Why You Need to Invest in a Punch Bag, Plus 11 of the Best

·10-min read
Photo credit: Thomas Barwick
Photo credit: Thomas Barwick

One of the most physically-demanding workouts going, boxing is tough to beat as a fitness all-rounder, requiring stamina, balance, coordination, aerobic endurance and muscle strength in equal measure. Going blow-for-blow with a dead weight might sound easy, but bag work – that is, drills on a punching bag – is as demanding mentally and physically draining as a round in the ring.

“The full body benefits of a bag workout are endless,” agrees Jay Revan, personal trainer at Flykick. “Your cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance and muscular strength will all benefit greatly from using a punch bag.” No body part will be spared: boxing is demanding on your upper body, lower body, and core, and the fat-sizzling HIIT nature of the workout reveals lean muscle like no other.

Benefits of Boxing

Finding exercise you enjoy is about more than bicep gains and washboard abs. Your brain needs a workout too. After a stressful day at work, a one-on-one with the bag can be an effective way to blow off some steam and boost your focus. “There is a huge mental aspect to the sport that a lot of people miss when discussing the benefits, whether for fun or competition,” says Reven.

Of course, boxing is about more than just delivering a powerful punch. When you’re in the ring, you need more than brute force to box effectively – technical know-how is imperative. This is where the bag comes in. “All boxers need great coordination and core stability to be able to throw punches with power but also using the correct technique,” says Reven. “Punch bags allow you to focus on getting your technique right as well as your footwork and bag control.”

For all these reasons – and more – boxing has hit the mainstream in recent years. A surge in boutique boxing classes and clubs have made the tips, techniques and training patterns favoured by professional boxers accessible to us mere mortals. Building fight-worthy fitness is a gratifying process, but it takes commitment, resilience, and, more often than not, a fair bit of cash. Which is where that spare corner in your garage comes in.

Photo credit: Tom Werner - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tom Werner - Getty Images

Despite the intensity – and the ever-present risk of being knocked out – boxing is technically a low impact sport. Since high impact exercise such as playing football puts stress on your weight-bearing joints (think knee, hip, ankle…) it’s a hotbed for injury. Not only does boxing place far less force on your body than, say, going for a run, it’s more taxing on your aerobic system and recruits muscle groups in both your upper and lower body, getting you fitter and faster. Presuming, of course, that your technique is on point.

How to Box Right

Proper form starts with your feet. A solid foundation will help with your balance, says Reven. “The first technique I teach my clients is how to move correctly, good footwork allows for greater bag control,” he explains. “A steady stance and strong core will help you to punch with correct technique. Keeping your punches nice and long will allow for greater reach, maximum power and will reduce your chances of picking up an injury.”

Punching bags might not be able to punch back, but they can still cause some damage. So before you start swinging, cover your mitts. “Having boxed for 10 years I would definitely not recommend anyone to hit a punch bag using bare knuckles,” Reven continues. “Being able to hit the bag correctly and safely is paramount. Using hand wraps and gloves allows you to hit the bag with power while avoiding serious injury to the wrists, forearms and shoulders.”

With so many punching bag options available, where should the aspiring home boxer begin? Heavier bags will allow for greater strength benefits, Reven explains, helping you develop powerful shots, while uppercut punching bags, being much smaller and lighter, are ideal for working on combination punches (and, as the name suggests, a more accurate uppercut).

Photo credit: Colin Anderson Productions pty ltd - Getty Images
Photo credit: Colin Anderson Productions pty ltd - Getty Images

Speedballs are small and extremely lightweight, he continues, and help to improve hand-eye coordination while giving your shoulders a beasting. Free-standing punching bags – popular within the boutique fitness market – are ideal for a full-body workout, allowing for free-flowing punch and kick combinations, he adds.

The Best Boxing Bag For Your Goal

If you’re looking for versatile equipment that’ll go the distance, a boxing bag should be your first port of call. You don’t need a huge home gym or even a great deal of space – opt for a free standing boxing bag so you can store it on rest day (and move it outside in the summer). Question is, what should you look for from a high quality bag?

“Boxing bags move and respond in different ways depending on their size and weight,” explains Richard ‘The Secret’ Williams, former Commonwealth and World IBO Boxing Champion, and instructor and co-founder of The Secret Boxing Gym. “For developing speed and accuracy, opt for a lighter bag around 24 to 40 pounds. For building strength and power, a heavy bag is the best option.”

While leather is the more expensive option, “it’s by far the best material, as it’s durable and feels more natural to punch,” Williams explains. And don't forget the rest of your kit – “it’s essential you invest in a good pair of boxing gloves and wraps as these will protect your hands, wrists and knuckles.”

What it ultimately comes down to is how you use the bag, he says. “This will really determine the benefits... Even a fairly light bag can give you a good workout if used correctly.”

Add Punch Bag to Cart

When kitting out your home gym, the first thing you should consider is space, says Reven. “Is there enough room to box safely and effectively without bringing your brand new 50-inch flatscreen TV crashing to the ground or even worse, injuring yourself?,” he asks.

