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Heavy Bag Training

Learning how to use the heavy bag for boxing training

Learning how to train with the heavy bag is one of the most fundamental aspects of boxing training at any level. It will form the core of your training sessions, and it will provide everything from conditioning and cardio training to a place for you to hone your technique, practice putting everything you’ve learned together and much more.

In truth, there’s no one-way, “right” or “wrong” approach when it comes to using the heavy bag. The most important thing is getting to work, and working hard. From there, you can focus on many different specific elements of your game or simply go to town and stay busy.

Getting Started with the Heavy Bag

Before getting started on the heavy bag, make sure you have your hands wrapped and have a pair of bag gloves sturdily secured. That’s all you’ll need to work with the heavy bag, although a boxing round timer that automatically keeps track of time and rounds for you is certainly very useful as well.

As mentioned, heavy bag training is about conditioning, practicing technique and form, and combining multiple disciplines together into one complete game. It’s not just throwing a jab, it’s throwing a jab the right way, following up with a straight right, keeping the right distance, stepping to the side and then throwing another combination, for example.

So, before you ever use the heavy bag, you should have had some basic training or understanding of the proper form for how to throw each punch. But once you’re on the bag, you can get all of the repetition in to perfect those shots and throw them with maximum speed and force, proper distance and correct posture to work within your complete game.

One good rule of thumb to get started with is to make sure you always throw punches in at least combinations of four or more. When you do this, you’ll ensure that you’re staying busy and working hard, and because you’re throwing multiple punches, you’ll be working on combining all of those different elements mentioned above.

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Don’t stay stationary in one spot as you’re using the heavy bag. You want to circle around the bag and practice your footwork, distance and defensive principles as well. A traditional right-handed fighter will naturally work to his left as he throws combinations. So you can do that, or you can force yourself to go against the grain to your right, and switch it up between moving in either direction.

Once again, staying busy is key because you’re working on your stamina and conditioning, so don’t take any rest breaks during a round. In fact, many individuals don’t rest at all when using the heavy bag – they’ll work for 20 minutes straight, for example, which would be a full five three-minute rounds plus a minute off for each, simply ignoring the minute off. Alternately, you can set your timer for four or five minute rounds, or cut down on the timer’s rest from 60 seconds to 30 seconds as a way to boost the intensity of your cardio training.

How to Approach Heavy Bag Training – Drills, Techniques & Ideas

Here are some different ways to approach heavy bag training in addition to the starter’s tips mentioned above:

  • One of my favorite heavy bag drills is the 250 punch challenge. The basic principle is throwing as many punches as you can in a standard three-minute round, aiming to reach 250 punches (in 180 seconds). Perfect form isn’t required, but you can’t throw lollygagging arm punches and count them either. Simply throw those hands and keep on working, and keep track in your head. You can start with a lower goal – 150 or 200 – and work up to higher goals, like 275 or 300 per round.
  • You can work on perfecting one combination or technique per round. Spend a full three minutes working on one specific element of your boxing game – whether it’s a combination, it’s ducking under after a right hand and popping back up with a left hook, resetting your footwork after a combination, or anything else. Maybe you’re double left hook is lagging behind your other shots – end every combination for a full round with a double left hook and get those reps in working at it.
  • Get in close to the heavy bag and do some infighting. Push off on the bag with your forearms to get it swinging and create some distance, and practice being toe-to-toe in close quarters with an opponent. Get your forehead up on the bag and bang away to the body. Keep your punches short and crisp. Hold your guard high and use head movement. Focus on getting in close and then escaping danger, and so forth.
  • Another of my favorite heavy bag drills is like shadow boxing on the bag. In other words, during this round, focus all of your attention on approaching the bag like you would an actual opponent, down to every detail. Keep your form tight, throw only the shots and combinations you would in a real fight, work in your defense and target the correct areas of the bag.
  • Spend one round doing nothing but throwing body shots. Everyone tends to throw more to the head than to the body, and people get into those habits on the heavy bag. Therefore, one very effective heavy bag drill is to spend a round throwing all body shots. You can set up a left hook to the body with a few quick jabs upstairs or a quick 1-2, but the focus is on the body shots. For the final minute of the round, alternate your shots and make sure to throw 20-30 full strength, perfect-form left hooks and right uppercuts to the body each.

As we said at the top, there’s no single right or wrong approach to learning how to use the heavy bag. But with all of the heavy bag drills, techniques and tips mentioned above, anybody will be able to get started with this all-important aspect of boxing training.