Free Standing Punching Bags Vs. Heavy Bags

Buying your own punching bag is a brilliant way to increase the frequency of training by bringing it into your own home. Whether it’s MMA or boxing, training is important to developing stamina and strength, and by purchasing your own punching bag, you’ll have control over when you can work out and for how long. This is incredibly beneficial to those who work odd shifts or work in the evenings because you can set your own schedule and build your own routine to fit around that schedule that maximises building endurance and agility skills.

By gaining control of your training time, you’ll take control of your own health. A study in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that female boxers have high bone mineral density compared to other women who were the same age and anthropometric measurements1. Despite all the energy that female boxers spend during training and sparring sessions, which leads to low bod fat mass, they have higher bone density.

Training with a punching bag is the perfect workout to raise your heart rate and burn fat. Anyone who has punched a 65kg punching bag for any length of time knows that it is a full-body workout. You engage your whole body, including your core, shoulders, legs, and this can help to torch body fat and increase your metabolism. Hitting a punching bag also builds upper body strength, both muscles and bone density.

Another major benefit of training with a punching bag is that, in a controlled setting, you can fine tune your timing and improve your punching technique. Depending on your sport, a punching bag can help to learn how to time your punches and kicks and distancing, moving in and out of your opponent’s range. Hitting a punching bag can also help improve your punching and kicking coordination, and can give you the edge when learning advanced combinations.

Punching Bags: Heavy Vs. Free Standing

 Like any piece of workout equipment, there are many types of punching bags to accommodate any athlete for their combat sport. They come in many sizes and shapes, many of which are sport specific. Let’s look at two of the most popular punching bag types: Heavy and Free Standing. Both have some significant advantages and disadvantages, and so a careful consideration of each type is important to discovering the perfect punching bag for your home gym.

Heavy Punching Bag

Heavy bags are the most common type of punching bag found on TV and films. Hung from the ceiling, heavy bags come in a large assortment of sizes and lengths. Let’s look at some considerations to keep in mind when purchasing a heavy bag.

Heavy bags range in size from 23-68kgs, and some even weigh more. They also come in different assortments of lengths, with longer lengths used for combat sports that emphasise kicking. The longer length allows for low kicks. However, the longer the bag, the heavier the bag.

The Perfect Heavy Punching Bag Equation

A heavy bag that is too heavy may be incredibly hard to move, but a punching bag that is too light might not cause enough resistance. That’s why it’s important to find the perfect punching bag for your body type.

Here’s the rule for selecting the perfect punching bag: A punching bag should weigh 40%-50% of your weight. If you weigh 80kgs, consider buying a bag that weighs 35 to 40kgs.

One major issue that arises from heavy bags is that they need to be properly fixed to a ceiling, and this involves finding a floor joist or roof rafter to screw into. Also, installing a heavy bag involves attaching a mount with heavy duty lag bolts.

Advantages of a Heavy Bag:

  • Swings easily on a mount, and mimics fluid motions of an opponent
  • Heavier weights provide great resistance to build strength and endurance

Disadvantages of a Heavy Bag

  • Not mobile
  • Messy installation process

Free Standing Punching Bags: The Perfect Space Saver

Free Standing punching bags are perfect for home gyms because they’re portable and convenient. Unlike heavy bags, free standing bunching bags are a no-mess product. You don’t need to worry about installing them on your ceiling. Instead, you fill the reservoir at the bottom of the punching bag with either water and sand and you’re ready to hit it.

Owning a home gym involves strategy as you plan out floor space so that you don’t waste a single metre of space. If you’d still like to train, but are limited by space, consider purchasing a free standing punching bag specifically because you can tuck them away when you’re done working out. This allows you to customise your own home gym, and tear it down when you have company over.

Free standing punching bags are constructed from a cylindrical foam pads which are wrapped around a hollow plastic stem. The base of the stem holds a plastic reservoir that can be filled with either sand or water to provide a counterweight. 

