Punching bags are one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll find at your local boxing or MMA gym. No other piece of equipment will help you build stamina and strength like a punching bag can. In fact, a punching bag can help you build endurance in your shoulders and arms, whilst also building your reflexes and hand-eye coordination. The punching bag is a staple in the gym for both new and experienced fighters. Using a punching bag, new fighters learn how to use footwork to properly put power behind their punches, whilst seasoned fighters gain speed and endurance. If you’re looking for one item to train your cardiovascular endurance, a good punching bag might be the item that you choose.
In this article, we are going to examine two different types of punching bags: hanging heavy bags and freestanding punching bags. Both of them are great pieces of equipment to own, but each has their own benefits and drawbacks. We are going to look at each type of punching bag to help you find the perfect punching bag for your own home gym.
What Is a Hanging Punching Bag?
A hanging punching bag, also referred to as a heavy bag, is one of the most iconic pieces of gym equipment, and has been used for hundreds of years to simulate fighting a real opponent. Most hanging punching bags have an outer layer of leather, canvas, or PU. They’re usually filled with anything from fabric, sand, rubber, or anything else that can add firmness and weight to the bag. Hanging punching bags are also relatively heavy, usually weighing between 32 kg and 68 kg.
These punching bags are usually installed into floor joists or ceiling rafters through the use of lag bolts and a bracket, though you can also purchase nylon straps which can wrap around floor joists to hold the bag up. In addition, you can also purchase a specialised heavy bag stand, and this allows you to set up your hanging punching bag without drilling holes in your ceiling.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of Hanging Punching Bags?
Heavy bags are an essential part of the training regimen of boxers and mixed martial artists because they provide the resistance that is needed to gain experience in striking. Not only that, a 15 minute training session on a hanging punching bag can be extremely exhausting, and can push your cardiovascular endurance to the limit. Let’s look at the benefits and the drawbacks of purchasing a heavy bag for your own home gym:
Practice Offensive Strikes and Defensive Movements
There is a give and take with a hanging punching bag you don’t get with a freestanding punching bag, as it’s able to move, take blows, and swing back. This mimics an actual fight with an opponent, and each strike hits home and feels authentic. The bag absorbs the blows and moves back, corresponding to the power and force of your strike. This forces you to manoeuvre around the bag and put yourself in the perfect position to hit it again.
In addition, hanging punching bags also allow you to train your defensive skills when the bag moves back towards you. What comes up must come down, and a swinging heavy punching bag can help to mimic an offensive attack from an opponent, teaching you valuable skills on how to dodge and move away from strikes. Hanging punching bags are great to practise your footwork, agility, and defensive skills, and this is because a real opponent in a match is always moving. When you strike a heavy bag, it sways and moves, never staying in the same place twice. The same can’t be said for freestanding punching bags, which are stationary targets.
Heavy bags are designed to take a lot of abuse and are incredibly durable. They are also an incredibly simple piece of equipment, with no moving parts or springs which can be broken. A hanging punching bag is a leather bag sewed together with premium stitching which simply hangs suspended from the ceiling with the use of chains. Sometimes, the simplest things are the easiest to keep up, and if you stroll into an old boxing gym, there is a good chance you’ll see a couple bags in there which are older than some athletes in the gym. Hanging punching bags are made to last.
Another benefit of a hanging punching bag is that they are significantly less expensive than a freestanding punching bag. As mentioned above, hanging punching bags are simple—just a leather bag with some filling—which makes them a little cheaper than a freestanding punching bag.
Interested in a hanging punching bag? Check out the Tuf Wear 6ft PU Punch Bag
More Difficult Installation
Here’s the major issue with hanging heavy bags, as they are difficult to install and leave holes in your ceiling. The installation process is a bit more time-consuming because hanging punching bags are heavy objects. They require proper installation to stay suspended over the ground, which involves drilling into wood floor joists and attaching them with heavy duty lag bolts. If you do not hit solid wood, there’s a good chance the bracket holding the heavy bag will fail and the bag could fall.
You can also invest in a hanging punching bag stand, which suspends the punching bag from the floor. However, by adding a stand, you are increasing the total price of a hanging punching bag, which basically brings it to the same price as a freestanding punching bag. In addition, stands for punching bags are bulky and require a lot of space to fit in an area.
Takes Up More Space
Although the bag itself doesn’t take up a lot of room in your gym, when you’re installing your hanging bag, consider how far the bag swings and how much room you need to move around it. A good rule when installing a hanging punching bag is that you should install the bag at least 1.5m away from any walls or beams. This gives the bag freedom to swing and move, whilst also allowing you enough room to move around the bag in order to practise footwork.
