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Heavybag advice for beginners

Heavybag advice for beginners.

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you know all about the benefits of a punching bag workout. And you probably know how to design a good heavybag workout plan. So let’s get right to the advice about how to get the most out of your heavy bag.

Ceiling-mounted or free-standing

There are two considerations:

  • The height of your heavybag
  • The space around the bag

What you should know about heavybag height

The problem with many heavybag stands is that you can’t mount the bag high enough. Unless you’re short, you’ll be jabbing right near the top of the punching bag. This means you’ll miss the bag’s “sweet spot”, which isn’t very satisfying. Read how high should you hang a heavybag for more details.

So, if possible, mount the punching bag from a ceiling, tree branch, or other high place. This way, your bag will swing when you punch it. However, don’t mount it in your house (or any other structure you care about). Your punching bag will literally destroy your house bit by bit; it will shake your house apart and give everyone a headache. If you can’t use a garage or outbuilding, either get a heavybag stand or use a free-standing bag. Read Don’t let your heavybag shake your house apart for information and options on how to avoid excessive heavybag vibration.

The bag’s movement is a big part of why heavybag training is such a good workout. Bags that are rooted to one spot (like free-standing punching bags) won’t give you as intense a workout. When you don’t want a free-swinging bag to swing or move excessively, just connect a cord from the bottom of the bag to a weight or tie-down point. Most good heavybags have a D-ring at the bottom for this purpose.

Space around your punching bag: What you should know

The more room around your punching bag, the better. This is especially true for free-swinging heavybags.

You want a minimum of 5 feet (1.6 meters) all around your bag so you have enough room to work the bag. If you plan to kick the bag, you’ll need more room because kicks are longer-range attacks than punches.

It’s OK to mount the bag so you have less than 5 feet around one or two quadrants, but obviously it’s best to avoid that if at all possible.

How heavy should my punching bag be?

A good rule of thumb is to get a heavy bag that weighs approximately 50% of your body weight. So, a 100-pound bag should be OK if you weight 200 (or less).

If your bag doesn’t swing free on a long chain, the weight is not as important. It’s only when the bag is free-swinging that the weight has a real effect on the quality of your workout.

Other equipment needed for a heavybag workout

Handwraps

Don’t hit the heavy bag without hand wraps. Yes, I know that many of you want to practice punching for self-defense, and you think punching bare-handed is more realistic and useful than punching with wraps and/or gloves. But this has been proven incorrect.

Without wraps, you won’t be able to work out anywhere near as hard as you can with proper safety equipment. And more importantly, you’ll set yourself up for wrist injuries.

Repeatedly hitting the heavy bag without hand-wraps (especially as a beginner) will almost certainly result in sore wrists or an acute injury.

Padded gloves

Again, don’t fool yourself. You won’t be able to train with good intensity unless you wear padded gloves while hitting the bag.

Wear padded gloves and avoid sore knuckles and abrasions on your knuckles and fingers.

Read don’t punch the heavybag bare-handed for more information.

Boxing footwear

Boxing shoes or boots are not just for the boxing ring.

Anyone who practices punching regularly will benefit from wearing good boxing shoes.

Boxers and other strikers do a lot of pivoting. This pivot gets the body weight behind a punch and increases the effective range of motion. But it has a drawback: if your footwear “grips” the ground, friction during the pivot stresses the ankle and knee joints. Protect your joints during boxing workouts by wearing good shoes that were designed for boxers. Over the long term, this will contribute to your continued good joint health.

Knuckle guards (optional)

Just like padded gloves, knuckle guards keep you from bruising and scraping your knuckles.

Some people stick some sponge in their handwraps to cushion the knuckles, but knuckle guards are better because there’s no chance they’ll shift around during a workout, and because they don’t take up as much room in the gloves.

Round timer (optional)

Heavybag workouts lend themselves very well to interval training. An interval timer is a great addition to your workouts because you can use it for all sorts of things, not just striking training.

Increase your cardio training intensity while decreasing the amount of time needed for your workouts by using intervals.

Shin/foot guards for kicking (optional)

Kicking the heavy bag is practical for self-defense. And, it’s fun. But don’t do it without wearing protective equipment.

Although there are kicking bags designed for muay thai or kickboxing training, you probably have a bag that was designed for boxers. Boxer’s punching bags are hard and you don’t want to kick them without protective gear. Trust me, you can work out harder if you’re properly protected.

