How to Choose the Best Punching Bag for MMA, Muay Thai, and Boxing

how to choose the best punching bag

I’m a big believer in using the punching bag to sharpen my striking skills. Punching bags are meant to assist you with your hitting and kicking, regardless of your base martial art. Bag work helps with numerous techniques, including developing increased punching power and kicking with more precision. Punching bag training is versatile and provides fighters with numerous benefits.

Bag work is crucial to any striking training session, just as vital as sparring sessions, hitting the pads, and shadow boxing. While working on the bag, you can work on many different things to improve specific areas of your striking game.

Punching bags are an extremely important of a home training regimen. They are so crucial because they are so versatile. They allow you to practice cardio, specific techniques, or both with several activities and circuits you can do to keep you ready and skills sharp.

Selecting the proper punching bag depends on several criteria, most importantly, the striking areas that you want to improve. Every punching bag is made to assist you with improving certain striking disciplines. Some punching bags are made to improve your speed and timing, while other bags are crafted to enhance your power punching.

Punching Bag Training Advantages

  • Increased Punching and Kicking Timing
  • Concentration on Reflexes and Reaction Timing
  • Increases Punching Speed
  • Ability to Concentrate on your Footwork and Movement
  • Ability to Increase Punching and Kicking Coordination
  • Train to Improve Cardio and Conditioning
  • Improves Punching and Kicking Technique
  • Emphasizes distance and spacing techniques
  • Work to develop combination mechanics
  • Knuckle and shin conditioning

Buying the Right Punching Bag

Buying the appropriate punching bag for your use depends on several factors. Of course, the amount you can and are willing to spend is the initial determining factor of which punching bag you will buy. There is a wide range of cost for punching bags. There are discount bags that can be bought for under $50, and more expensive bags that cost hundreds of dollars.

Another purchasing consideration is what kind of bag stuffing you will want to use. If you use less expensive stuffing, you may not achieve the effect you want when you hit the bag. Also, which bag you choose will be affected by your martial arts background. A Muay Thai fighter will have different expectations from a punching bag than a Kung Fu practioner.

Finding the right punching bag to suit your needs is hard unless you have an idea how to search. It is difficult to narrow your search because of the many shapes, sizes and brands available.

Before you can easily find your ideal punching bag, let’s review some of the details you will need to consider while shopping for punching bags. I will discuss these details and then talk about some of the punching bag categories available in the marketplace.

Quality Versus Price

It is always tempting to buy a product at the lowest possible price. This is true for punching bags as it is for most things. I realize that is a realistic attitude for most of us. However, my martial arts experience has taught me that if you buy cheap gear, it will work and last like it was inexpensive.

When you purchase an inexpensive Everlast punching bag, you will know immediately that you are hitting something cheap and flimsy. It will move constantly, and it will make you very angry when you hit it with a decent amount of force. If you go ahead and buy a bag that costs somewhat more, you will end up with a better bag that will meet your needs, and won’t constantly frustrate you.

Filled and Unfilled Bags

In addition to cost, you will need to decide whether to buy a filled or unfilled bag. While many bags are sold filled, but the better made Thai bags are sold unfilled, and you must fill them yourself. Filling a punching bag is the surest way to get the desired training results. If you self-fill the bag, you will be able to use whatever materials you desire, thereby making the bag have the feel that you want it to have.

Most stuffed heavy bags contained torn clothing cut into tiny slivers. When a bag is first filled, the filling will be porous since there will be gaps in the stuffing in the bag. But as you begin to hit the bag, the stuffing will begin to cling together and provide more resistant to the pressure of striking. This process explains why the bottoms of punching bags harden and become inflexible.

As I stated above, you can purchase a bag that is already filled if you don’t want to stuff it yourself. However, remember that if you don’t like the consistency of the stuffing, you must rip open the bag and refasten it, which will take lots of time and difficulty.

Bag Construction

Another factor to consider when shopping for punching bags is the bag construction material. Real leather punching bags cost more than any other type of bag. Leather is premium fabric, and manufacturing costs are always passed on to the consumer. Leather is the best choice for punching bag material because it is long lasting and it feels great on contact. It is a great feeling to hit a leather bag fresh from the store.

