Heavy bags were originally built to improve basic punching techniques, tend to be filled with only sand, and these acted as big targets for fighters. However, over the years we started seeing a lot of different types of punching bags on the market.
Because there are a lot of different and specific needs. For example, you may be an MMA fighter who needs to improve various striking skills and grappling or you might be an athlete who prefers improving physical attributes with typical bag workouts.
So depending on your need, one bag can be perfect for you whereas it might be useless for someone else. Basically, training with the right punching bag type has vital importance for your goals.
Below you can read explanations of all the types of punching bags and how to use them so you can determine which bag type is suitable for you.
Different Types of Punching Bags
1. Classic Heavy Bag
Which bag type was invented first? When you think about heavy bags, probably this traditional bag type comes to your mind. The classic heavy bag was the first bag type that was invented and Simon D. Kohne got the patent for this useful boxing tool in 1872.
It can be hung to a wall mount, stand with straps or chains and while it is hanging you can practice many different kicking, punching techniques as the bag is long and thick enough, and has a uniform shape. It swings and offers an area to master footwork.
Who Uses It? Nowadays this bag is not only used by boxers and you can see that fighters, who study Muay Thai, kickboxing, karate, a lot of other martial arts disciplines, and fitness enthusiasts, also incorporate heavy bag workouts into their regimens.
You can literally see this bag type in every gym including fitness gyms. Because it not only improves your striking skills but also helps with conditioning and burning fat. So this bag is preferred by people who have health goals as well and it is quite popular in boxercise classes.
Depending on the bag’s material, these traditional bags can be filled with various filling materials including sand, shredded fabric, and cement.
2. Speed Bag
The speed bag is another really important bag type for fighters as it improves hand speed, hand-eye coordination, and reflexes which are vital for fights. However, you need to use the front of your hand or fingers while hitting and this is one of the main differences between a speed bag and other punching bag types.
These bags are made of durable materials and have reinforced seams to take a tremendous amount of punishment. These are filled with air and even though some speed bags are constructed in a way that these don’t have any bladder most of them do. Fortunately, the bladders come in one size so one size fits all and once it starts leaking, it can be replaced with another one fairly easily.
You have 4” x 7”, 5” x 8”, 6” x 9”, 7” x 10” size selections so it is a small target. Larger ones bounce slower so these are more suitable for starters and it is not hard at all to start with this boxing tool.
A shell of a speed bag is quite soft and punching it constantly doesn’t hurt your hands and just wearing hand wraps is enough for protection.
3. Maize Bag
Back then they are used to be filled with corn. Nowadays companies use synthetic materials that have the shape of corn. Maize bags have longer straps and are bigger, and heavier than speed bags. So, maize bags swing more than them as the straps are longer and force you to practice defensive moves.
The shells of these bags are really soft and this makes perfect sense as this bag is designed to practice evading punches so it should not cut or cause bruises.
4. Double End Bag
The double end bag’s leather type is either synthetic or genuine and these also have seams and bladders. Double end bag is tied with ropes, which are quite elastic, to anchor at the ceiling and on the floor and you can throw all basic puınches to these angular bags.
You can improve footwork with this bag by moving around a target. In addition to these, double end bags can actually hit you back! So you need to move your head, dodge, and move all the time. So honing defensive skills can be done quite effectively with it. So when you don’t have a sparring partner and want to practice defensive skills and strategies it is the next best thing!
There are different styles of double end bags including pea-shaped, and double ball. Each one has unique qualities.
5. Free Standing Heavy Bag
Free standing punching bag can stand on its own. The base needs to be strong to withstand abuse and the body should be flexible after hitting it, it should come back immediately so a fighter can build up a rhythm and have a sweaty workout.
While you are kicking the bag, the base should be as stable as possible. So the base of freestanding bags is quite heavy and has soft corners so it does not cause any injuries while kicking.
However, a free-standing punching bag sometimes can fall on the floor. So the shells do not only withstand repetitive strikes but also that impact. Thus, the most commonly used cover material is tear-resistant synthetic leather which can extend the useful life of free standing bags and the padding is generally foam.
