Are you working the punching bag? Or is the bag working you?
There’s more to a heavy bag workout than throwing punches as hard as you can until the bell rings or you pass out (whichever one happens first). Believe it or not, the heavy bag is not all about power.
For those who STILL don’t know how to hit the heavy bag correctly, this is for you.
How to Work the Heavy Bag
1. Good Punching
First and foremost, the heavy bag is all about developing proper punching skills. And good punching means snapping and flowing.
You may have heard trainers say to “hit the bag, don’t push it”. Pushing punches means trying to shove your hand all the way through the target. A snapping punch means letting the fist snap back to you after impact. It snaps back not because you pull it back but because you let the impact rebound your hand back to you.
Snap punches are generally far better than pushing punches! Snapping punches is what all the experienced fighters use. It takes time to learn how to do properly but incredibly critical if you ever want to punch properly. It allows you to punch harder and faster while using less energy. I wrote a guide on snapping punches a long time ago here: How to Throw a Snapping Punch (Youtube video)
Flowing punches means to throw flowing combinations that connect to one another. It’s not about the punches you throw but HOW you throw them. Flowing punches means to move around the bag in a relaxed manner while throwing non-stop combinations. NOT FLOWING means is like setting your feet and then throwing your hardest shots every time.
Flowing punches is about being relaxed and just letting your hands go in repeated rat-ta-tat combinations with SMALL breaks in between combos for you to slip or move around. There is NEVER more than 3 seconds pause from punching and even then that’s a bit much. The goal is to let the punches be natural. Some shots are hard, but most punches will be around 50-70% power with a good emphasis on speed and snap. You’re calm and eyeing the bag as you’re moving around it. You’re not throwing yourself at it like a maniac.
Good punching means snapping and flowing,
NOT pushing and waiting.
2. Good Footwork
Good footwork should be a minimum but unfortunately, many beginners develop terrible footwork because of too much time on the heavy bag. Here are some things you should consider to avoid developing bad footwork habits.
Keep your feet on the ground and hold yourself up. Don’t lean on the bag or shoulder it or try to push it around as if you’re fighting on the inside. Shouldering the bag (especially for beginners) will lead to poor balance later in the ring. An opponent can easily move out of the way to let you fall off balance and then attack you with counters. Beginner fighters must absolutely learn how to maintain their balance in order to attack and defend as needed.
By walking, I don’t mean to put your hands down and go for a walk around the bag but to keep your feet on the ground as you move around the bag. Don’t cross your legs but try to visualize your footwork as more of a walking feeling than a jumping feeling. The common mistake for beginners is to jump all over the place. This habit leads to poor range awareness, wasted energy, and a less grounded stance which limits punching power and body movement.
Good footwork means standing and walking,
NOT leaning and jumping.
Explanation of how to hit a heavy bag.
Quick video of me hitting the heavy bag!
The #1 Problem: Focusing on Power
Proper bagwork is nothing more than good punching with good body movement. It’s so simple and yet done incorrectly so often. The cause is the natural tendency to want to punch as hard as possible. Throwing hard looks good and feels great. A loud *crack* sound rewards you for every powerful shot. And the harder your punch, the better you feel.
The problem is: real opponents are nothing like the heavy bag. They don’t wait there for you. They move and they counter. The more reckless you get with your punches, the harder the counter you. The harder you hit them, the harder they hit you in return.
Ultimately, you realize that fighting live opponents has more to do with skills and speed than simply power alone. You may even realize that other punching bags like the speed bag or double-end bag are better suited to develop your higher level boxing skills. Let go of your greed for power and new doors will open for you.
Punching power comes from technique, accuracy, and timing,
moreso than muscle strength.
Read my other guides on heavy bag training:
YOUR THE MAN JOHNNY!
Great article Johnny, thanks!!
Good advice. By the way, I feel my footwork is stiff when I work on heavy bag, not as flexible & easy as when doing shadowboxing. Is my problem is common, or just because I suck at heavy bag? I do pay attention to my step, but always feel awkward.
The bottom line is it’s hard to punch AND move at the same time. It’s a new challenge you’ll have to deal with and it’s a good thing that you notice the difficulty now. Keep training.
Thank you johnny for putting time and effort into your website to help others. We all appreciate it. You are very helpful.
Thanks for the tips, on snap punching, I will apply it to my Kyokushing karate and see if there is a difference. in energy preservation! We have a tendency of hiiting hard ALL the time, ands its more like a push punch.
We do not use gloves so it could be a reason why its a push punch. Its like being hit with a sledge hammer.
