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One of the keys to improving in Muay Thai is using the heavy bag in your training. The heavy bag is one of the most under utilized training tools in Western gyms because it requires people to put in work on their own.
Whether you show up early or stay late in your gym, it is important to get your work done on the heavy bag on your own time.
Heavy bag training can allow you to work on a number of areas of your game, without needing a pad holder. Since you can work on the heavy bag at your own pace, it is the ideal piece when you are training on your own at home or in the gym.
Benefits of Muay Thai Heavy Bag Training
- Strengthen your shins and knuckles over time
- Develop better rhythm and timing when you hit a bag that is swinging
- Work on improving your combinations
- Improve your footwork and movement
- Improve your Cardio with different conditioning drills
- Work on your reflexes and develop better defense
Finding YOUR Perfect Heavy Bag:
When it comes to choosing the right heavy bag it is important for you to look at the different factors that make up a good heavy bag. Besides the obvious choice of choosing what type of heavy bag you want to purchase, you will also need to look at other factors such as the fill of the bag and how to mount the bag.
If you are buying a heavy bag for your home gym, you will want to get something that gives you the most bang for your buck. Conversely, if you are setting up a commercial gym you might want to have a few different types of heavy bags available so people can work on a number of different areas of their game.
Types of Muay Thai Heavy Bags
The Long (Banana) Heavy Bag
The next type of Heavy Bag that You will find in a lot of Muay Thai gyms is the Long or Banana heavy bag. These bags are generally six feet of longer and are designed to allow you to work on low kicks.
Most people commonly associate the Long Heavy Bags as the ideal bag for Muay Thai training, however, this is not the case. While the banana bag allows for low kicks, if you visit any gym in Thailand you might see one or two banana bags, and 10+ normal heavy bags.
The downside with the banana bag is that it doesn’t have much swing when you kick or punch it. Usually these bags hang really low to the ground and when you kick the center of the bag they will cave in. Banana bags are ideal for working on low kicks and combinations that involve low kicks. However, if you only have space for one bag in your home gym I would avoid going with this bag.
This is an ideal bag to add in addition to a traditional heavy bag. If you only have space for one heavy bag, I would recommend getting a classic heavy bag because they have more swing and have a much better feel when you kick and punch the bags.
- Length of bag allows you to work on all of your Muay Thai weapons, including low kicks
- Great for drilling combinations of punches and low kicks
- Not ideal for body kicks (too narrow in the middle)
- Long bags have little swing so it is difficult to work on movement
- The bags can be extremely hard towards the bottom after time (like most bags)
The Classic Heavy Bag
The quintessential heavy bag that you will find in every Muay Thai gym around the world is the classic heavy bag. These bags are usually 4 feet in length and can weigh anywhere from 60-150 lbs depending on the fill of the bag.
The fill of the heavy bag will determine the swing of the bag. If you kick a heavy bag that is filled with light materials, you will notice the bag swinging back and forth very rapidly.
Bags that have a lot of swing can help you develop better movement as you can move out of the way whenever the bag comes back towards you. On the downside, some lighter bags have too much swinging and don’t provide much resistance when you punch or kick.
Kicking bags that have very light filling is not ideal. Even though you might feel like a beast when you are hitting a light filled bag, it does not give you a realistic feel of an actual opponent.
Most manufacturers use vinyl, synthetic leather, or leather with a nylon lining in the construction of the heavy bags. The durability of your heavy bag will depend on a number of factors, but heavy use and humidity often play the biggest role in their durability.
- The best bag for general Muay Thai training (I use this bag 90% of the time)
- Swing on the bag allows for footwork and movement
- The heavy bag feels great when strike it
- Height of the bag does not allow for low kicks (Solution?: You can lower the bag with a longer chain if you really want to hit some low kicks)
- No curves in this bag make it difficult to work on uppercut punches
Tear Shaped (Knee) Heavy Bags
The Tear shaped heavy bag has a unique shape that allows you to throw strikes at different angles. Tear shaped bags are sometimes referred to as knee bags because the unique angle makes it easy to knee the bag.
In addition to throwing knees, tear shaped bags also allow boxers to throw uppercuts and hooks from different angles. The rounded edges allow you to get under the bag and really dig deep when you are working on your uppercuts. While you can kick these heavy bags, they don’t feel that great when you use them solely for kicking.
Tear shaped bags are ideal for working on your punches and knees. They narrow top of the bag can allow you to get a nice grip if you want to throw a series of knees on the bag.
- Great bag for working on uppercuts, body hooks, knees and elbows
- Wide angle of the bag prevents a lot of swing
- Body Kicks feel solid on these bags
- You cannot throw low kicks on this bag
- Less swing then classic heavy bags
Angled Heavy Bags
Angled heavy bags provide a nice compromise between the tear shaped heavy bag and the banana bag. Given the unique shape of these bags, you can work your uppercuts towards the top of the bag and work on low kicks towards the bottom of the bag.
