You could reasonably be forgiven for thinking that the beaten up heavy bag gently swaying in the corner of the gym serves only one purpose - to lump it as hard as you physically can, then stroll off after showing that bag who’s boss. Fortunately that’s not the case, and a good heavy bag can be versatile for boxing, MMA, Muay Thai and other combat sports.
Sure, we all like to throw a haymaker at one every now and again, but here’s a few heavy bag workouts so you can be productive with often the most underrated piece of kit in the gym.
Fitness (Floyd Mayweather hits the heavy bag) One of the most simple ways to utilise a heavy bag is to build what is loosely referred to as your 'cardio'. The main reason most people fail with this is because they don’t do it with the intensity required. If you want to get fitter, you have to push yourself beyond your usual comfort zone. This is better achieved with a coach or training partner keeping watchful eye so you don’t slack.
I’ll offer up a workout that I’ve seen coming right from the top on a day sat in on a Wolfslair session in their heyday, with Bisping, Rampage and a few others all preparing for fights. The boxing coach had all of the guys line up at a bag, sometimes two to a bag, and do the following. -30 seconds non-stop straight punches -30 seconds non-stop body hooks -30 seconds knee-to-chest tuck jumps -Repeat x 2 Doing that twice is your three minute boxing round. Take your 30-60 second rest, and then do it again for the required amount of time. You can progress as you move through camp to more rounds, but if you’re fresh then you’re not working hard enough.
Again, the key is intensity and you know deep down when you’re not giving it everything. The beauty of this one is that it can be moulded in many different ways. You can switch up the punches, the exercises (burpees of course work well, press ups etc), and the times. Why not try a five minute round? Give it a whirl. A good bag for this is the Revgear Double End Bag - great for straight shots and angling the body hooks!
Movement Another great way to use the heavy bag is for aiding your movement and footwork. You hit a bag that’s attached to the ceiling and it moves, sways, and goes off in different directions. Rather than grabbing on to try and keep it still, you should embrace that movement as a natural part of your heavy bag progressions.
There isn’t too much explanation to this and creativity in your shots is key, but moving with the bag, stepping into the gaps created, and countering where the openings arise will help you in a lot of ways. Concentrate on how you’re using your footwork to get out of there, pivoting, creating angles and not just forwards and backwards. When the bag is swinging back towards you, use your judgement as to where the best place would be to strike, just as if an opponent was stepping back in.
They key here is to jab as you move, and pick the bigger shots when you can plant your feet. Never make the base narrower before you’ve widened it, and get comfortable hitting and moving. For movement drills you will find this Pro Box Maize Bag very useful, or their Original Super Heavy Punchbag.
For MMA ground and pound Take that big lump of leather off the bracket, place it on the ground and hit it a lot. That’s the basic premise for this one. Again, there are many variables for interval training on this one, and mixing it into circuits. However, one one of my favourite uses is to really work on the forward hip pressure and punching. Have your coach or training partner harness you up (you can use a large band if you don’t have a harness). Set the amount of time - say 45 seconds on and 15 seconds off for a five minute round. In the 45 seconds on you work as hard as you can to drive your hips in and create the base needed for effective ground and pound, punches and elbows. You move around the bag 360 degrees, with the person at the opposite end following you round. They can give you more or less resistance depending on your capacity at the time, or just keep mixing it up.
This is an excellent drill for building that working endurance for fights - maybe getting pushed away with the legs from an open guard, but leaning back in with the hips to get to a striking position. It can build mental strength too, as well as technique. Definitely worth a go. The Revgear Throwing Bag is perfect for this use.
Power Finally, because there is good reason to use it for generating power aswell, I’ll conclude with this. Here’s one I gleaned from a gym in Sydney with a very good pedigree and some former Olympians in their ranks. The basis of it is a three-punch combination, but with a difference. On every third punch you really dig in for the power, but the preceding two are lighter, feeler shots. For example, you might go double jab - left hook to the body. You might paw the jab out to gauge the distance, and then really fire in the left. Another could be jab - cross - left hook. Nice and long with the straight shots, and then really turn over with the hook to generate power.
Try to be smooth and fluid, but powerful on the third shot every time. The reason this is better than walloping the bag with single shots is because it gets your body used to the mechanics of punching in combinations and still hitting heavy. To really get a cardio blast too you can do it continuously without resting in-between the combinations. As with all bag work, I'd recommend wrapping your hands and using good quality boxing gloves to maintain the tools of your trade, namely your fists. If you want to punch boards and stuff that's cool, but it's not for me. You can find Fightstore's full range of heavy bags HERE including Fairtex and Pro-Box. What are your favourite heavy bag workouts for boxing and MMA? Let us know via Facebook and Twitter.