I agree that the key is to move around constantly with a nice flow.
Thanks and keep it up!
i can’t use a heavybag in my flat, cause the ceiling is too weak, so i ve got a standing punch-dummy. any advices for this kind of training? great article.
Do what you can and treat it like a heavy bag in whatever way that you can.
Great article. If i make add keep distance to the heavy bag is very important. I see many boxers staying way too close to the bag not extending their punches.
I do however have a question to the demo video; it looks like you are punching with your hands from upper chest position instead of (what i have been taught) low chin position. Also when you walk you keep your hands at upper chest position. I know the heavy bag do not hit back at you, but why do you not cover you chins?
I am not a pro. My hands aren’t dropped because I’m being lazy or relying on fast reflexes.
My hands are low (relaxed position) simply because I’m focusing on flow and footwork in this video. At other times, I might use a more rigid “boxing stance” with a high defense to more closely mimic a fight but in this particular instance I am not. It’s a common thing among the more experienced fighters. Watch pros hitting the heavy bag and you will notice similar dropped-hand positions.
Okay, thanks for the answer. That makes perfect sense. I was not trying to be critical of you as a boxer, i was just simply wondering. I use and copy a lot of your movement, so knowing the reason behind it is interesting.
Dennis, Johnny is a professional boxer, he uses his own unique style, he is used to punch from unusual angles so the opponent can’t see the punch coming, and his reaction is good so he can afford to keep his hands at the chest or even waist level.
Johnny, I love the heavy bag, especially digging in those hooks. it’s also helped me in terms of learning to relax. At first, the biggest mistake I was making was to “kill” the HB each workout and it was more conterproductive than anything. I’m also improving on keeping the hands up, and hitting and moving out.
But in all honesty, the double end bag is where it’s at for me at this stage.
I wish more fighters would get to your level, Gil. Good for you.
Johnny, I can’t even begin to tell you how much you have inspired me. Thank you!
Love the music in your video! haha
I know you get a lot of requests, but I would LOVE to see a guide on how to shadowbox properly…
Ok ok! Will do that soon.
Im new to the site and god bless you Johnny! You are an amazing teacher. Im starting to box again with hopes of fighting in the gloves in NYC and I think you might get me over the top. I’ve broken my head trying to understand somethings and a few minutes of watching your videos has changed that competely. Thanks man!
You’re welcome! Good luck with the Golden/Silver Gloves.
Great videos / articles.
How many bout have you had Johnny?
Great site. Thanks, Johnny
youre articles never ceases to amaze me, this is a very good guide in using the heavy bag. that explains why most boxers in our gym end up being injured in using a heavy bag, because they think its a show-off of their strength
Im looking for advice on boxing ive been thinking about trying to get in the sport I just don’t know how I was reading your articles on several different subjects on here if you have any advice you would like to share it would be much appreciated.
Get into a gym and tell them you’re a beginner. Do whatever your trainer tells you.
If that’s not an option, then look through all the free information on my site and on Youtube. If you’re looking for a well-organized self-learning course you can check out my “How to Box in 10 Days”.
Sorry but my push punches seems to do far more damage then my snap punches….=L…
For many fighters, especially ones with less than 1-2 years of training, push punches are so much easier to be powerful because they don’t require as much skill. Keep doing what you do. Things do change with time…
to me i use punching bag diferent i work my combination like jab cross hook for 2 hours every day to make it automatic
i lazy no more
i use punching bag inorder to gain good movement and stamina
i lazy no more
johnny,thanks 4 ur consine more wisdom
I have been looking into to starting boxing I used to wrestle and I want to try something new. what’s the best way to start ive thought about just starting on a heavy bag and having a friend that used to box teach me. thoughts?
The best way to start learning boxing is to go to a boxing gym and learn from a coach and train alongside other boxers.
Johnny, thanks for that video, really helpful.
Thanks for the helpful tips you guys giving. i am a starter boxer at the University of Namibia i wish you guys would have a turn one day to us.
Johny what’s the role of clasic music while you are working on the bag? i heard it’s useful for learning, relaxing, flowing, is it for that?
Hi Johnny, could you do an article on upper body movement while hitting the bag? It’s hard for me to find the balance between punching, walking AND moving the upper body around to be more elusive.
I love your instructions I try to watch them all great work the heavy bag and jump rope videos let me know how I was messing up
jon from redlight fusion
such a good read. my sister setup a heavy bag at our house. gonna give it the good old college try. i still remember some of the technique you taught me, but i definitely need to brush up.
