We all know that heavy bags are for punching, but is there anything else that you can do with them?
The heavy bag is one of the most iconic pieces of combat sports and martial arts equipment. In movies, no good training montage is complete without one. In life, they’re a fixture in boxing gyms, dojos, and even some fitness centers. They’re also a popular option for home gyms and at-home training. And for good reason! They’re an excellent training tool for strikers and for fitness buffs. Training with a heavy bag helps you to work on your technique, develop power, and improve your cardiovascular conditioning. Even if you have no interest in boxing, Muay Thai, or MMA training, going a few rounds with a heavy bag is a fun and effective workout.
Heavy bags are so great at their intended purpose that they don’t really need to do anything else to be a valuable piece of martial arts equipment. But if you want to get creative, there are even more ways you can train with a heavy bag. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Ground & Pound Drills
This alternative use of the heavy bag isn’t the biggest departure. You’re still hitting the bag. But it does involve using a hanging bag in a different position. And that does open up a whole new world in terms of training opportunities and potential gains.
Ground & pound drills on the heavy bag, which simulate striking from offensive and defensive grappling positions in mixed martial arts, have obvious benefits for MMA. But they can also be a fun and effective form of exercise for fitness buffs and martial artists from other disciplines.
When we’re striking from a standing position, we’re taught to use our entire bodies to throw a punch. But when you’re striking from a kneeling position, you can’t recruit the power generated in your hips and core in the same way. Learning to throw the most effective punches possible from the ground challenges your mind and body in new ways. Chances are that you’ll come away from a ground & pound session with a whole new level of body awareness — and appreciation for hip movement in your standing work!
If you don’t have access to a heavy bag, or the space for for one at home, you can also adapt many ground & pound drills for use with a foam shield.
2. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Drills on the Heavy Bag
You might have seen — or done — these drills if you’ve trained at an MMA gym, or a dojo that teaches multiple disciplines. If you want to work on grappling position drills and you don’t have access to a training partner or a grappling dummy, a heavy bag on the ground can be a very useful substitute. Drills working from mount, knee-on-belly, transitions, and guard passes are all easy to adapt to the heavy bag. Depending on your bag and your legs, you might be able to adapt some drills from the guard position for use with a heavy bag as well.
3. Plyometric Drills With Heavy Bags
From a hanging position, heavy bags can be used for a number of pushing and rotation-based plyometric exercises. These exercises can help you develop explosive power in your upper body that can be applied to punches, as well as any other activities that originate from your core and shoulder girdle. On the ground, you can use heavy bags for plyometric exercises like hurdle jumps and toe taps. This will help develop explosive power in your lower body that can be used in everything from punches and kicks to takedowns and takedown defences.
4. Heavy Bag Ab Workout
This one will make you look and feel like you’re in a martial arts movie training montage. If you have the leg strength and the abdominal strength, this exercise is great for core strength and mobility. Crunches on a hanging heavy bag are not for beginners, though!
If you’re not sure if your legs can stabilize and support you in this position, or if your abdominals can pull you up against gravity at this angle without the risk of strain or injury, though, you don’t have to give up the dream just yet. You can try the move with a longer heavy bag. Lie on the mat in front of it, wrap your legs around the bottom, and start with crunches from that position. Once you develop strength, endurance, and confidence, you can move on to the more advanced version.
5. Functional Strength Training With Heavy Bags
You probably won’t want to try this kind of training with a heavy bag that you’re using for traditional boxing and heavy bag training. But if you have an old bag lying around, this is a great way to get more use out of it. Old heavy bags can be used in place of tires for functional and strong man training exercises. They can be used in flips and sledgehammer swings. You can also use it as a target for baseball swings, which is a great cross-training core exercise for strikers.