Faux leather is the other popular punching bag fabric. This material doesn’t feel as good as genuine leather, but it works fine. A faux leather punching bag is the best choice if you are limited on funds. Imitation leather will work fine if the bag is filled with the proper material.

Many of the larger brands such as Everlast use faux leather because it keeps prices from being too high. It is impossible to buy a genuine leather bag for $50, but you can purchase a faux leather for that price. However, I want to make it clear that I do not like or use these discounted punching bags.

Canvas is the other low-cost punching bag fabric. These bags are the most discounted in the marketplace because canvas is such an inexpensive commodity. You can purchase an empty canvas punching bag for $25. These bags are not recommendable because of their rough texture. It feels hard and rough when you land a kick on the bag.

Bag Shape and Size

The bag size and shape must also be considered when buying a punching bag. When buying a bag for kids to use in training, it will be advisable to buy a 70 lb. bag. However, if you’re buying a bag for adults, and especially someone who throws powerful punches and kicks, you will need to buy a weightier bag to absorb greater impact.

Using a bag that is too light is frustrating due to the rapid movement that happens upon impact. Throwing kicks and punches while the bag is moving constantly is maddening and upsets a fighter’s rhythm and timing, making training sessions aggravating.

When you use a properly weighted punching bag, it swings less and gives you the chance to get in a great workout while the bag moves only when it should move. Be sure to get a good pair of Western Boxing gloves for bag training to make sure your hands are protected.

Bag Firmness

Bag firmness must be evaluated and decided on when shopping for a heavy bag. It is tempting to purchase a softer punching bag that won’t hurt as much to punch and kick, but it’s not a good idea. Stiffer punching bags will help strengthen your shins help toughen your body to adjust to the shock of hitting a harder bag.

It is difficult to train on a bag that is too soft, and then hit a bag (or a fighter), and be reminded how much harder it is making real contact. Of course, everyone has different purposes. Working with a softer bag makes sense if all you are doing is using it for exercise and basic health benefits. But if you are a fighter or want to train like you’re a fighter, you should use a harder bag that comes filled or one that you self-fill.

Bag Hanging

As you buy a punching bag, a related decision to make is deciding the bag’s location. One option is hanging a standard punching bag by a chain from a beam or other area suitable for mounting. Punching bags that hang are the most used heavy bags since they are free to swing fully and the user has freedom of movement as they work around the bag.

A free-standing bag is the choice for bag users who have limited space. Free-standing bags have built-in stands and can be used in many locations. A major problem with using these bags is the lack of a satisfactory feel when striking it. My experience with using them has been bad. If you have enough room to use a hanging bag, that’s what you should buy.

Many fighters will need to buy wall mounting brackets to use for hanging a bag from a wall. Other than inside of your house, the next place to anchor a punching bag is a hanging beam in your garage or one that is located outdoors. The important thing is finding an outcropping able to support the 100 to 150 lbs. of bag that will be moving back and forth.

Many bags feature a chain on top of the bag to extend its length. If you live in a home with a higher than normal ceiling, you will want to extend the chain as much as possible to keep the bag as far from the ground as possible.

Punching Bag Categories

Punching bags are currently sold in three main styles: heavy bags, speed skill bags and free standing bags/dummies. The first category, heavy bags, are made to allow fighters and trainees to launch punches and kicks, developing strength, stamina, and fundamentals. Heavy bags are available in a variety of styles, each one specialized to hone certain skills.

Speed bags (also known as maize and slip bags) help you to work on timing, avoiding punches, and footwork. Speed bags are specifically used for boxing practice because they are too small to land any strikes other than punches. Speed bags are a great compliment to heavy bags.

Heavy Bags

Used in These Combat Sports: Boxing, MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Taekwondo, Karate

Heavy bags are the most used punching bags in combat sports. Heavy bags are large enough to practice all four kinds of strikes. The hardness (sand) or softness (cloth) of the bag depends on what is used to fill it.

Standard heavy bags are found at combat sport gyms regardless of discipline. It is the most versatile bag and allows you to work on most of your basic strikes. The heavy bag allows fighters to hone their basic skills, hard strikes, and endurance. Its versatility makes it a great all around bag.

