A proven way to improve your Muay Thai skills is to work out on the heavy bag. This equipment is an often neglected aspect of Western gym training due to its solitary requirement. Using the heavy bag means that you work on your own, shunning spotlight and attention. It is a lonely and hard training method. Regardless of when you use it, before or after your regular training, it is important for you to devote your personal time to work on the heavy bag.
You can work on the heavy bag without assistance, concentrating on various aspects of your technique. Because heavy bag training is a solo pursuit, it is an extremely convenient piece of equipment, available for use at home or at your training facility.
Advantages of Training with the Muay Thai Heavy Bag
- Gradually strengthens your shin and hand
- The moving bag helps you to improve your rhythm and timing
- Improves your striking combinations
- Improves footwork and fight movement
- Improves cardio and endurance through various conditioning exercises
- Helps to develop better reflexes and enhanced defensive skills
Since we have established how crucial the Muay Thai heavy bag is for improved training, we will discuss how to find the right heavy bag and examine the various kinds of heavy bags.
How to Choose the Best Muay Thai Heavy Bag
When you choose a heavy bag, you should be looking at the various factors that determine a great heavy bag. Of course, the first decision is the type of heavy bag you want to buy. Next, you will want to make other decisions like how much to fill the bag and the kind of mounting system you will use.
If you decide to get a heavy bag for home training, you are likely to be more price conscious than if you were buying it for a gym. On the other hand, when purchasing a heavy bag for a formal gym, you will need to buy more than one kind of bag so that fighters can train on various techniques.
My Recommendation for a Muay Thai Heavy Bag
Fairtex Large Heavy Bag
My recommendation for a heavy bag is the Fairtex Large Heavy Bag. The Fairtex bag is sold empty, meaning that upon delivery, you must gather filler material and stuff the bag. The bag is made of a long-lasting combination of Syntek artificial leather and highly durable nylon.
Having trained on Fairtex equipment for a long time, I can vouch for their excellent performance. This is the best choice for a heavy bag, especially if you can only buy only one bag. The Fairtex bag gives you the most options, and it provides great movement if it is properly filled.
The following paragraphs provide information on the most common Muay Thai heavy bags and explains their advantages and disadvantages.
Muay Thai Heavy Bag Categories
Long (Banana) Heavy Bag
A common kind of heavy bag found in Muay Thai training facilities is the Long or Banana heavy bag. The Long Heavy Bag is typically at least six feet, and is made so you can practice low kicks.
There is a common misconception that the Long Bag is the perfect Thai fighting training bag. The reality is that is not true. Even though the Banana Bag is great for practicing low kicks, Thai gyms usually feature a couple of banana bags, and at least 10 heavy bags.
The Banana Bag’s biggest drawback is the lack of movement while punching and kicking. The Banana Bags are low hanging so kicking the middle of the bag will cause the bag to give in at the middle. Banana bags are perfect for training to use low kicks and low kick combos. The truth is that this not the bag you want to buy if you are purchasing for home training or you are limited to buying one bag.
The Banana Bag is perfect to have as a supplement to a classic heavy bag. If you are only able to buy one bag, or only have room for one bag, I believe that you should get a traditional heavy bag since they are more mobile, and give good feedback when you strike the bag.
- A long bag that permits practicing a full range of Muay Thai skills, including low leg strikes
- Excellent for punching and kicking drills
- Not wide enough to practice body kicks
- Can’t work on footwork because the bag stays still
- Like all heavy bags, the lower part of the bag become hard as the stuffing settles lower
The Classic Heavy Bag
The Classic Heavy Bag is the most common heavy found in all Muay Thai training facilities everywhere. The Classic bag is usually four feet long, and has a weight ranging from 60-150 lbs. The weight variance comes from how much or little the Classic is filled.
The amount filled in the Classic determines how much the bag swings. Kicking a heavy bag full of lighter stuffing will cause the bag to swing quicker than it would if it were filled with heavier material.
