimately everything you mentioned (lazy eye, lack of defence, slow punches etc…) comes down to the focus and discipline of the fighter and not the tool their using.
Absolutely! Agreed…and this article was just to make some interesting points rather than banishing a useful training tool from boxing.
Thats not correct. Heavy bags are vital. I used snap, didn’t push the bag. My trainer had me working 7 3 minute rounds on the heavy bag with 30 secs rest between rounds. Changed combinations every 30 seconds for 3 minutes. Then change it up for freestyle using my own combinations. You have speed or you don’t, and whatever natural power we have is bought out on the heavy bag. Ali, Foreman, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciana, hundreds of fighters only used the heavy bag. I won a national Cruiserweight Title in Australia in 3 years, and I never used any Pads once. Most people cannot find a good Pad holder anyway. Heavy bag builds great stamina, punching power. Whatever natural speed you have, hundreds of different combinations. If the hands are getting sore, just wrap them, no problems. I use to watch a guy named Kostya Tszyu train, he hated pads. He lit up the heavy bag constantly.
Hi there is a few points that I dissagree with hear using elbows and shoulders to move the bag is very common with lots of champions I.e Ricky Hatton , Oscar Valdez , max bear and getting in close and throwing combinations is also very common I,e Mike Tyson, tommy Morrison, Nigel Benn a lot of these fighters mimick the clinch because they are explosive inside fighters so practise picking shots on the inside wile taking the weight of the bag to represent human body also the heavy bag definetly builds power as it puts greater strain on ur muscles forcing them to develop and grow , let me know what you think in response all ways interested to hear other points of view so will take note if you bring back any good points
I think all fighters when starting out will like to mimic their favorite fighters. But it’s important to know why they do what they do. Sure…there’s no crime with working on the inside and making lots of contact with the bag. But it is a huge mistake if you think the pros are pushing and shouldering it.
I would encourage anyone to watch the pros work in person so you can see for yourself if they’re doing what you THINK they’re doing. The videos of pros ‘pushing’ the bag on the inside…when you see it in person, you realize they have very active feet and lots of constant movement and the pushing is not as much as you think. They’re not leaning or relying on it for balance…they’re just making contact. Whereas beginners are leaning their weight and actually still not able to apply as much force as the pros.
But hey, same can be said for all things that pros do. It appears one way in video and differently in person. I encourage everyone to watch pros in person and pay attention to all aspects of their training, their bagwork, etc…instead of only the sensationalized video highlights. From that, you get a more comprehensive understanding of how they really practicing this inside-fighting tactics on the bag.
i spend a great amount of time watching videos of the pros training, that is how i know how rubbish i am …
A day after I’ve trained using my bag, I have a shoulder pain in my left shoulder, I am left side dominant…I am concerned that it could be bad technique and I’m doing serious damage to my shoulder. Amy ideas please?
Hard for me to know without seeing a video of you. Maybe you can share on our free Facebook group?
S M Muscle
I would advice everyone to use at least 12 oz gloves while punching the bag. Most people start with low-oz or no gloves at all and that is devastating for their hands in the long run. Not only will it damage the bones, but it also damages the elbow and even their shoulders.
All other advises are spot on! Keep up the good work.
hmmmm sorry but you are mistaken… I use leather bag gloves and have for years… no problems with hands, elbows and typing (for some reason people think that you lose typing ability…) I did have some problems with my left shoulder but not because of the lack of padding, it was because I was trying to learn to “hook off the jab” and I was doing it improperly. now I even to that but no shoulder problems… one caveat though, I just workout to keep in shape, not to win a contest or make money…
Bag gloves are simply not recommended for longterm serious training (which many people on this website are). If you have such perfect form or don’t hit as hard or don’t train for as long, that’s fine but it’s still not what I would recommend. As with anything, what works for some people may not work for others. We are not all made the same.
I have just come across this article today while looking for an alternative title to “Punching the Heavy Bag”.
My comment on this article is plain and simple, you have to know how to train on a heavy bag.
When you train properly on the bag, it entails training differently for each aspect of what a fighter needs to be able to do.
