January 12, 2021 9 min read

Every good workout incorporates building muscle, endurance, and sprinkles in a little cardio. The thing is cardio sucks. Often it’s boring and agonizing. Maybe your routine calls for a run, or some monotonous jump rope.

What if it didn’t have to be like that?

Heavy bag workouts are full-body exercises that are bound to get your heart rate up. You’re bouncing around on your toes, and throwing punches, you need to memorize the combos you’re practicing and improvise. Your mind is engaged, and punching a big bag is just plain fun. 

Where do you start, and what does a heavy bag workout even look like? Let’s break it down. By the time we’re done with you, you’ll be punishing the heavy bag in your gym with the best of them.

A Bag by Any Other Name

Let’s start by figuring out what makes a heavy bag.

Heavy bags are cylinder-shaped bags, usually suspended in front of the boxer. They’re very heavy, you usually want to train with a bag that’s more or less half your weight. That’s not a hard and fast rule, you can just round up to the nearest available weight. It’s not going to be the end of the world if you get a bag that’s heavier than you. 

The heavy bag is completely unlike speed bags. Speed bags are filled with air and designed to test your reflexes and accuracy. They move around a great deal with every strike. 

They’re usually four to five feet in length, and they’re built to take a beating. Heavy bags are for building your resilience, most of your time practicing your boxing technique is going to be spent hitting something. If your hands are too tender for that, then you’re not going to get very far. So you’re using these bags to build up your tolerance to that kind of impact as much as you’re using them to build your physical endurance.

There are different variants of heavy bags, like the Muay Thai banana bags. Those are just longer and more narrow, so you can practice your low kicks more effectively. There are also uppercut bags. These are shaped like a wrecking ball or a teardrop, and they’re for exactly what you’d think they’re for. You can also find freestanding bags that are placed on a weighted base. These are just as good as a suspended bag if that’s all you have available for your workout. 

Punching Your Way To Success

Why use a heavy bag for your exercise routine?

They’re one of the best tools for a full-body workout. You want to be bobbing and weaving as well as throwing heavy and quick punches. There’s not a part of your body that escapes the full-body punishment you throw at it when you’re practicing your punches. It’s a much better option for getting your heart rate up than running. You’re really getting in there and working out your entire body.

You’re also not adding any weight to your workout when you’re doing the heavy bags, so you’re getting in a high number of reps. It’s amazing calisthenic exercise.

Calisthenics is all about exercising several muscle groups at the same time and covering your entire range of motion. These bodyweight exercises burn through fat. Your body wants to be as efficient as possible. 

As you get stronger doing calisthenic exercises, you burn up more of the extra energy you have stored in your fat cells. As your muscles develop, you’re able to do more work, which burns more energy, which burns more fat.

Hitting the heavy bags effectively will up your dexterity as you learn your combos, it’ll sharpen your mind as you memorize your movements and visualize your opponents while practicing your shadowboxing, and you’ll tone your muscles as you burn fat. 

Man Boxing

The Basics

If you’re truly just starting out on the heavy bags, you’re going to need to know the basics. 

Stance: The most important thing when you’re starting any new exercise is your form. So when you’re squaring up against your immortal foe, the punching bag, here are some things to review about your stance. 

  • Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, you want balance and a solid foundation.
  • Put one foot slightly ahead of the other. The foot you’re shifting forward is going to be on the same side you’ll throw your jabs with. In most cases, this will be your left foot, unless you’re a southpaw. 
  • Put half of your weight on your front foot, and raise your rear heel slightly 
  • Bring both of your hands up to just above your chin
  • Make a fist, keep your thumbs on the outside, and keep your elbows tucked in towards your sides
  • Give your knees a slight bend
  • Congratulations, now you’re standing in the guard position

Once you’ve gotten your stance down, be sure to reexamine it each time you step up to the plate until it feels like second nature. 

Now that you’ve got that down, we’re going to learn the different punches and movements you’ll need for these beginner exercises.

Jab:

  • The jab is incredibly basic. Start in guard position, and extend the arm one the same side as your forward foot towards your target
  • The speed of your jab comes from how quickly you extend your arm. Keep your arm relaxed when you jab, and you’ll get the most speed out of it possible. 
  • If you’re having a hard time getting power out of your jab, focus on rotating your arm and tightening your fist.

Cross: 

  • From your guard position, throw your rear hand toward your target
  • Visualize your hand moving in a straight line, don’t throw your hand upwards or scoop it towards your target
  • The power in the cross is generated from rotating your torso and hips while you shift your weight onto your lead foot

Hook: Hooks are usually thrown with your lead hand, but you can also throw a rear hook. We’re going to focus on the lead hook

  •  Throw your lead hand towards your target, hooks are typically thrown from up close
  • Pivot with your core to transfer power to your fist

Uppercut:The uppercut is another punch you can throw with either hand. For our purposes, we’re going to focus on using your rear hand. This is another close-range punch

  • The uppercut is thrown exactly like a cross but from the bottom rather than having your fist approach in a straight line from its guard position.
  • Make sure you rotate your torso and shift your weight while throwing your uppercut
  • Don’t overextend your punch

Cover Blocking: Boxing isn’t all about punching. You’ll get the daylights knocked out of your if all you’re doing is throwing punches. For heavy punching bag training, you want to employ as many of your boxing techniques as possible to keep your heart rate up and your skills sharp.