The bases are suitable for you to roll and after finishing a drill, you can just move them away within seconds. As a side note, after working out with them in an MMA center in Samut Prakan for years I experienced that the cover materials generally don’t hold dust. So these are quite suitable for home workouts.
6. Slip Bag
Technically, many people don’t consider this a bag as there are people who even use water bottles as a slipping bag. This tool basically enhances slipping ability. It is a small, light bag or an object and it is attached to a rope that is hung from a ceiling. This tool mimics an opponent’s punches and you use your slipping ability and head movements to prevent it from hitting your head.
Traning with this bag and mastering slipping can take your boxing skills to the next level.
7. MMA Heavy Bag
You can practice every striking technique, which you can do with standard free standing punching bags, with an MMA heavy bag. In addition to these, this type of heavy bag also has handles for clinching and various other striking, and grappling techniques in MMA. So these bags are quite versatile
Some bags even have handles for you to do abs exercises. Depending on your physical level, you can increase or decrease the resistance by holding the handles differently. Is not this awesome?
8. Body Opponent Bag
This bag has the shape of a human body and compared to other bags on the list, it is a very realistic bag hence it is named the Body Opponent Bag. Bob has all the body parts including the torso, shoulders, and arms whereas most other bags only have cylindrical shapes. So, it does not only offer standard punching drills but also precision training.
Throwing combinations to various body parts is just an amazing opportunity for fighters. Because there are not many training types where you have this opportunity. Also, there are height adjustments that make BOB taller or shorter so these variations can make you readier to punch with more aim whether you are sparring or competing in the boxing ring.
You can see how vital this bag is for fighters, right?
This is why this bag type is my absolute favorite bag on this list!
Thanks to the convenience, easy set-up, body opponent bags, and free standing heavy bags are the most preferred type of punching bags for home.
9. Pole Bag
This bag is designed for Muay Thai drills, it is quite thick and can be mounted to a floor or a pole. Thanks to the large striking area, fighters use this bag to develop their elbow and knee striking skills.
Due to the huge size, filling this bag is a daunting task and if it does not come pre-filled, you will need tons of filling material, and serious effort is required to distribute the filling evenly.
10. Uppercut Bags (Wall)
Wall-mounted uppercut bags have a thicker upper part and slimmer lower part This special design allows you to throw uppercuts and knee kicks as well as basic boxing punches. This is why these bags are unique.
These are mounted to a wall and do not move so this bag is not easy on your joints at all. Even though many boxing tools offer low-impact exercises, this is not one of them because the bag doesn’t swing and the joints face more impact. This can cause joint pain and issues after repetitive strikes thus the filling should not be dense to lower the impact and maintain healthy joints.
Also, this bag allows you to throw punches from only one side and doesn’t swing so the training area is small for developing footwork skills. But let’s face it this is one of the few bags to train these particular punch types so many serious fighters include this workout in their regimens
11. Angled Heavy Bag
The shape is similar to the bag above however, instead of a flat side it has the striking area of an uppercut wall bag and the other side also has that area as well. It is hung from a ceiling. So you can hit this bag from all angles. Also, it has some more advantages. An angled heavy bag offers more space for footwork and you simply have more positions to hit the bag, try different combinations.
If you have not practiced uppercuts with a bag before, try this one first. Because, the impact would be a lot less than the impacts that you experience with an uppercut wall bag so your knuckles, and joints don’t take too much punishment when you don’t have a proper technique.
12. Bowling Pin Heavy Bag
These bags are specifically produced for Muay Thai. The lower part of these bags has a larger area and dense foam. So this part is heavier than the upper part and when you throw a teep, striking feels realistic as it does not move much. Also, it can be manipulated with a clinch.
Considering these two unique qualities, the design is really hard to pull off. Thus I am really not surprised that only famous Muay Thai gear brands like Fairtex produce this kind of bag.
Basically, Muay Thai fighters can benefit from this bag and master teep. However, the center of gravity is quite low and this bag swings more when you throw basic punches and this is not optimal for boxers.