Hey, good hearing from you. 🙂
Hello there. Terribly sorry if this is a silly question, but when hitting a heavy bag, are you aiming to hit with specific knuckles, or with the glove ‘flush’? I’ve seen people recommend the latter so as to avoid injury, but in an actual match/fight, you would be hitting with specific knuckles no?
I aim for the first two knuckles.
Thank you very much for your swift reply 🙂
And you’ve not suffered strain from aligning your wrist to hit with those two through the glove?
If you’re straining, you’re probably not doing it right.
Understood, thank you very much for your time.
just wondering if you have any tips for a 17-year-old wanting to learn how to box, I’ve only got a heavy bag at home and I’m a beginner who is just getting interested in the sport.
Hehe…read all the tips on my site.
Love the site, very informative and straightforward advice. Long time reader, first time writer, or something like that. Anyway, here’s my question, sorry if you’ve answered elsewhere:
I’ve been training recreationally, mainly on the heavy bag, for ~4-5 years. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of knuckle pain, specifically/only on the index finger knuckle (both hands). I’ve tried extra padding and hand wrapping styles, which helps a little but not enough.
Oddly enough, though, it’s actually significantly more comfortable to just take the gloves off and hit with just the (extra padded) wraps. (I know, I know – I don’t do it all the time, and I’m conscious of the risk to my hand and wrist bones.) Anyway, any experience with this or ideas why this might be? I wouldn’t say I hit much lighter with the gloves off vs. when they’re on, and my form feels similar both ways (though faster hand speed without, obviously). I guess it could be because my (relatively new Ringside IMF Tech SBG) gloves suck, though it seems counterintuitive that even broken down/flattened glove padding would cause *more* pain than no padding at all. (Right?) My other theory is that my hand position at impact is better with the gloves off (i.e. I’m striking the bag properly/square without gloves, but maybe the gloves are forcing my hands out of proper striking position?)
Anyway, would love to hear your thoughts (and/or anyone else around here with any similar experience) if you have time.
Without seeing a video of how you punch with AND without gloves on, I can’t know for sure whether it’s the gloves or your technique. I’m personally guessing it’s a combination of both. Gloves do fit and feel differently on different hands as well as over time. And yes, the Ringside IMF Tech gloves are a cheap pair…probably more tolerable for sparring than for bagwork. As for your technique, it’s very likely that your elbows don’t come up as high (due to arm fatigue) when you punch with gloves on, causing your fist to impact at a bad angle. There’s also the matter of how you visualize and throw your straights and hooks. I should also ask: are you punching the bag in the same-place/same-height with gloves on vs gloves off?
Thanks for the quick response, Johnny!
Yeah, totally understand you (or a coach) would have to see my technique to know if/what I’m doing wrong. Was mostly curious if you or other fighters you’d talked to had ever had a similar experience. And you’re right, it’s probably a bit of both.
To answer your question, yes, hitting at same height(s), throwing same general combinations, similar angles, moves, etc. – at least that I’m aware of. So I don’t think it’s that I’m, for example, hitting the harder part of the bag with gloves and softer without (and even when I’m hitting the harder body part without gloves, still doesn’t hurt as much) or only throwing head vs. body shots with one or the other.
Elbow height is an interesting suggestion; I’ve (finally) been doing this long enough that I’m mostly over the arm/shoulder fatigue I used to have all the time, but it’s certainly possible I’m doing something different just because I can/it’s easier without gloves. I’ll definitely video myself next time and see. My other gut feeling is that maybe I’m more aware of the distance on hooks without gloves, like I know better where my fist needs to be to hit square (and can get it there faster/more fluidly). Whereas with gloves, I might be missing more than I know and glancing off that first knuckle, or not turning over enough or too much, or whatever.
Also for what it’s worth, I don’t remember having this issue with my previous gloves (Everlast Protex2’s), and I don’t think my technique has gotten *worse* at the same time (or at least I’d hope not). Wish those would have lasted a bit longer and I could have read your excellent gloves review before buying replacements! Next pair will most likely be Rival RB10s or RB11s, per your suggestion and my budget/training needs.
Thanks again, keep up the great work!
Yeah, it might be your gloves, too. Differently gloves will cause your hand to curve differently and a few degrees different can completely change the feeling.
I’m a begginer at 55 yo. Great instruction, mechanics are sound and sensible. Been working with heavy bag. A bag that swings is being pushed, I am learning to snap to control the bag ….the bag stays where I need it so I flow punch rather than catching and chasing a swinging bag.
TOM from UK
damn, I’ve been doing it so wrong for so long.
Your video has taught me the way! Now I’m excited to go hit the bag.