Lighter bags that swing easily help fighters practice their footwork because it is easy to avoid contact with the bag when it swings in the fighter’s direction. On the other hand, there are lighter bags that swing more than is helpful, and these bags won’t hold their place when receiving strikes. This is not good because fighters need to learn how to throw punches and kicks with resistance.
Lightly filled heavy bags are not good for use in regular training. Yes, you feel great when hitting or kicking them, but real opponents will be heavier and won’t give so easily. The most optimum training conditions are those that come the closest to simulate an actual fight. If your opponent will stand in the pocket and trade strikes (and most will), your heavy bag should have limited movement to mimic a real fighter.
Most bag makers use vinyl, fake leather, or a leather and nylon-lined combination during heavy bag manufacturing. The amount of time the heavy bag can last depends on several things, but constant usage and extreme heat are the biggest factors in their longevity.
- The most ideal overall Muay Thai training bag (This is the bag I use most of the time)
- The bag swings steadily, providing great opportunity for footwork and movement training
- The heavy bag has a good feel when you punch and kick it
- The bag height won’t allow you to practice low kicks
(You can use a bigger chain to hang the heavy bag. This will cause the bag to hang lower and allow you to practice low kicks)
- The heavy bag is made straight. Uppercuts are more difficult to practice on straight bags.
Tear Shaped (Knee) Heavy Bags
The Tear Shaped Bag’s shape makes it ideal to vary your delivery of punches, kicks, knees, and elbows from a variety of directions. Tear shaped bags are also known as knee bags because the shape of the bag allows you to practice knee strikes.
In addition to allowing knee strikes, tear shaped bags permit fighters to vary the landing of uppercuts and hook punches. The bag has rounded edges that will allow a fighter to move to the underside of the bag, and put in a lot of hard work throwing uppercut punches. You can use the Tear Shaped bag to practice kicks, but they are not ideal for practicing kicking exclusively.
Tear shaped bags are great for working on your striking. The narrow bag opening allows a firm grip to use when launching knee strikes.
- Ideal for practicing a variety of strikes, including uppercuts, body shots, knees and elbows
- The bag’s angle keeps it from over swinging and stays in place longer than other bags
- The bag promotes solid practicing of body kicks
- Not ideal for practicing low kicks
- Tear Shapes doesn’t swing as much as traditional bags, making practicing footwork and movement difficult
Angled Heavy Bags
Angled heavy bags bridge the differences between the Tear Shaped bag and the Banana bag. Because they have such an unusual shape, you can practice uppercut punches at the top, and launch low kicks at the bottom.
The Angled bags vary from 4-6 ft. long, depending on the bag maker. Angled heavy bags usually have more substance than Banana bags, allowing for a solid response while practicing your kicks.
The Angled bag doesn’t move much because it is so large and thick. The Angled bags are great for practicing all your Muay Thai striking techniques. However, they are not ideal for practicing non-striking fundamentals.
The Angled bag is a great secondary bag to use along with the Classic heavy bag. It works well for this purpose because it allows fighters to practice a wide range of techniques.
- Six-foot bag allows fighters to practice all standard Thai fighting techniques
- Curved shape permits hand striking fundamentals like uppercuts and body shots
- Bag doesn’t give much movement
- It is rigid when practicing kicks
In addition to selecting the proper heavy bag, you must choose your preferred fill for the bag, as well as picking the installation method.
How to Fill Your Heavy Bag and How This Relates to Bag Weight
The method of filling the heavy bag will greatly determine the feel of the bag when you strike it. Then, the filled bag’s weight determines the bag’s mobility and ability to swing. Lighter bags will move more when you punch and kick them. On the other hand, weightier bags won’t move as much and will feel harder when you hit them.
The ideal bag is one that provides stiff feedback when striking but doesn’t move more than it should. My preference is having a bag that weighs 100 pounds or heavier so it won’t move too much when I’m practicing my striking.
Because the weight of your purchase decides the shipping charges, it is a smart cost-saving move to buy an empty bag. The additional advantage of stuffing the bag yourself is that it gives you options, and gives you the opportunity to make the bag as firm or as soft as you want. A beginner who is new to heavy bag training should slowly fill the bag, and continue to fill the bag as your routine develops.