These bags will range from 4-6 feet in length depending on the manufacturer of the bag. Most angled heavy bags are generally thicker than the banana bag, which allows for a sturdy feel when you kick the bag.
Given the size and thickness of the bag, there is usually very little swing in the bag. These bags are good for working on your full range of Muay Thai weapons, but they do not allow you to work on your footwork and movement on the bag.
If you were going to get a second bag in addition to the classic heavy bag, this would be a good option because it allows you to work on some specific areas of your game.
- The 6ft versions of these bags allow you to work on all Muay Thai weapons
- Angled top allows for uppercuts and body shots
- Very little swing when hitting the bag
- Not too much give when you kick the bag
Besides choosing the right type of heavy bags, you also need to decide the type of heavy bag filling that you want and how you will install the heavy bag.
Heavy Bag Filling (Weight)
The fill of the heavy bag plays and important role in how the bag feels when you punch and kick it. The weight of the filled bag will determine the particular swing of the bag. Bags that are very light, will swing a lot when you punch and kick them. Conversely, bags that have a heavier will provide more resistance and less swing.
Ideally, you should choose a bag that gives you a solid amount of resistance without swinging too much. I prefer bags that are at least 100 lbs to ensure that they don’t go flying all over the place when you punch or kick.
Since the cost of shipping is determined by the weight of an item, you can save money if your purchase a bag that is unfilled. Filling your own bag will give you flexibility and allow you to choose the desired firmness of the bag. If you are just starting out you may want to start with a lightly filled bag and increase the firmness as you get stronger.
Since most bags are filled with cut up fabrics and clothes, you will find that after time the bags will get harder towards the bottom of the bag and softer at the top. Every time you strike the bag, gravity will work to push the contents of the bag further down.
Sand filled bags are usually avoided because the weight will sink to the bottom of the bag and create an uneven feeling. They are also extremely hard and will hurt to punch and kick. Shredded fabric is the most common type of filling you will find in most Muay Thai heavy bags today.
Hanging Your Heavy Bag
Another consideration you need to make when you are purchasing a Muay Thai heavy bag is how you will hang the bag. Generally there are two methods that are used to hang heavy bags:
- Wall Brackets
- Heavy Bag Stands
As the name suggest, wall brackets are mounted to the wall and allow you to hang the heavy bag below. When you are setting up your wall bracket you need to secure the bracket properly. Remember that the heavy bag can weigh upwards of 150 lbs and will be moving around as you punch and kick it.
If you fail to properly secure your punching bag the wall bracket can collapse under enough weight. Read the manufacturers instructions when you are setting up a wall bracket for your punching bag.
The second method of hanging a Muay Thai heavy bag is to use a heavy bag stand. Heavy bag stands are steel frames that allow the bag to be suspended within the frame. This ensures that you don’t have to worry about mounting the bag on your wall.
There are generally two types of heavy bag stands that you can find. The first type of stand is free standing and is not secured to the ground. These stands are easy to setup and don’t require you to make any permanent holes. The other type of stand is the heavy duty stands that are mounted on the ground and are similar to wall brackets.
Any stand that is free standing and not attached or mounted to anything is not ideal. One of the keys to improving your striking is to work on your movement. Free standing bags only allow you to strike the bag from the front and do not allow you to move around the bag.
Does Brand Make A Difference
When it comes to choosing a heavy bag, the brand you choose is not as important as your boxing gloves or shin pads. What you should look at when you purchase a heavy bag is the materials they use (leather, synthetic leather, vinyl, etc.) and the weight of the heavy bag. I find that leather and synthetic leather give the best feel when you hit the bag.
All of the top Muay Thai brands in Thailand (Fairtex, Twins, Top King) make quality heavy bags. You won’t notice much of a difference between the brands in Thailand because they are all made with the same materials.
Another thing you should look for in your bag is if it has a zipper closed top or it is stitched up. If the bag is comes pre-filled, it may be difficult to fill the bag with your own materials. All unfilled bags always have a zipper opening at the top which allows you to easily open up the bag and fill it without removing stitching.
I recommend getting an unfilled bag and filling it yourself, however, if you don’t want to go through the hassle you can always purchase a filled bag. When buying a pre-filled bag you need to determine the weight of the bag. I would purchase a heavier filled bag because they lighter ones are pretty flimsy.
If you are going to purchase one Muay Thai heavy bag, I recommend you stick with the Classic heavy bag. There is a reason why every single gym in Thailand uses these bags as the staple for their training. While some of the bigger gyms will have other types of specialty bags, the standard heavy bag is the first thing you should purchase.
Once you have a classic heavy bag in your gym, you can then add a longer heavy bag that can allow you to work on your low kicks. Either choose the banana bag or the angle bag (long version) as your second bag.
If you have multiple heavy bags in your gym, have one heavy bag that is filled harder so you can work on your shin conditioning. This is the best way to develop harder shins without trying to use rolling pins or bash your shins on a regular basis.