The Heavy Bag.
The heavy bag is something most of us see in the gym or on television and assume it is just for boxers or MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighters, this isn't the case. The heavy bag has a whole slew of exercises that are possible with it, this combined with its very small footprint makes it the perfect addition to any home gym or to a student living in a small apartment.
What exercises are possible with it? First off the heavy bag can be used as a weight for squats or any exercise you need weight for, it can be used to weigh down feet when doing sit ups, you can wrap your legs around it while it's hanging and do crunches, you can use it for elevated push ups and it works great for plyometrics by placing it on the floor, jumping over it and going straight into pushups or vice versa. Finally the best use of it is to give a killer cardio workout, build muscle and train you in some self defence.
Buying A Heavy Bag. Here are some things to know when investing in a heavy bag. First off how will you mount it?
There are two options here you can hang it from the ceiling/wall or you can buy a stand for it to sit on your floor. There are multiple weights you will see when looking to purchase one. The most common is the 80 pound bag which is my personal favourite. 80 pounds gives you enough resistance so that you can build strength while hitting it, while not giving too much of a challenge. 80 pounds also makes it easy for someone on their own to put up. Other weights you can find these in are 40, 50, 70, 100, 125, 130, 150 and everything in between. When choosing a weight here is a standard rule to follow, for most males or females who are light hitters go with a 40-50 pound bag, for those who hit hard go with 70-80. If you plan on doing kicks you will want at least an 80 pound bag if not heavier. Finally one of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to this some people think "Shouldn't I get the heavier weighted bag cause I am a fairly strong person and can bench 200 pounds in my sleep?" that isn't true, going from an 80 pound bag to a 150 pound bag is like the difference between punching drywall to punching solid concrete. If someone isn't trained in proper punching technique a heavier weight can and will result in injuries, unless you have some form of training in proper technique I would stay below the 100 pound bag.
Wraps, Keeping Your Wrists Safe. Wraps for newcomers are easily the most forgotten piece of gear that is a necessity.In the world of boxing and training with a heavy bag wraps are as important as water is to a standard workout. Gloves alone are not enough to protect your wrists, although they do provide adequate protection for your knuckles you need something to reinforce your wrists or you will be looking at some very serious recurring wrist injuries. First off there are many brands out there. Typically wraps come in two lengths 108" and 180". If you are wanting to wrap your thumb as well go with the 180", if you want to do your wraps the way I do where I skip the thumb then go with 108". Some of the best and most trusted brands for wraps are Hayabusa, Everlast and Bad Boy Stitch Wraps (named after famous cutman Stitch Duran).
How To Put On Wraps.
STEP 1: Put the loop around your thumb, make sure it is right side up (you should be able to tell by looking as it will look flush when the right side is up. When wrapping your hands make sure the remaining wrap is going away from your thumb (see photo below).
STEP 2: Begin by wrapping the wrist, for most people three very tight wraps around it will do the trick. This is the most important step if you don't wrap your wrists tight enough (like I did when beginning) you will end up with some pretty bad wrist injuries. A good rule of thumb is to not have them so tight they cut off blood flow, but tight enough that they are extremely snug and don’t cause pain when making a fist. It is a lot like trying on shoes, at first they will feel uncomfortable but wear them for a bit and start your workout and they will loosen up. On the last of the three wraps of the wrist you will want to bring the last up more towards where the wrist meets the hand (see photo).
STEP 3: Next take the wrap and begin to wrap the knuckles. After each wrap around make a fist to make sure they are not too tight. Typically two wraps around your knuckles will do as the gloves provide enough padding for your knuckles. Finally once you are satisfied with your knuckle wraps bring the remaining wrap so it is hanging on the underside of your hand and bring it down to the base of the thumb. (See step 4 photo for example, we can see its coming up through the fingers but started at the base of the thumb and went up)
Step 4: Bring the wrap up from behind the base of the thumb and go straight through the first finger.
STEP 5-8: THE X. The X is the most important part of wraps, this gives more strength to your knuckles and hand as a whole. This also helps bring the fist when closed together more resulting in a safer more powerful punch. Repeat this step with the other fingers. Make the X (as seen highlighted in green on the below photo) and come back around the space between your thumb and index finger. Go around to the other side of the hand (like when wrapping your knuckles). Come out at the base of the thumb and repeat the process until you do the 3 "X's". Finally after you do the last X you should have just enough left to be able to wrap your hand a few more times. For me I leave out wrapping my thumb, but for some wrapping the thumb is preferred. If you want to wrap your thumb or would like a video to better illustrate how to wrap your hands you can do so here. Finally with the remaining wrap you can cover up your knuckles more but what I find more effective and what protects your wrists better is to finish the wraps at the wrist (see step 8 photo).
GLOVES, FLOOR MATS AND FINAL THOUGHTS.
Gloves aren't just there to make you look cool, they provide padding to help protect the knuckles. There are two types of gloves, MMA style gloves (the fingerless ones) and boxing style gloves (that cover the whole hand). Aside from these two main types of gloves we also have something called training gloves. Training gloves are a lot more affordable than competition gloves, because of this they are a great option for students or people on a budget.
If you are planning on doing any ground work I would suggest purchasing some foam mats for your floor. After a few hours a week of working on your ground game it is tough on the knees even on carpeted floor. As well if you are practicing kicks it is a good idea to have some padding on the floor in case you lose your balance and fall. I have fallen once or twice when learning kicks and I must say not having padding and falling on cement feels like the world is ending.
In conclusion the heavy bag can be used for so much more than just punching. I use mine for squats and sit-ups very regularly. The heavy bag is the most underutilized piece of equipment, it does the work of many other pieces of gym equipment in one and for its price and size it is the perfect addition to your home gym. Stay fit, healthy and keep drinking protein.
Wes Beiko | @WesBeiko
Previous Post: The 5 Biggest Bench Press Mistakes