Heavy bags are usually stuffed with torn materials. Because of this, they will gradually become hard at the lower part of the bag, and more soft at the upper portion. Each punch, kick, knee or elbow will degrade the stuffing, and material that starts at the top will end up finding its way to the bottom of the bag.
Sand stuffed heavy bags are a bad idea. This is due to fact that the sand eventually drops to the end of the bag, creating a bag that doesn’t have enough sand at the top and too much at the bottom. Another issue with using sand as a heavy bag filler is that sand is heavy and makes hitting or kicking the bag extremely painful. Using sand bags is an old-school Muay Thai training method. Torn clothing and miscellaneous material is generally used in most contemporary Muay Thai heavy bags.
Heavy Bag Mounting
The final decision a fighter must make when they buy a heavy bag is deciding the hanging method they will use to mount the bag. Traditionally, the most common heavy bag mounting options are wall brackets and heavy bag stands.
Wall brackets are attached to walls and the heavy bag is anchored from these fixtures. The most important step in mounting the bracket is to make sure you securely attach them to the wall. Keep in mind that these bags can weigh around 150 lbs., and must be mobile enough to react to punches and kicks.
Failing to adequately attach the heavy bag will cause the bracket to detach from the wall. Be sure to carefully follow the bag maker’s directions while affixing the brackets to your wall.
Another method of hanging a heavy bag is using a specially made stand. These bag stands are made of steel, and the bag is hung from the stand frame. The great advantage of this type of heavy bag mount is that it is unnecessary to wall mount the bag, and you can avoid the pitfalls of a wall bracket breaking and the bag falling to the ground.
There are two kinds of heavy bag wall stands. One kind of stand is an independent stand holder that doesn’t need securing. The free-standing holder is easy to put together and doesn’t require making any holes. Another stand type is a heavy-duty stand attached to the ground and it works just like the wall bracket bag mount.
Bag stands that are free standing and aren’t fixed to anything aren’t a good idea. You cannot properly train for striking unless you can generate movement. Using free standing bags limits you to front of the bag striking, and the bag is immobile.
The Importance of a Heavy Bag Brand
If you are shopping for the right heavy bag, brand names are not as crucial as with other types of combat sports gear. More important considerations when buying a heavy bag are how they are constructed and the weight of the bag. To me, both kinds of leather are the best materials for heavy bags.
The major Muay Thai brands (Fairtex, Twins, Top King) manufacture solid heavy bags. Since they are all constructed similarly, you can buy any of them and receive a high quality heavy bag.
An additional feature to consider while bag shopping is deciding if you prefer a zipper or a stitched closure. If you buy a filled bag, refilling with your preferred materials may be more difficult. However, empty heavy bags come with a zippered opening, allowing the easy filling of the back without having to deal with stitches.
My preference is to buy an empty bag and fill it with my desired material, but you can always buy a prefilled bag if filling is too much trouble for you. If you choose to buy a prefilled bag, it is important to find out how much the bag weighs. If I was to buy a prefilled bag, I would buy a heavier bag because it will be made of stronger material than the empty bags.
I believe that the Classic Heavy Bag is the best option for someone who can only purchase a single bag. The validity of my choice is confirmed by the presence of the Classic bag in all Muay Thai training facilities. Even with the existence of targeted training bags, the Classic bag should be a primary purchase.
As you continue to use the Classic bag, eventually, you can add a long bag so you can train on low kicking techniques. The longer model of the Angled bag or the Banana bag can act as your backup bag.
If your gym owns more than one heavy bag, use a heavier bag filled with stronger material to train and strengthen your shins. It is better to use the heavy bag than one of the antiquated methods traditionally used by Muay Thai fighters.
Using the heavy bag for training will allow you to work on every element of your Muay Thai game. Remember to use it to perfect your individual skills, and not just hit the back for the sake of hitting something.