What I mean is, when you train for power, power is applied! When you train for speed, speed is applied! When you train for accuracy, accuracy is applied!
All three applications can be mixed and matched at all times!
Distance is one of the most important factors of a combat situation so movement is part of punchbag training, along with power accuracy and speed.
I get the impression the author has never learned how to fight on the inside, how to keep a tight defence on the inside and how to block uppercuts.
The important thing to keep in mind is the use of different types of Punchbag, shapes sizes and textures with small targets to focus the impact!
When you train properly on the right piece of equipment you will improve in each area!
In essence… heavy bags don’t suck, you just need to train on them properly!
For info. I have been actively involved in boxing and kickboxing and various forms of martial arts as a fighter, coach and teacher for over 40 years.
Biggest problem of using a heavy bag is that you don’t/cannot punch through the target. Focus mitts are better but you need a good pad man. So primary training equipment should be the focus pads and secondary would be the heavy bag when you haven’t a pad man.
Heavy bags don’t suck…training without the proper supervision of a licensed coach sucks.
13 yr old
Hey i have a question, are hand wraps necessary, i dont have any because i am new to boxing. Plz let me know.
Yes, you need wraps to protect your wrists from damage when punching a heavy bag (sand-filled bag, 50 lbs or more). For a beginner you need old-school fabric hand wraps and it would be best if someone could show you in person how to wrap your hands properly, but maybe in these strange times, you could find a good youtube video. As you practice and learn proper punching technique and drill it into your body, you might be able to progress to gel wraps, which are not as stable, with a lot of experience. I use gel wraps now, but I did not start using them until after 20 years of punching practice. This is 2 months after your comment – i hope your wrists are ok.
13 yr old
Thanks for letting me know, ill make sure in advance to use hand wraps.
This article solidified a few things I think I was vaguely aware of but now can focus intently on while I do my solo, social-distancing heavy bag workouts in my basement.
Excellent advice, can’t elaborate, as he’s spot on 10 out of 10
13 yr old
I agree 100 percent with you
The heavy bag is an excellent tool for developing a hard snappy punch.
A puncher must be able to apply all techniques
i.e snappy punches, push punches,
close range, outside and perfect range shots.
Heavy bag work employed with visualization techniques can produce
defensive strategies while responding with an infinite amount of counter and lead punch
Treadmill at 10-15% incline /at 5 to 6 miles per hour /5 minutes at a time
move to heavy bag for 2 minutes of engaged and prescribed power punching
onto the speed bag for one minute all out altering hands, singles etc…
to weights for a 25 curl set, 25 military press set, 25 push ups, 25 sit ups
Repeat 3 to 16 times.
This will increase power, strength, stamina, speed and punching power.
Shadow box in the shower in the morning and spar as much as possible.
First, what’s the point to say it’s bad and then say it’s not? Second, all tools have pros and cons. When you train heavy bag, you are not looking to defend. It’s all about power and precision. Just go look at any champion fighters and see if they have their hands up on a heavy bag…
i personally would say you can work on your defense (to a certain degree) when training on the heavy bag, there is nothing to stop you blocking ducking parrying rolling head movement footwork etc, just visualize the bag as your opponent throwing punches back at you, you should also do the same in shadow boxing especially if you do not have anybody to spar with, doing it this way builds much greater cardio fitness and skills for sparing,,,just my opinion,,happy training.
First, what’s the point to say it’s bad and then say it’s not? Second, all tools have pros and cons. When you train heavy bag, you are not looking to defend. It’s all about power and precision. Just go look at any champion fighters and see if they have their hands up on a heavy bag…
Matthew up Morgan
You can look to defend when training on the heavy bag some pros do do it this way , ofcourse it’s not the norm but when throwing a left jab you keep your right hand high to protect your chin , boxing by its very nature is defencive the art of hitting and not getting hit , I personally like to train defencive as I also train muay thai and find the heavy bag a great tool for training defences in the clinch as you want to avoid getting your face smashed in by an elbow ,DO NOT BE AFRAID TO EXPEREMENT with heavy bag training as you would with shadow boxing , just my opinion , happy training…