  • Cover blocking starts in the guard position, and its quite simple
  • Bring your hands up to your head
  • Press them there and bring your forearms together

Slides: This is the only footwork we’re going to start you with. It’s an effective way to cover distance without dropping your guard or moving your guard position around.

  • Start in the guard position
  • If you’re moving forward, step forward with the ball of your foot rather than your heel, and then slide your rear foot forward
  • If you’re moving backwards, step first with your back foot, again with the ball rather than your heel, and slide your forward foot back
  • Always move your feet the same distance to keep yourself balanced and ready to move

    Punch Up the Wardrobe

    You don’t want to just start whacking away at a heavy bag without the right equipment. Your hands are full of delicate bones, and you’re going to be throwing a lot of weight into your punches. To best protect yourself, at the very least get yourself some and hand wraps.

    Boxing gloves are mostly to keep boxers from breaking their hands on each other’s bodies. The wraps help protect your tendons and muscles by setting your joints and they also absorb some of the impacts on your wrists.

    5 Heavy Bag Workouts for Beginners

    You can combine these rounds into one twenty-minute workout, or you can work on one specifically each day, taking breaks in between each set. You’re going to alternate through all of the punches, blocks, and slide that you’ve learned up above. 

    Always start your workout with a warmup. You can get your blood pumping and start ramping up your heart rate with some shadowboxing.

    • Get your gloves, wraps, or both on
    • Stay light on your toes and box with an imaginary opponent
    • Make sure to mix in all of the punches you know. Commit to them all, remembering to block, slide, and turn your body appropriately for each punch.

    Round One:

    Basic Training

    This is the ground floor. This basic workout is where you’re going to practice your combos and your footwork. This is the foundation you’re going to be building all of your boxing skills on, and you’re never going to leave it behind. Take the time to really focus on your skills, and this will be indisposable.

    • Start with one minute of all-out punching. Alternate between jabs, hooks, crosses, and uppercuts. After each punch, make sure to fully return to your guard position, and don’t let your arms drop.
    • Move with the bag, and throw your punches when the bag is an appropriate distance from you.
    •  Move on to one minute of hooks with each arm
      • Remember that hooks are close range punches, get closer to the bag for these
    • Move on to one minute of speed.
    • Keep your feet moving
    • Try to keep your punches moving as quickly as possible
    • Keep your slides tight, and don’t let up until the minute is done

    Round Two:

    This is a HIIT version of a heavy bag workout. You’re going to do exactly what’s on the label. Hit the bag fast and hard. Don’t let up until the interval is over, reward yourself with a short breather, and get back in there.

    • After a brief warmup start throwing quick combos at the heavy bag for twenty seconds
    • Rest for ten seconds, keeping your footwork up
    • Repeat eight times
    • You can make this HIIT workout longer by taking a break for about three minutes and continuing for as many eight set rounds as you can muster

    Round 3:

    Fancy footwork

    This is the closest your heavy bag training is going to get to the cursed monotony of the treadmill. You’re still an active participant here, though, because that bag isn’t going to get moving on its own. Pick some combos you want to work on, and use them to get your bag moving.

    • Get yourself warmed up
    • Throw a couple of combos at the bag to get it moving
    • Move around the bag, following the movement of the bag, tossing in some quick combos to keep it going
    • Do this for three minutes
    • Rest for a full minute
    • Get back at it for three full rounds

    Round 4:

    Deadly Accuracy

    This accuracy training is designed to hone the precision of your punches. If you’re going to start sparring with a partner, this is non-negotiable. You need to learn to work an area or pick out openings. If you’re missing your opportunities to get a hit in on an opponent, then you’re never going to win a match. 

    • Apply some targets to the bag
    • Warmup, and get the bag moving
    • Follow the movement of the bag
    • Focus your punches only on the target you’ve placed on the bag
    • Repeat for three rounds, one minute each

    Round 5:

    Power Punching

    • Get warmed up by throwing light punches at the bag using about half of your strength
    • Throw combos of your punches at the bag, keeping yourself moving the entire time
    • Now that you’re warmed up, get a partner to hold the bag still
    • Let go and unleash a barrage of full power punches for about 30 seconds to a minute
    • Take breaks between barrages that are the same length as the barrages themselves
    • Repeat for five rounds
    Man boxing

      Tips of Your Knuckles

      As you start your heavy bag journey, there are a couple of things you should always keep in mind. If you start with good habits, you won’t have to worry about fixing them later.

      • Keep your jabs and crosses are straight punches
      • The force of your punches comes from rotating your body. Transferring the weight of your body through your arms is always going to be more powerful than flailing your fists
      • Always pull your arms back into your guard position
      • Plant your feet when you throw your punches
      • Keep yourself moving when you’re not throwing punches. Follow the movements of the bag
      • If you’re not throwing uppercuts at an uppercut bag, focus on sliding your fists up the side of the bag, rather than trying to jam your hands into a heavy cylinder 

      The Final Blows

      Heavy bag training is an amazing addition to any workout routine. It’s a high-intensity routine that will burn fat and add to your endurance immensely. You’re getting in excellent cardio and high rep exercise that opens the door to a whole new world of activity.

      The heavy bags are a great way to learn the basics you need for boxing, and they’ll open the door to sparring with partners. Heavy punching bags are excellent for getting your general fitness level up, and everything you do will supplement your punching. The dumbbells and every single time you build muscle helps you throw your weight more effectively. The stronger your upper body is, the more time you’ll be able to spend in the boxing gyms, learning this beautiful martial art.


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