Many heavy bags hang at the waist, and swing as much as possible given how much they weigh and what kind of stuffing is inside the bag. Fighters usually fill these bags with torn cloth, which provides a great experience when striking the bags. Over time, the contents of the bag tightly settle at the bottom, causing that area to be extremely hard.

Filling a heavy bag with hard stuffing like sand creates a bag that is hard to hit and one with little mobility. On the other hand, filling a heavy bag with softer material creates an extremely mobile bag. The major advantage of using a hard-filled heavy bag is that it conditions your hands, knees, and especially your knees much more than you would by hitting a softer bag.

Long Heavy Bag (Banana Bag)

Used in These Combat Sports: MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing

Long heavy bags are used by fighter who are training with low kicks as well as other strikes. Long heavy bags are 6 feet tall, and are manufactured to replicate a full-sized fighter.

These bags are less mobile than most bags, and like heavy bags, stuffing material settles to the bottom of the bag, making this area extremely hard.

Long heavy bags work great for Muay Thai and MMA since you can practice all ranges of hand, leg, and foot strikes. Banana heavy bags are narrower than regular heavy bags, and the bags’ hardness depends on the stuffing used to fill the bags.

Banana bags are very versatile, and are made with faux leather or vinyl. They are equipped with D-ring construction underneath the bag to anchor it to the floor, reducing its mobility.

Angle Heavy Bag

Used in These Combat Sports: Muay Thai, Boxing, Kickboxing

The Angle Heavy Bag is made so that fighters can practice hand techniques such as uppercuts and body hooks. The Angle Bag’s unusual shape makes it heavier at the top and smaller at the bottom of the bag. The distinctive shape allows strikers to move underneath the bag, and throw punches that can’t be thrown on other bags.

Angle bags are constructed of fake leather and made to last a long time. Angle bags can be filled by the user to be hard or soft, depending on their reference. Many fighters stuff them with torn cloth because it provides the best approximation of a human body when hitting it with strikes.

The Angle bag works well if you can only use one heavy bag. It lets fighters work on all kinds of striking and sharpens their footwork.

It is a mid-range bag straddling the difference between standard heavy bags that are all the same height and width, and the Teardrop Bag (Maize Bag) with its unusual shape.

Teardrop Heavy Bag

Used in These Combat Sports: Muay Thai, Kickboxing

Another type of heavy bag that we need to discuss is the Teardrop Heavy Bag. The Teardrop Bag has a distinctive shape that allows fighters to strike it from many directions. Teardrop bags are perfect for throwing body punches and uppercuts.

In addition to throwing hand strikes with great effectiveness, the Teardrop bag works great for working on kicking, kneeing, and elbow strikes. The amount that the bag swings depends on how it is stuffed.

They can be filled with either soft or hard substances. Teardrop bags are designed for Kickboxing/Muay Thai because it allows knee strikes and uppercuts.

Free Standing (B.O.B) Bag

Used in These Combat Sports: Taekwondo, Kung Fu, and Other Traditional                    Martial Arts (Not for Use with Muay Thai or Western Boxing)

Free standing bags are heavy bags that stand on their own. Free standing bags are kept in home gyms and work great for fighters and martial artists who are too limited in space to hang regular heavy bags in their homes. Free standing bags are not used in gyms due to their unsuitability for hard striking.

These bags have the advantage of being portable, meaning you can put them away after training. Being free standing bags, there is no need to attach or bolt to a wall or post. These bags require minimum setup or construction. The only setup required is for the user to fill the base so that the bag remains stationary.

A commonly used free standing bag is the B.O.B. (Body Opponent Bag) bag. The B.O.B. bag is constructed from heavy-duty plastisol with urethane insulation. The B.O.B.’s base has either water or sand added to it stabilize it and keep it from moving.

Since the B.O.B. Bag is designed to imitate a human body, it allows fighters to attack the bag as if they were fighting another person. The bag doesn’t move like other punching bags, but fighters can use it to practice striking various body spots.

B.O.B. bags are adjustable, meaning you can tailor the height based on your own height. The adjustable feature allows you to simulate fights against opponents of varying heights.