13. Water Heavy Bag
These bags are filled with water and come in various sizes. There are aqua bags that are small as speed bags, and quite big ones that are 4 feet tall.
Also, it is the safest bag for your hands, wrists, and joints. Because water absorbs the impact better and more than any other filling material out there. So the impact is lower than usual and you can go hard during training with this bag. Also, the cover material tends to be really soft and after hitting a bag, the cover material needs to change its shape as water moves so it stretches. As a result, your hands and wrists take less punishment with an aqua bag.
Also, thanks to water’s qualities combined with soft synthetic leather, these bags offer a more natural striking experience.
14. Teardrop Shaped Punching Bag
The teardrop-shaped bag is made for mastering Muay Thai skills. Thanks to the design, stand-up clinching is possible. It is also wider than regular bags and it is heavier than its counterparts. So it is not easy to move while clinching and it is an ideal Muay Thai tool, particularly for this technique.
The shape mimics an opponent’s body and the striking surface is quite large. These are perfect features for Muay Thai as the art of eight limbs includes elbows, foot thrust, knees, and more. You can land these strikes on this realistic bag and see whether you are doing them right or not. So we see this essential piece of equipment in many Muay Thai gyms.
15. Reflex Bag
Reflex bags are small, have the shape of a speed bag, and are attached to a durable shaft. The shaft is connected to a spring which provides a bag to bounce after hitting.
After a bag bounces, you have a short period of time to react, and reacting to this over and over again speeds up reaction time. Also, you can improve your footwork by moving around the bag and understanding how to put yourself in an ideal position to throw combinations.
The base of the bag can be filled with sand or water and if the surface is flat you can put most bases anywhere including concrete and grass.
16. Banana Punching Bag
These punching bags were originally used only for Muay Thai however experts concluded that banana bags can also be beneficial for various martial arts where kicks play a significant role so we started seeing this training tool more.
These bags are thin, and extra-long to offer a total body workout. The base almost touches the floor so you can practice knees and low kick types without any problem. Also, some banana bags can be tied down with straps to reduce extra swinging.
However, it is a thin bag and has less weight. Because of this, it swings faster than usual and offers intense full-body workouts. Lastly, the filler needs to be distributed evenly throughout the bag. If it settles at the bottom, it does not swing right at all and this can be especially a problem for a thin bag.
17. Wrecking Ball Heavy Bag
A wrecking ball heavy bag is for boxers who are looking to develop power, footwork, and head movements. These either have a ball shape or these can be pearl shape. Wrecking ball bags are heavy and boxers can practice uppercuts, body shots as fast as they can because this bag type tends to be really sturdy and can withstand it.
However, you really don’t want your punches to land on hard spots while hitting this bag because it can cause serious injuries as the bag is quite hard. So it is best to fill a wrecking ball with fabric instead of sand as it provides a more protective bag for the knuckles.
These tend to come with strong, reinforced chains as when a boxer pounds the bag it needs to hold the bag without breaking.
Above I covered every type of punching bag on the market, the qualities so you can train with one that suits your wants, needs and get better at a specific martial art or reach fitness goals.
What is a punching bag filled with?
This question comes up a lot while choosing a heavy bag. However, the answer depends on the bag type. Water bags can be filled with only water. Most freestanding bags’ bases are suitable for sand and water. Reflex bags don’t require any filling etc.
How to choose the right kind of heavy bag?
Firstly, you need to know what abilities, and physical skills you want to improve then choose a bag according to these. In summary,
Striking Power and footwork: Classic Heavy Bags are perfect for these. As they have heavy sizes and offer an area to improve footwork. Long ones can be used for kicking sessions as well.
Speed, reflexes, rhythm: Speed bags and reflex bags are built for these.
Defense, slipping: Double end bags can hit you back and it is the perfect bag type for developing defensive abilities.
Specific martial art techniques: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Some bags are made specifically for specific martial art. For example, Muay Thai bags can be used for clinching and Muay Thai techniques.
Boxing or Kickboxing: which is better for improving striking?
In a recent article, I explained that kickboxing is a better choice as it includes more techniques that can be used in different situations.