A few months ago, I published a boxing training article entitled Shadow Boxing – 7 Tips for Success. In that article I provided a bunch tips to help you get the most out of your shadow boxing sessions. More than anything else I wanted that article to demonstrate the importance of not taking shadow boxing for granted, to avoid “going through the motions.” This article seeks to achieve a similar goal, instead focusing on the heavy bag.
If you are a long time user of the site, then you’ll know that this is not the first article that I have produced on the subject of the heavy bag. Firstly there was the article Buying a Heavy Bag – What to Know. In that article I offered some insights into how to spend you money wisely when purchasing a piece of ‘hitting equipment’. I even covered the gimmicky ‘Boxing Bob’ dummy and discussed it’s place in the average boxing gym.
Following on from that article was the popular Old Man Hits a Heavy Bag, a video article in which I managed to persuade an over-the-hill ex-boxer to see if he could last a single round in the presence of a viciously inanimate object in the form of an angled heavy bag. Before you check out the tips below, it might be worth having a quick review of those two articles just to refresh your knowledge of the wondrous stress-reliever that is the heavy bag.
Before We Start – The Main Heavy Bag Rule
Just before we get going I need to offer a real and serious warning. The majority of heavy bags by definition are packed quite tightly. This means that they are fairly solid objects. Before you begin hitting a heavy bag there is a crucial rule that you should never, ever forget; protect your hands.
I hate to see boxers hit a bag without hand protection. Even if your average boxer is just passing by the bag it’s very difficult it seems for them to resist the urge to pop off a quick combination. Many promising careers have been extinguished because of a boxer succumbing to hand injuries, so looking after your hands should be one of your highest priorities.
Kick boxers may toughen their shins for perfectly sensible reasons. MMA fighters and other martial artists may take the view that they need to toughen their hands. Boxers, in my opinion, punch much harder than the combatants in either of those sports. Consequently the forces travelling through the hands are much greater and require key measures to be taken to protect against those forces.
For advice on hand protection there are two articles that you should check out. Firstly the video article on Boxing Hand Wraps and secondly the article on Buying Boxing Gloves – What to Know. Check these out because quite simply if you do not take protection of your hands seriously then you should no more be hitting the heavy bag than you should be punching a brick wall.
The Heavy Bag – 5 Simple Tips for Success
OK, let’s look at the 5 MyBoxingCoach rules for getting the most from your rounds on the heavy bag.
Rule #1 – Avoid excessive swinging of the bag
To be fair this is something that real novices tend to look to achieve. More experienced boxers simply don’t need to do so. The bag swinging all over the place is not a sign that you are hitting hard. It is a sign that you possess a rudimentary understanding of the principles of kinetic energy and momentum. Excessive swinging is the result of constantly hitting the bag as it moves away so that the swinging becomes more and more pronounced. You need to be able to time your shots to stop the bag dead as it swings back toward you after your first salvo of punches, which leads me neatly onto the 2nd rule.
Rule #2 – Develop your timing and range-finding
This comes in the form of 2 types of action. Firstly, if the bag is swinging you should often aim to maintain a consistent distance between you and it. For example, maintain long-range by coinciding your footwork in and out with the swing of the bag. You should at all times be able to land long range punches (from the jab to the right cross and and other long range punches. In the absence of regular sparring this is a fantastic way to get your feel for range. Check out the article on Fight Tactics – Boxing Range Finding for more on range.
To develop your timing on the heavy bag, and by that I mean your punch timing, stay relaxed and look to control the swing of the bag by landing crisp punches both as the bag swings towards.Look to hit occasionally as the bag swings away from you (accepting the point of Rule #1). If you land a shot as an object is coming toward you (in this instance there heavy bag, but other times it could be a very aggressive opponent) you massively increase the power of the punch by adding the opponent’s mass to the shot (check out the article on improving punching power for more on this. This is the art of timing the punch.
If the object is moving away, generating the same level of power is more difficult but is no less something that you should aim for. To nail this you need to carefully time your footwork in with your punch and the movement of the object. This is discussed at and demonstrated at length in the Boxing Training Foundation. It’s a key skill to develop if you want to be an effective front foot fighter. And remember, as a fighter you need never be more than a few centimeters out of range so developing that sense down to the millimetre pays.
Rule #3 – Don’t push me!
Pushing a bag (or opponent) is a really bad habit to develop. If you constantly push the heavy bag then this is very likely to transfer into your sparring and fighting. Of course pushing an opponent is a foul (even in the professional ranks and especially in the amateur ranks) and the referee will intervene. But there is a potential result that is far worse than a telling off by the referee.
If you push an opponent, your arms move away from the guard position (stance). This is potentially catastrophic in terms of defence and leaves you wide open to left hooks and right hooks, the chosen weapons of the knockout artist. A boxer takes risks, it’s part of the business. What is not part of the business is exposing yourself to unnecessary risk. Pushing the opponent and exposing your chin definitely constitutes unnecessary risk.
Rule #4 – Don’t lean on me either!
Under no circumstances ever should you depend upon a bag, an opponent or indeed the ropes of the ring to keep you on your feet. If you lean on a heavy bag you are relying on that bag to stay where it is in order for you to maintain your balance. If that bag suddenly disappeared then you would go stumbling forward like a drunken fool. Stand on your own feet, rely on YOU to maintain YOUR balance.
This is different from standing at close range and using the double arm block and other defensive blocks to maintain physical contact with the opponent. That is the art of infighting and is the realm of really experienced and clever boxers. They ensure that at all times they can defend and attack and are not reliant on the opponent to assist them in achieving this.
Rule #5 – Maintain your discipline
The final rule is simple; maintain discipline throughout the round. This is not only the principle of maintaining your form through the execution of the skills, but it is also the principle of working through to the end of the round. Don’t fall into the trap of hammering the bag for 30 seconds and then standing around panting like a dog for the next 2 minutes. This is totally counter-productive. Work all the way through the round and then take your rest. This will toughen you both physically and mentally and is one of the keys to successful boxing.
So there you have it, 5 simple rules to help you succeed when working the heavy bag during your boxing training. The heavy bag is such a fantastic piece of equipment that has genuinely stood the test of time in what is the toughest of sports. Work it well and work it hard and you will reap the rewards. As always, comments and questions are welcome below.