Buying a heavy bag is the second most important purchase you’re going to make in your martial arts journey (the first being your boxing gloves). Heavy bags come in a plethora of shapes, weights, sizes, and as with all things, no one thing fits all. Getting a heavy bag signals your stepping into serious training territory and you would be best served if you took the time to do some research beforehand. Picking the wrong bag could mean wasting time, effort, and money on something that doesn’t suit your needs. Luckily, we are here to help you out.
Below you’ll find all you need to know to make an informed choice on your new heavy bag which is pretty damn important since you’ll be hitting that bag for a long time. Time spent on getting your facts straight is time saved recovering from injuries, as well as time saved from cursing your impulsive consumerist habits. Here’s what you should look out for when you’re ready to step up your game with some solid heavy bag practice.
Bag Support System
Heavy bags fall under two main categories when it comes to how your bag is fixed in your training area: Hanging or Free-Standing (or Wall Mounted, but this type of striking surface is not a bag, strictly-speaking). Both have certain pros and cons, although most competitive fighters opt for the former.
Hanging bags are considered the “classic” heavy bag type and they make for the best striking experience. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they allow for full mobility around them. Plus, they tend to swing when hit, which will greatly improve your timing, speed, and accuracy. Also, they are usually cheaper than their free-standing counterparts. The only real downside of the hanging bag is that once you fix it on a beam or hang it from a suitable hook from the ceiling, it’s there to stay. Also, you’d better make sure that the structural integrity of hanging point can take it, otherwise you’ll soon be showering in plaster dust.
Free-standing bags on the other hand are designed for the minimum hassle in setup and storage, so they are mostly preferred by non-professional practitioners. They are really easy to place and roll out once you’re done training, however, they tend to topple over occasionally when you hit them hard. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – especially if you’re training in MMA – since you can take them to the mat for some ground and pound action. They are ideal for the recreational fighter with limited space, but they are often more expensive than hanging bags, with some brands even reaching double the price.
Bag Weight & Filler Material
Bag weight is the next most important feature you want to look out for since this will determine the bag’s behaviour when you go to town on it. Weight doesn’t only have to do with the size of the bag, but with the filler material as well, and with some materials, this will also affect the firmness of the bag, especially near the bottom.
A good rule of thumb is to choose a bag that weighs about half your weight, unless of course you are very experienced and you want to condition your hands and legs, or if you strike exceptionally hard. Choose a bag that’s too light and it will swing wildly after every strike; choose a bag that’s too heavy and you risk injury. Needless to say, a bigger bag will be heavier than a smaller one. As far as filler materials go, your options include fiber, foam, sand, and water.
Fiber-filled bags are by far the most common (and cheaper), and they provide roughly the same resistance throughout their surface. “Fiber-filled” in this context is mostly a fancy way of saying that your heavy bag contains shredded pieces of fabric.
Foam-filled bags contain special high-density foam that provides a consistent striking experience, and what’s more, it doesn’t settle so your bag remains even and doesn’t stiffen near the bottom.
Sand-filled bags are also good striking targets and they provide a solid striking surface which will help you condition your knuckles and shins faster. That said, they sometimes tend to harden near the bottom as the sand settles.
Water-filled bags are the best when it comes to realistic striking feedback. These bags are the most consistent in terms of striking experience and they feel like you’re hitting an actual person (which makes sense since people are also mostly water).
Last but not least, you have to decide on which shape your heavy bag will have, given your training needs and your martial arts style. Different bag shapes make for different types of training. Available heavy bag shapes are Standard, Long (Banana), Angled, Teardrop, and Wrecking Ball.
Standard (or Traditional) bags are exactly that; the iconic bags that most people associate with combat sports. These are the best all-purpose bags out there and you can probably find them hanging in most martial arts gyms. Not too wide, not too long, they can either serve as punching or kicking targets, relative to their hanging height.