Not Very Portable
Let’s be honest, once you’ve got your heavy bag installed, you’re not going to want to take it down off of the bracket. Heavy bags can weigh between 32kg and 68kg, which will definitely make you think twice before attempting to take the bag down. This means that hanging heavy bags are difficult to move, and if you go by what was mentioned above, you’re limited in the amount of space you have left to train in. If you’ve got 1.5 m of safety space around the bag, then that’s usable space which is being taken up by the heavy bag. Alternatively, with a freestanding punching bag, you can easily slide it out to use for a training session, and then push it back into the corner when you’re done.
What is a Freestanding Punching Bag?
Freestanding punching bags are not attached to the ceiling, but sit on the ground. In order to prevent the bag from tipping over, you can fill the base with either water or sand to anchor it in place. Most freestanding punching bags utilise a rocker mechanism which helps provide a realistic punching feeling when striking it. Essentially, the rocker is a spring-loaded feature which adds resistance when punching or kicking, and also provides stability to the bag and prevents it from tipping over.
Freestanding punching bags come in several types, from the simple cylinder bag to ones that mimic the appearance of a human torso. Some cylinder freestanding punching bags actually have target markers, which can help you train combinations of strikes, allowing you to hit different numbered targets each time. Also, freestanding punching bags that are shaped to look like a human torso feature an outer layer that has a realistic flesh feel, allowing you to train against something that resembles a real opponent rather than just a boring cylinder.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of a Freestanding Punching Bag?
If you are looking for a compact, portable punching bag which you can take out and use whenever you feel like, then a freestanding punching bag may be exactly what you need. Also, some freestanding punching bags adjust to your height, allowing you to create a customisable workout which is suited to your own body. Let’s dig into some advantages and disadvantages of owning a freestanding punching bag:
When you purchase a freestanding punching bag, the installation is easy, and all you need to do is fill the base with either sand or water. Most freestanding punching bags come already assembled, so you can use them right out of the box. No need to get out a stud finder, power drill, or any other tools like you would with a hanging heavy bag.
Portable and easy to store
Since a freestanding punching bag is portable, you can slide the punching bag into a corner of your room when you’re done. This opens up a tonne of space for you to use in the rest of your workouts, making it ideal for home gyms where athletes also train using free weights. Even when the base is filled with sand or water, you can easily slide a freestanding punching bag around and put it in the exact spot that you want it.
Softer and easier to strike
Freestanding punching bags are made from a softer type of foam, which helps to ease the stress caused from punching and kicking. For someone new to MMA and boxing, a freestanding punching bag can help you as you learn how to properly punch, saving the bones and ligaments in your hands from injury. If you own a freestanding punching bag, continue to wear gloves and hand wraps.
Interested in a freestanding punching bag? Here are the two most popular models available:
Prone to toppling over
Freestanding punching bags are prone to toppling over, especially when punched or kicked near the top of the bag. If you have a powerful punch or kick, you are more than likely going to be able to topple the bag over. Even if the base is full of sand or water, you can still risk knocking the bag over. Also, freestanding punching bags have a tendency to slide across the ground with every strike, causing you to disrupt your workout to go over and push the bag back into the starting spot.
Requires you to do less footwork
Another downside of a freestanding punching bag is that it doesn’t offer you the same level of movement to train footwork and speed. A hanging punching bag swings and rotates from the top down, offering movement within your field of vision, whilst freestanding punching bags move from the bottom and have a tendency to move away from you rather than towards you. This means that you won’t be able to work on as much footwork as you could with a freestanding punching bag.
Freestanding punching bags aren’t designed to be punched with the same force that you would as a hanging heavy bag. Because of all the moving parts and springs, especially found in the rocker mechanism, they tend to break easier. In the less expensive models, the springs inside the rocker mechanism are loud and make a noise every time you hit it. However, more high-quality freestanding punching bags are usually built more durable.
Final verdict: hanging or standing?
It really depends on the type of athlete you are and the type of home gym you’re creating. For example, if you have tonnes of space available, and you’re willing to put a dedicated boxing space in your gym, then a hanging punching bag would be great for you, as it is the less expensive option and is great to train cardiovascular endurance. However, be sure to always wear hand wraps and boxing gloves before you strike your heavy bag, as you can easily injure your hands by punching a bag with your bare hands.
Alternatively, if you’re limited in space, and would like to have a punching bag that can be portable, then a freestanding punching bag is exactly what you need. Also, if you train in mixed martial arts, and would like to practise combinations of movements which include grappling, then purchasing a man-shaped punching bag may be exactly what you’re looking for. The man-shaped punching bags are perfect because they mimic the look of a real opponent, offering realistic flesh like feel. These are also height adjustable, making it especially helpful for those training low kicks and knee strikes.
Owning your own punching bag can help you train speed, agility, and even strength, making it one of the most important pieces of equipment that you can own in your own home gym. Use the tips provided above to decide on what type of punching bag to purchase. Ultimately, the decision is yours on what punching bag fits your training regimen and style, but once you find a punching bag that fits your needs, you’ll be hard-pressed to part with it.