The punching bag, or heavy bag, may loom like a formidable opponent waiting for you to make the first move. But you can easily take control of your heavy bag workouts with systematic drills to improve your technique and conditioning all in one go. Focusing on just a few skills can soon have you mastering the bag and looking forward to the next round.
Since the heavy bag has been known to hit back at times, it’s always a good idea to start a bag workout conservatively, progressing in intensity. A good way to start can be two minutes of "patty cake" drills -- light and fast repetitions of left-right punches -- to warm up the shoulders and get the upper body used to reacting to contact with the bag. Progressing from there can include working the jab, the right and the jab-right-left hook singly for a round each. Throw each punch, no matter how basic, with proper technique even if it means sacrificing some speed or power.
Once you’re into a good groove and channeling your inner Laila Ali, work on putting the punches together into combinations. Combinations can be as simple as several left-right punches in rapid succession or a jab followed by a right-left hook-right. Play with double-jabs and with hitting high for the head and low to the body. Work on stringing together between three and six punches at a time for a good rhythm. Boxing matches are best fought with combinations as opposed to single punches.
Offense and Defense
The bag may not come at you with a knockout punch, but your opponent might. It's a good idea, therefore, to work your defense on the bag as well as your offense. Protect yourself at all times keeping your hands up and your elbows in; make sure the hands come back to the chin to keep your guard up.
Work on blocks even though a punch may not be coming at you. Visualize what your opponent may throw, block appropriately and then come right back at the bag with the appropriate counter punches. Just because the bag isn’t really moving doesn’t mean you can’t. Pepper your combinations with slips, rolls and pulling back as well as constant head movement and blocks. Combining ongoing sequences of offense and defense turns the heavy bag from an object into an opponent, sharpening your overall skill and perception as well as the strength of your punches.
Get in and get out! Deliver your strikes and then get out of range. Whenever you’re not striking the bag, work on staying on your toes and constantly moving. Move forward and back, side-to-side, and even circle around the bag. Stay in your fighting stance and change levels. Use the bag as a focal point for footwork-only exercises. Come toward the bag and move away, working on distance and anticipation. For an unpredictable challenge, give the bag a good shove and work on avoiding it with footwork only from whatever direction it keeps coming at you. Keeping your footwork in the mix of your bag workout will help improve balance as well as speed and lightness on your feet.
Jullie Chung writes regularly for various websites. She is a nationally certified fitness trainer and performance enhancement specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and trains regularly in yoga, flatwater kayaking, boxing and mixed martial arts. An avid outdoor fan, she regularly hikes, climbs and trail runs.