Long (Banana) bags are longer, thinner versions of the traditional bags which allow for low kicks in addition to your usual range of strikes. They are usually as tall as a person and they tend to settle a bit towards the bottom. They are heavily favoured by Muay Thai practitioners for obvious reasons.
Angled Bags (Single or Double) are designed to also allow for uppercuts (single) as well as the full range of angled strikes such as under hooks or overhand punches (double). They are better suited for pure boxing, but the single angle ones can also be used for kicks.
Teardrop bags are the best when it comes to strike versatility, since you can strike them with your full repertoire, including angled strikes, knees, and elbows. This feature makes them Muay Thai favourites as well.
Wrecking Ball bags are quite specialised and thus not really suited for kicks since they are usually hang fairly high. That said, they do offer the largest amount of freedom when it comes to hand strikes, plus they are a great tool to help you improve your evasion movements.
Top 10 Heavy Bags in the Market
By now you should have a fairly good idea how to choose your ideal heavy bag, so it’s time to get into the specifics. The following list catalogues our favourite bags right now, based on our experience and research, and it’s meant to give you a general direction towards getting what you need. It’s by no means exhaustive since there are a lot of quality manufacturers out there, but choosing one of these bags is certain to satisfy even the most dedicated strikers.
The Century Tidal Wave Hydra Core Heavy Bag is ideal if you’re blessed with freakishly strong hitting power. This traditional bag is water-filled, meaning that it holds a central water core, enclosed within a foam layer and covered by vinyl. True to form, this bag provides a very realistic striking experience as it simulates hitting an actual opponent very well. It allows for a fair amount of versatility in regards to weight as you can adjust it by simply adding or taking out water from the flexible water tank of its interior. The fact that it is water filled makes it jerk around considerably less when you hit it and it is also much quieter. The only real downside is that you can’t lay it on the ground as it will most probably leak water through the zipper. It comes in Large and Extra Large sizes, but in any case you should probably not fill it to the brim.
This bag is among the best of its kind relative to its price, as long as you are looking for a free-standing bag. It is filled with impact foam which makes for a solid and consistent striking surface with no chance of deformation or settling. The whole thing is enclosed in vinyl which explains the affordable price. The base can be filled with water or sand and the total weight of the bag reaches 250 pounds when fully filled. That said, it proves quite sturdy even when kicked hard, with only some rocking after particularly powerful strikes. Since it is a free-standing bag, it is of course possible to topple it, but you will be hard-pressed to do so. It accommodates a variety of attacks, slightly favoring punches to kicks even though the height can be adjusted. The Century Original Wavemaster Bag is a good choice for the serious practitioner who has space constraints and is looking for minimum hassle when setting it up.
Ringside long heavy bags are a common sight in many Muay Thai gyms and for good reason. The company has a reputation for durable, quality products and this bag is no exception. It is filled with synthetic fiber pieces – clear plastic beads to be exact – and it weighs around 100 pounds. The bag’s cover is made of powerhide which proves resilient over time and standing at a length of 6 feet, it is certain to accommodate your full range of strikes, low kicks included. Some may be taken aback by the fact that this bag is somewhat slimmer than most banana bags, but actually, once you get used to it you’ll find that it can work wonders for your striking accuracy. It has been described as soft and a bit less heavy than expected, especially by hard hitters, but all things considered, it more than amply conditions your knuckles and shins since it allows for repeated hard strikes with minimal risk of injury. The slight downside: it tends to settle a little over time near the bottom.
The Outslayer Muay Thai Heavy bag is another surefire hit among combat sports enthusiasts, combining durable materials, solid striking experience, and a very affordable price. This bag is filled with compressed fabric which surprisingly shows little to no displacement, even after thousands of strikes. It comes weighing 150 pounds, but it also allows for extra filling that can bring the total weight to 300 pounds. The bag stands at 6 feet with a vinyl cover, and given its price to quality ratio it’s one of the best value-for-money options in the market for the beginner and intermediate practitioner. There’s really not much you can ask from a long heavy bag that the Outslayer doesn’t provide. Also, we find the look of the bag very inviting to train; think of it as someone with an extremely punchable face.