At Martial Arts Mats Ireland we offer a Free Standing Zone Punching Bag with striking zones, numbered targets that allow you to train combinations of strikes in a specific sequence. Inside the punching bag is an intricate rocker stem mechanism that provides a more realistic feel when struck. 

Another type of free standing punching bag is the body punching bag, which resembles a human torso. This bag is perfect for MMA because it allows you to focus your blows on specific parts of the body, helping you to hone your striking skills and develop a more fluid transition from kicking to punching.

Some man shaped free standing punching bags are adjustable. This offers you the ability to shift your own workout from one combat discipline to another. For example, if you like to cross train and you’re starting with boxing, you could start out with the punching bag higher up so that your punches can connect with the upper body. But if you were to switch to karate, you could lower the punching bag to work on kicking the body of the man shaped bag. This freedom allows you to alter workouts while you’re in the middle of them.

Martial Arts Mats Ireland has both a Free Standing Man Punch Bag and a Free Standing Man Punch Bag XL. Both are adjustable, with the regular sized punching bag offering a height between 153cm and 178cms, and the larger man punching bag starting at 180cms in height.

Water Vs. Sand Free Standing Punching Bag Counterweight

Free standing punching bags have a reservoir that can be filled with either sand or water. This reservoir adds a counterweight to a free standing punching bag, which simulates the resistance and swing of a hanging heavy bag.

Water is the easiest material to fill the base of your punching bag with because comes straight from the tap in your home. The issue is that water has a tendency to leak through the cap of the reservoir when punched, especially when the free standing punching bag is pushed over. Water also forms condensation around the base during cold or humid weather.

Sand is a little harder to pick up, but it doesn’t have nearly as many issues with leaking as water does. The major problem with sand is that it can settle at the bottom, and if moisture gets in through the cap, it can create a concrete-like block in the base of your punching bag. If you’re emptying your free standing punching bag, just shake it up a little and that should break up any settled sand.

Although sand has its downsides, it’s the best material to fill your punching bag. It can easily be removed from the base of your punching bag, and it’s easy to find at your local landscaping supply store.

Advantages of a Free Standing Punching Bag

  • The mobility allows you to customise your workout space
  • Provides a spot to hang equipment when not in use.

Disadvantages of a Free Standing Punching Bag

  • Can fall over if the counterweight isn’t heavy enough
  • May not provide enough resistance as a heavy bag can

Honourable Mention:

The Drop Kick Murphy MMA Dummy Training Partner Punch Bag

For those who train for MMA, it’s always hard to transition from stand up striking to on the ground training. One product which can allow you to train your ground game is the Drop Kick Murphy, a heavy duty, high impact training dummy that allows you to practice on the ground striking, locks, and chokes.

Training dummies can be incredibly helpful to pinpoint specific pressure points on the human body. On Martial Arts Mats Ireland, a recent competition winner explained that these bags are great for marking up with a marker. Take different coloured markers to lay out strategic places, like the arterial placement and windpipe on the throat to practice proper arm placement for a choke. With the Drop Kick Murphy, the possibilities are endless when you’re tailoring your training to specific problem spots in your technique.


There are obvious advantages to both heavy bags and free standing punching bags. Heavy bags are great for providing an authentic gym feel to your home, but having a bag hanging from your ceiling might clutter up your living space. A free standing punching bag offers the freedom to move it around and even to stack equipment on top of it. A free standing punching bag is a no-mess solution to the difficult mounting of a heavy bag. For those who want to add a dimension of training to their flat, a free standing punching bag may fit your lifestyle more than a static heavy bag.

Author: David Van Kooten

1.Trutschnigg B, Chong C, Habermayerova L, Karelis AD, Komorowski J. “Female boxers have high bone mineral density despite low body fat mass, high energy expenditure, and a high incidence of oligomenorrhea”. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, Metabolism. 2008;33(5):863-869. doi:10.1139/H08-071



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