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: