punching bag

Taking on the Punching Bag: Punching Bag Basics

Whether you’re a beginner or are wanting to start getting into martial arts, working with the punching bag is one of the most popular, effective, and mainstream techniques used in training. However, there is so much more to a heavy bag workout than just hitting the punching bag as hard as you can.

Whether you are working with a speed punching bag, running heavy bag drills or learning how to work punching and kicking bags in general, you should first learn a few things, which I’m more than happy to help with. I hope that my guide on punching bag basics will help bring you through a few things you ought to know before you start hitting the bag with all your might.

Before you look into Amazon basic bags or run through a heavy bag tutorial, take a look at the tips I have for you here.

Whether you have a child getting started with a youth punching bag or you’ve just brought out that Everlast punching bag from down in the basement, you should check out these bits of advice I have for you.

Hands Up

When you’re at the punching bag, you might let your defense get away from you. Focusing too much on punching power and technique might lead you astray from remembering to practice your proper form.

I know, it’s easier said than done—being lazy with your defensive stance and simply punching the bag is easy. In reality, one of the only ways to know how bad your form is until you get punched in the face.

The serious matter behind this is when you don’t practice proper form when training on the heavy bag is that you develop bad habits. Therefore, when you actually get in the ring, your heavy bag training might be hurting you rather than helping you.

When you’re learning how to hit a heavy bag for beginners one of the first things you should know is to keep your hands up, no matter what training you have.

If Looks Could Kill

No, I’m not talking about the fact that you probably look so good you don’t even have to learn to fight. The way you look and where you look are two very important components when it comes to training with the heavy bag. This is one of your opportunities to build good training habits. The majority of most fighters, especially beginners is that they are doing one of two things:

Way Too Much Staring

Although you really want to keep an eye on your target, not having your peripheral vision going can also be pretty detrimental to your fighting. Also, if you are staring specifically at your target, its like giving a list of directions to your opponent of where and when you’re going to hit them next.

Not Staring Enough

Even though I dont want you to stare the bag down like its your meal, you also shouldn’t be avoiding eye contact at all cost like its an ex-girlfriend. This is a huge problem when you get tired — your vision is one of the first things to go when it comes to focus. Rather than doubling down on your specific target, you begin to rely on instinct and power rather than technique and form.

If you’re letting your eyes roam everywhere, you wont be focusing on your target or your opponent, leaving yourself very vulnerable.

What You Should Do

If you can help it: Keep your eyes on the bag without burning holes in it. While you have it in your vision, you should be aware of how far away it is from you at all times.

If that’s too difficult, simply look forward. Try and keep the entire bag in your line of vision and peripheral. If you imagine the bag as your opponent, his or her head and body should be visible to you at all times.

Pushing and Shoving Won’t Do the Trick

I know it seems a bit ridiculous but actually — a lot of beginners will resort to pushing the bag around rather than firmly punching it, because they tend to get discouraged when it doesn’t go anywhere, resulting from their lack of power or lack of form (or both).

If the bag is swinging all over the place, you’re probably doing it wrong. It should be shaking vigorously. This is not only wrong according to form, it’s also really ineffective. Pushing the heavy bag around will just get your arms really tired rather than practicing on taking down your opponent. You need to throw a punch that has a quick snap to it, creating a big, smacking sound. Your fist shouldn’t be in contact with the bag for a long time.

Balance Is Key

Not only in life but also in hitting the heavy bag. There are a lot of don’ts on this bit of advice, but virtually, to sum it all up, stay on your own two feet, balancing your weight and distributing it evenly.

Your punches should be thrown at the bag—not you. You should be able to balance on your own two feet so you can develop the momentum and power for the punch.

Try your best to simply make contact with the bag through your punches. If you are leaning on it in any way, this will create bad habits for the future.

Footwork

When you’re not throwing a punch, your hands and feet should be moving — but especially your feet. This means you should always maintain proper distance from the bag as well. Remember, the bag is like your opponent. Although it doesn’t punch bag, you should be acting and training as if it does. However, you should always be able to reach it with your arms at all times.

Finding that sweet spot and staying there, no matter how the bag is moving, whether it’s going away from you or moving towards you, stay light on your feet and move with it. You could see it as a dance and you don’t want to offend your partner.

Breathing Really Is Everything

It’s easy to get all caught up in the hundreds of things going on —from your footwork to your form. However, focusing on your breathing and using that as a starting point for your hitting will be a key to making your punches explosive. Explosive breathing will generate explosive punches.

Having proper breathing will also make it harder for you to tire out. Think about it like this: although you might be a stickler for technique and want to focus on that — breathing is part of your technique. It also plays a huge part in your endurance. If there is one component to focus on that has a very huge role in punching the heavy bag, from endurance to technique, it’s breathing.

When you are breathing properly, you are calm and relaxed, which will make you much less tired. If you are exasperated, your breath is quickening and rapid, you’ll be more likely to go in panic mode and get tired out.

Bottom line, the bag shouldn’t be the end of you. If you are out of breath and exhausted after only the heavy bag portion of your workout, you need to adjust, whether it’s your form, breathing or time limit— it shouldn’t be killing you.

Hesitation Is For the Weak

Especially since you are going against a heavy bag, it’s not like you have to worry about them punching you back. However, this shouldn’t be a reason to hesitate or wait or rest, really.

If you’re training on the heavy bag — train hard. If you can, always throw punches. If you can’t, minimize round times until you gain the endurance. Your maximum rest should really be just a couple seconds long.

Instead of throwing large combinations and walking around the bag for a breather, throw shorter combinations so you don’t have to rest as long.

In theory, never stop punching. Every punch you throw doesn’t have to be a knockout, and that’s a vital lesson taught here. Especially in the ring, that’s one huge misconception. It’s all about combinations and strategy. If you are looking to land a K.O. punch every time, I’ve got news for you — won’t happen. Therefore, even when you’re just on the heavy bag, never stop punching, no matter how light the jabs have to be before you step in again and really land some hits.

3-6 Is the Sweet Spot

Backing up what I just mentioned. Your combinations shouldn’t really be less than 3 or more than 6.

This will be enough to make your mark but also not enough for you to get winded. You can go in, land your effective 3-6 punches and get out before the retaliation comes. Throwing those combinations are important in any fight and for training, they’re good so you keep a rhythm.

Rest but Actively

Also as I mentioned before, even when you’re taking your couple second or split second rest, your feet should be moving. Touch some light punches on the bag and move your feet around. Don’t ever be caught standing still or leaning on the bag. Treat it like a real fight.

The thing I have to mention is that you WILL get tired. Not everyone likes to admit it, but it will happen. The key here is what will you do when you are tired? In this tip, I’m telling you, that, regardless of how tired you are, if you can take it, you should always keep yourself lightly moving. Sometimes, it’s just mind over matter.

Plant When You Punch

Even though I actively want your feet constantly moving with your footwork you’ve been training, when you’re punching, you’re feet should be rooted and planted. With this control, comes balance, power, and mobility to be able to dodge away right after it. A quick tip here if you’re finding it hard to keep the feet grounded when you punch is to take smaller steps.

Invest in Equipment

To train for the punching bag, you’ll need:

bag gloves, hand wraps, a mouth piece, weighted wraps as a suggestion, and some sort of round timer

This equipment is necessary regardless of the power you have behind your punch or your strength. These are for the protection of your joints.

punching bag

I hope that these tips will help you get involved in Jiu-Jitsu and maximize your training sessions to the fullest. If you are reading all of these and really just want to get started, I have a couple tips on getting ready for your first class. There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be introduced to a punching bag when you’re training Jiu-Jitsu—whether it’s your first class or your third or your seventh, so you need to understand how to have proper form. Punching bag safety is important to know because no one is born just knowing how to use a punching bag beginners or how to hit a heavy bag without hurting wrist. These are all things you learn and hopefully, you learn before you head into your first punching bag workout.

First, the Fist

Learning the proper way to make a fist is one of the most important ways to prepare yourself while striking. Knowing which knuckles to strike with will save you from a lot of pain and ineffective punching,

  1. Begin with an open, relaxed hand

  2. Clench your fingers, beginning with the top finger joints

  3. Tuck and roll your knuckles

  4. Your thumb should be on top of your first and second fingers

  5. Punch with the first two knuckles — the two biggest ones

Second, the Punch

Next, you have to learn the proper way to throw a punch. This isn’t just by knowing the proper stance or form, it’s also being the correct distance away, knowing the angles for your strikes and hand techniques.

Your fist, your wrist, and your forearm should be aligned when first throwing the punch and making contact with the bag. This will not only prevent injuries but give you more power behind every punch

When throwing a punch, you have to find and feel the connection to where your target is on the bag. You also have to make sure that you know which punches—like the uppercut— are not for the punching bag, since the angles don’t allow it and you’ll end up injuring yourself. However, there are ways for you to practice the motion.

In general, it is a good rule of thumb to know that with every strike you make, you should have a straight line, even if the angle of your origin is changing. This will keep your joints safe and will give you maximum power.

Okay, now that you’ve got your fist in check and you know what you’re doing with the start of your punching form I can move on to effective punches you can throw at the bag. Here is a list of four punches that are common to a punching bag workout.

First, let’s get your starting stance since it truly is the foundation of all these punches I’m going to mention and all boxing combinations from now on that you’ll be introduced to in your training. If you are left-handed, you should be opposite of these instructions, however, here is the right-hand punching starting stance. You will be leading with your left side and your “power-hand”, or right hand, will be at the back.

Your feet should be planted shoulder-width apart, and you should be standing tall.

Slightly shift your entire left side of your body, along with your weight, forward.

Your knees should be slightly bent, regardless if you are attempting to stand tall or not.

The heel of your back foot (your right foot) should lift and prepare to punch.

Your shoulders and elbows should be down and not raised in the slightest.

Jab

This punch will be thrown with the left hand:

  1. Extend your left arm forward while throwing the punch.

  2. Keep your wrist and forearm aligned and straight

  3. Don’t extend all the way through in fear of hyperextension—there should be a slight bend in your elbow.

  4. Draw back to original starting position

View Video

Cross

This punch will be thrown with the right hand:

  1. When throwing the punch, your right foot should pivot, twisting the entire leg through the hip for your power source.

  2. This pivot and twist will lead you directly into the punch.

  3. When you’re throwing your punch, your left hand should be guarding your chin for protection.

  4. Don’t hyperextend or fully extend, keep your elbow slightly bent.

  5. Draw back to original starting position.

View Video

Hook

This punch will be thrown with the left hand:

  1. This time, your left foot should pivot.

  2. Follow the same instructions as the cross—that pivot should begin with the foot turning and smoothly transition to your hips and whole side of your body.

  3. Allow your left arm to travel horizontally, across the body and gain speed and momentum.

  4. Your elbow should be elevated across your center line and maintained at this level.

  5. When you’re throwing your punch, your right hand should be guarding your chin for protection.

  6. Draw back to original starting position.

View Video

Uppercut

This punch will be thrown with the right hand:

  1. At first, you should dip down, and slightly pivot with your right foot.

  2. After, bring the rest of your body through, leading with the right hand and powering upward in a forward motion, focusing on your target.

  3. Have your punch connect with the center line and continue on through, going up.

  4. When you’re throwing your punch, your left hand should be guarding your chin for protection.

  5. Draw back to original starting position.

View Video

Lastly, before you begin, I want to make sure you know everything there is to know about punching bag basics. There are two different punches that you’re going to be working with when developing your proper punching skills. Not only do you need to know what they are, you should also know what proper rest looks like and what the number one problem is, especially for beginners.

To let you in on these last bits of advice, here’s a chart of it all, summed up right where you need it. From there, I can finally introduce you to your first punching bag basic workout to try out everything you learned.

How to work the heavy bag

How to work the heavy bag

Effective and Proper Punching

  1. Snap Punches: You can really dictate this punch simply through the sound. As one of the old sayings goes, a blind man can tell if you hit the bag right. Just like with any sport, the technique doesn’t just have to look good, but sound good as well. This snapping punch has you hitting the bag, hearing the first snap, and then immediately drawing your hand back. The impact of the punch will automatically rebound your hand to you.

This punch is normally used by experienced fighters and is critical

to learning how to punch properly.

  1. Flowing Punches: This signifies how you throw your punch. Your combinations should be thrown in a flowing motion and you should be moving around the bag relaxed and throwing as many punches as you can — without stopping or giving all your power into one single punch.

You should have very tiny breaks in between punching

combinations and let the punches be as natural as possible.

Effective and Proper Footwork

This should be one of the first things you learn and you maintain throughout not only your one workout but your training. Unfortunately, a lot of boxers develop bad habits and footwork while they’re training with the heavy bag, so it’s definitely something to keep an eye on and learn from so you don’t develop those bad habits in the future.

Two things to look out for are:

1. Standing: When you’re on the punching bag, both feet should be on the ground when you’re punching, but not when you’re moving around. A couple of things to avoid: don’t lean on the bag or shoulder through it, this will develop a bad balance. If you are resting on your opponent, they can easily let you fall and then counter against you. Therefore, developing a balance is extremely important.

2. Walking: When you’re walking around the heavy bag, keep your feet on the ground, your hands up, and always keep your eyes on the bag. A couple of things to avoid: don’t cross your legs or jump around. This will keep you from developing proper awareness, conserving your energy, and maintaining your grounded stance.

Focus on Power is a huge Problem

With the punching bag, you have to realize that power isn’t everything.

Being able to throw punches at the bag properly is technique over everything and good body movement.

Even though you will want to be persuaded to punch at it as hard as possible, for stress and other motives, the main point of punching at a heavy bag is to learn and develop habits that will benefit you in the ring when you’re up against an opponent. Therefore, you have to practice like the heavy bag is your opponent.

Opponents don’t simply stand there and take hits, they counter, move around, and in general, the one thing to remember: they hit back.

Therefore, rather than trying to land the most powerful punches you can muster up, you should try and focus more on technique and visualize and opponent in front of you. You can defeat them — with speed, skill, and yes, of course, some power. However, power isn’t everything. This may take some control, especially for a beginner, but you will learn, in time.

Now you’re ready for a basic, punching bag workout! Before you begin, I recommend talking to your doctor and coach to make sure you’re ready for it. But without further ado, let’s get into it.

Punching Bag Basic Workout

punching bag basic workout

Held circuit style, you should be completing each exercise on the list before moving on to the next. Take a slight break and then begin the entire round again. Based on how far along you are in your fitness, you can perform this from 2-5 rounds. Of course, warm up before. This is a great punching bag workout for weight loss.

If you are truly a beginner, I also suggest keeping a more experienced teammate or coach nearby to help you on your form.

Jab

10 repetitions

Cross

10 repetitions

Hook

10 repetitions

Uppercut

10 repetitions

4-punch combination

(1,2,3,4) 10 repetitions

After completing one round, repeat the entire thing until from 2 to 5 times. If you cannot do anymore— please stop and keep your health in mind.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on punching bag basics. I hope that with it, you can take on that punching bag not only with good form and proper techniques and whereabouts but with the confidence that you need to properly train the skills you’ll develop to take down anyone in the ring.

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