B.O.B. bags are regularly used by old school martial arts practioners like Kung Fu and Karate fighters, and not as often by boxers, mixed martial artists, kickboxers, or Muay Thai fighters because they provide little resistance and will easily fall.

Speed Bag

Used in These Combat Sports: Boxing

Speed bags are a very popular kind of speed bag. Speed bags are crucial training equipment for boxers because using them develops quickness and timing. For speed bags to work properly, they should move rapidly, and for them to move rapidly, you must hit them exactly right, or your timing will be off.

Speed bags help boxers to keep their guard up, improving their sparring performance. The beneficial aspect of having your hands up means that you will hit the bag accurately. When working with the speed bag, you must keep your hands up, and constantly trade off hands while you are hitting the bag.

Speed bags are used exclusively by boxers and boxing gyms. Fighters from other disciplines only use this equipment when they are working on their boxing skills.

Floor to Ceiling (Double) End Bags

Used in These Combat Sports: Boxing

Floor to ceiling bags are very popular punching bags. Floor to ceiling bags work like speed bags, but they are double mounted from the floor and ceiling. When you hit the bag, it moves away and then back towards you.

The floor to ceiling bag’s size determines the degree of punching difficulty. A large floor to ceiling bag is easier to hit. Smaller floor to ceiling bags are more difficult to hit, and are used by veteran boxers who can hit a smaller bag because they have developed their footwork and technique.

These bags have adjustable height and tightness. The tighter the bag, the quicker it bounces back from a punch. Double Ended bags are larger floor to ceiling bags designed to look like a human body so you can work on precise striking.

Ceiling to floor bags work like speed bags because they help you polish your punching technique, quickness, and precision.

Slip Bags (Maize Bags)

Used in These Combat Sports: Boxing

Slip bags help boxers who want to work on their head movement. Just as a speed bag develops improved hand speed, slip bags improves head moving techniques without throwing punches. When a slip bag is in motion, you move side-to-side as if the bag is an opponent launching punches that you are avoiding.

If you are need to improve your head technique, this bag is exactly what you need. The slip bag is a great device that helps you become a better boxer without suffering actual damage.

Maize Bag

Used in These Combat Sports: Boxing

A bag related to the slip bag, the Maize bag is a smaller version of the Teardrop Heavy Bag. The Maize Bag is a powerful tool that lets boxers train striking and footwork simultaneously.

The Maize Bag get their name from what’s used as stuffing in them. These bags have a different reaction when you strike them. They are available in a small and large size. A small size maize bag is made for you to work on your reaction time and technique. It is not made to receive punches with great impact.

A large maize bag is designed for harder punching. Use the small maize bag for great overall training.

Wall Mounted Bags

Used in These Combat Sports: Boxing, Muay Thai (Hand and Elbow Strike)

Wall Mounted Bag are designed for wall mounting for fighters who want to practice combinations and footwork drills. Wall mount bags are ideal for people who want to work on boxing skills, particularly uppercuts.

This bag is not a vital part of someone’s home training regimen. A wall mounted bag is typically seen in Western Boxing or Thai gyms for fighters to hone their striking techniques.

Finding the Right Punching Bag

The advantage of you reading this article is that you are now better educated about the various kinds of punching bags. There are bags that work well in sharpening quickness and timing, but other punching bags are designed for improving striking techniques.

Boxers need to select a bag that allows them to sharpen their punches and footwork. However, Muay Thai fighters require a bag that can help to improve punches, elbows, kicks, and knees.

Heavy and long bags are adequate for fighters to improve their striking games. Dummy training can be fun, but it isn’t essential for becoming a better striker. Dedicated boxers who need to develop their hand skills can choose from a wide array of boxing only bags made to work on specific techniques.

What equipment a fighter chooses is usually motivated by how much money they have, how much space they have, and what you are trying to accomplish with your training. My main recommendation is for you to purchase a heavy bag if you have sufficient room. Heavy bags will permit fighters to practice all their striking skills: hands, feet, knees and elbows. Having a heavy bag means that they will be able to use their full complement of strikes, and not be limited in any way.

Basic heavy bags are enough for novice fighters and trainees. Long Banana Bags are available if you need to throw lower leg strikes. Having this equipment means that you will be able to train using every kind of striking technique and not have to raise or lower the bag.

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