It’s also important to buy a punching bag that reflects your current skill set. Picking the correct weight is crucial to avoid injury, says Reven. “A light to medium-weight bag that can easily be put up or taken down and stored away securely is a safe place to start,” he suggests. “If you have more space, I would suggest a free-standing bag as long as you have the room to move around safely.”

From water-filled to foam-packed, below you’ll find seven different punching bags to suit every boxing level.

11 of the Best Punching Bags

1/ RDX Professional Anti Swing Filled Punch Bag Set

You’ll need a fair amount of space – and a strong ceiling – to accommodate this heavy duty RDX bag, but make no mistake: it’s built to last. Shredded textiles are contained by a tough polyester inner layer wrapped in Maya Hide leather for a water-resistant finish. The 17-piece kit includes powder-coated wall-attachment bars, rust-proof steel chains, hand wraps, gel foam-padded gloves, and even a jump rope and hand gripper.

2/ Gallant 5.5ft Free Standing Boxing Punch Bag

No nuts and bolts required for this freestanding punching bag, which means it’s easier to assemble and store than the traditional style. Just fill the base with water or sand and you’re ready to go. Standing at five foot five and filled with microfibre pieces, this Gallant bag is encased in a shock-absorbing foam layer and covered with wipe-clean faux leather.

3/ Everlast Everhide Speed Bag, One Size

Made from lightweight carbon fibre, this Everlast speedball is designed to improve hand-eye coordination, dial up your technique and define upper body muscle having been specifically shaped and balanced for accurate rebounds. Welted seams and reinforced lacing mean it’s durable enough to handle even the sharpest of jabs.

4/ RDX AR 3-in-1 Angle Punch Bag with Gloves Set

The angle shape on this RDX bag allows you to practice uppercuts and body hooks with more accuracy than a traditional straight punching bag, while the dense shock-absorbing polyethylene foam jacket protects you from injury. Welded D rings are riveted to the bag, reducing swing when used with tethered straps, while heavy duty chains help keep it stable.

5/ Everlast Powercore Freestanding Punch Bag

Standing at a formidable six foot three inches and weighing around 113kg (when filled with water), this Everlast punching bag is built to withstand even the most brutal boxing workout. Featuring a specialist foam collar and a flexible neck that absorbs powerful punches, this freestanding bag certainly doesn’t come cheap, so it’s better suited to the more advanced boxer.

6/ Aqua Punching Bag 18 Inch

Rather than padding or filler materials, this 18-inch teardrop-shaped punching bag is filled with water for a more realistic experience (the manufacturer claims it ‘feels like you’re hitting a human body’) allowing you to train longer and harder thanks to its shock-absorbing credentials. Durable and flexible, the Aqua Training Bag weighs around 120 pounds when full.

7/ RDX R3 Double End Speed Ball

If you find the range of motion found in a traditional speedball frustrating, consider investing in the double end variety so you can tether the bottom end to the floor. This cowhide leather speedball by RDX comes with an adjustable rubber bungee cord to keep the whole setup steady.

8/ Dripex Adult Free Standing Boxing Punch Bag

Nowhere to hang a boxing bag? No worries. This heavy duty free standing Dripex bag is the perfect solution, featuring 12 strong suction cups that hold the base in place.

9/ Boxing Bar & Viper Bar Combo

This boxing, mma & fitness device is ideal for using at home or the gym, helping you improve your hand/eye coordination, speed, timing and precision... all with just one punch bar.

10/ Everlast Omniflex Freestanding Heavy Punch Bag

Featuring a narrower base than most traditional free standing boxing bags, this easy-to-assemble Gallant unit makes it easier to bob and weave without tripping over.

11/ Hatton Heavy Bag

Hatton Boxing stuffs its boxing bags with a unique type of filling to ensure they’re up to the task, and this one is no exception; hand-stitched and capable of withstanding your most powerful punch – over and over again.

Effective DIY Boxing Workouts

If your goal is… strength and endurance

Try hitting the bag continuously for as long as possible, says Williams. “Think about approaching endurance training on the bag in the same way as you would a steady state run – steadily,” he says. To up the intensity, take a step towards the bag but maintain the same distance – so you’re hitting the bag at an angle, “thus effectively increasing the weight. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to maintain this level of intensity for a full round, but build both the duration and angle each time.”

If your goal is… power

Hit the bag as hard and fast as you can – with correct technique – for a short period and repeat over a short round, Williams suggests. This should be similar to a HIIT circuit – for example, every 10 seconds throw the fastest, most powerful 5/6 punch combination you can, interspersed with rest or moving around the bag as active recovery.

“Power rounds will be short; you might start for just a minute,” he continues. “Be careful to recover sufficiently between bursts – this is critical to ensure you continue to work in the power zone, rather than moving into strength or endurance. Think about this type of work in the same way you would think of sprint sessions – short, explosive and if done correctly, you’ll be exhausted.”

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