Cross-training equipment

Simply put, this is any sort of fitness equipment that you want to use in conjunction with your bag work. Examples include: a jump rope, medicine ball, or exercise mat. You’ll get in much better shape by mixing it up and combining several types of exercise than you will by sticking only to punching training.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven August 4, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Just to let you know 5ft isn’t 2.6 meters it’s 1.5. Great info besides!

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admin August 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Thanks Steven! I changed it to 1.6.

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michel sawma August 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm

about kicking the bag without shin guards you are very wrong mate cause this is the only way you can condition your shins for muay thai or for kickboxing or self defense. as long as you don’t hit with your ankle you are fine for the first week or two you may see some bruises on your shins but after that hitting the bag becomes second nature and it will condition your shins so you can hit with greater force and confidence.

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admin August 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Thanks for the comment Michel. Yeah, you make a good point.

Competitive kickboxers certainly need to kick without shinguards. As you know, they have to build up their tolerance for this sort of physical damage. But those sorts of folks are not reading this page; they already know this stuff.

Let me give you some insight into my thinking process so you know why I write this sort of article…

Here’s the thing: I think “conditioning your shins” for self defense is probably the worst use of time I can imagine. Unarmed, hand-to-hand combat is a poor “self defense” strategy; it’s fine as a last resort, but in a dangerous situation where the safety and/or property of your family and friends is at risk, it’s a joke. And I say this as someone who has practiced fighting sports for longer than most of my readers have been alive. The truth is: practical, reliable self-defense comes from knowing how to use a handgun and having a CCW license. Anything less is simply a dangerous fantasy.

Anyone who trains for a while will easily handle a mutually agreed upon fight against an untrained bully of similar size to himself: whether their shins are “conditioned” or not.

It’s my opinion that there is a “tough guy” attitude prevalent in combat sports and this attitude is the main reason it’s difficult to get these wonderful sports to break into the mainstream. Part of my mission here is to inform folks that boxing and martial arts is for just about everyone.

But to do that, I have to also convince people that the drawbacks — bruises, injuries, etc. — are preventable and avoidable. Just as you can practice fencing without skewering your opponent, I believe it’s possible for casual fitness enthusiasts to use the fighting sports as a way to keep in shape without risking injuries or bruises that are out of place in civilized, adult society.

So it’s fine for kids who want to feel tough to “condition” their shins, but I want to assure novices that there are workable options for grown people who just want a good, practical form of exercise without the pain and bruises.

(PS – Trainees who wear protective equipment hit with “greater force and confidence” too.)

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luke November 25, 2011 at 4:24 am

im into boxing and train 4 times aweek hit the bag real hard but when ever i am at training and am told to kick the bag i aim for the shin to hit the bag but its so easy to miss and hurt my foot or toe or ankle or even my shin

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cindy December 15, 2011 at 8:44 am

My 15 year old son would like a punching bag for Christmas. He has been requesting the free standing “Bob” that we see in our local sporting goods store, but after reading your article I’m convinced that buying the heavy bag stand and mounting the punching bag to that would be the way to go. Also, thank you for listing the appropriate weight. Your article (and the comments below) have been VERY helpful! :)

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admin December 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm

One thing in favor of free standing bags like BOBs is that they have a great resale value — people love them because they’re relatively easy to move around.

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paul Smith December 8, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I really appreciate your ‘common sense’ approach to advancing this sport. Thanks.

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Butch March 14, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I think you have the right attitude and teaching approach. Thank you for that. It’s good to choose safety over machisimo, especially for those of us pursuing health and fitness, flexibility and strength, not street fighting skills or a career in martial arts. Those of us that won’t ever be fighting anyone don’t need to harden our shins. And you are 100% correct about hand-to-hand combat being used for self-defense as anything but a last resort. I would add thought, that people should think twice about pulling a trigger–jail is no picnic, and nobody should assume that they won’t end up there at least temporarily if someone is shot. I speak from experience. Use hand-in-hand only as a last resort, but also use a gun only as a last resort. Even a beating is better than prison. Now if a life is at stake, or the life of a loved one, all bets are off, and concealed carry or nightstand protection is the way to go. Thanks for your article, insight, and conviction.

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