Entering into angled heavy bag territory we find the TITLE Big Bang bag, filled with synthetic micro-fiber material, covered with reinforced synthetic leather, and weighing a comfortable 60 pounds. This top-heavy, single-angled bag has a sturdy look and feel to it and allows you to unleash your full repertoire of strikes from most possible angles. Although it is ideal for uppercuts, underhooks, knees and the like, a full-power roundhouse will send it swinging considerably, unless you make use of its bottom tie-down D ring to secure it to the ground. The bag behaves consistently over time and the durability of its construction leaves nothing to be desired. If you are serious about your boxing training you need look no further than the TITLE Big Bang; it’s not too pricy either.
The Combat Sports Double-End Heavy bag is not the heaviest of bags, since it only weighs 45 pounds, but power striking is not what this bag is for. Unless secured to the ground it swings quite a lot, which is not really a bad thing since it encourages nimble footwork while working on your combos. This double-angled bag leans heavily towards technical work, so if you are out to rain down the pain you would probably be best served by a heavier bag. It is filled with synthetic fiber and is encased in quality synthetic leather that withstands the test of time admirably. While not suitable if you are interested in buying only one bag, if you’re a hardcore martial arts practitioner, the Combat Sports Double-End will help you hone your speed, accuracy, and timing a great deal.
The fact that the Fairtex Teardrop Heavy bag made it into this list comes as no surprise, since Fairtex casts a long shadow in the world of fighting gear manufacturers. This bag is specifically designed for stand up striking and its quality construction is second to none. The bag weighs 64 pounds and its shape makes it perfect for a wide variety of strikes – barring low kicks – as well as clinch-work. It is filled with synthetic fiber and encased in premium real leather, which although magnificent in terms of striking experience, jacks up the price considerably. There are few bags that are so well suited to Muay Thai, and this one is among them. If you feel confident with filling it up on your own, you can shave a solid $100 off the price of the pre-filled model.
Another quality, stand up striking-oriented teardrop bag, Revgear’s heavy bag delivers exactly what it promises at a more affordable price than its Fairtex counterpart. This American brand is not as well known among strikers as other, older brands, but this is something that this bag will remedy. Clad in reinforced synthetic leather, filled with synthetic fiber, and weighing 80 pounds, this bag will satisfy your striking needs as it allows for uppercuts, underhooks, overhand strikes, knees, kicks, and of course clinching. Though not at the top of the teardrop heavy bag line, the Revgear comes at an excellent quality-to-price ratio, and is certain to accompany you well into the intermediate stage of your training years. Decent, durable, and dependable; more than enough for its price in our book.
Wrecking ball heavy bags are not usually favored by Muay Thai practitioners, since these favor hand strikes heavily, but you’ll probably see at least one in any given boxing gym. Odds are that the ones you encounter will be Ringside Body Snatchers since their durable powerhide construction and soft filling makes them a favorite among boxers. It weighs around 70 pounds and is quite big to boot. Your practice with this bag will mostly be focused around creating angled hand strikes, however the feedback it provides is less than ideal. Overall very durable, the Ringside Body Snatcher will complement your training nicely, especially if you combine it with a traditional heavy bag for your kicks.
A personal favorite of ours, the Aqua Training bag is about versatility above all else. Whether it is your footwork, head-movement, angled hand strikes, or close quarters work that you want to hone, this bag is top-notch. Weighing 75 pounds and filled with water, it provides a great striking surface that is very safe for your wrists indeed. It comes with a garden hose filling nozzle and stoppers. Nevertheless, it may prove a bit tricky to fill, so you’d best take it outside if you don’t want to get wet. Other than that, hitting this bag is a very fulfilling experience and you’ll surely catch yourself imagining hitting an actual human opponent’s head, since its realistic feedback is unparalleled.