Heavy bags, otherwise known as punching bags, are a great tool for anyone wanting a different kind of aerobic training.
This is a sturdy bag, often filled with rags, sand, or grains, that’s designed for repeated punching. It’s often cylindrical in shape and hangs from a bar for you to practice sparring with.
They’re a great tool for enhancing upper-body strength, but it’s also great for calorie-burning. One-hour of rapid-fire training allows you to burn up to 400 calories. And that’s not even getting into how useful punching something for an hour is for reducing stress!
While heavy bags are typically associated with boxers, you don’t have to be training for a bout with Floyd Mayweather to take advantage of it. There are some great workouts to engage with where you work on your jabs and crosses to break up the routine of lifting weights and jogging.
The only problem is that it can be tough to find regular fitness gyms that offer punching bags, but there are a few national chains that often have them.
Commercial gyms that (might) have heavy bags
When it comes time to sign up for a gym membership, most people begin their search with national chains.
Most of these locations have the same kind of equipment. For example, you can expect to find free weights and treadmills at any gym you call.
However, you may have a more difficult time finding the right gym for you if you want to regularly use a heavy bag (or other specialized equipment).
Your best bets for gyms that have heavy bags are:
It’s vital to note that the exact amenities can vary from one gym to the next.
For example, LA Fitness has water-filled heavy bags at many clubs — but not all of them.
To make sure the location nearest you has all of the equipment you want in your workouts, you should call ahead or schedule a tour.
Additionally, many gyms are more than happy to provide you with a free pass for a day or two, so you can try out any heavy bags before signing up for a legit membership.
It’s always good to check to see if punching bags are kept in decent shape before you commit to a gym for regular boxing workouts.
How to find a local or boutique gym near you with heavy bags
While some gyms will have a heavy bag or two out on the main floor, you may want to get serious about your boxing regimen.
In that case, signing up for a basic gym may not be the right move for you.
Fortunately, an array of boxing and MMA gyms are found across the country that specialize in heavy bag training. Not only will you have access to that equipment, but you can get boxing technique instruction and boxing-inspired cardio workouts as a part of your membership.
Here’s a good rundown of the steps to take to find some solid boxing gyms near you.
- Go to Google and search “boxing gyms near me”
- Find three to five solid options
- Go to their websites and/or Facebook pages
- Call or do research to compare price, amenities, and class schedules.
- Schedule times to visit the gyms — don’t skip this step!
- Take a free introductory class if possible
Additionally, it’s a good idea to check the walls for boxing memorabilia and photos. There’s a possibility some solid boxers have come out of a gym near you, and if you have professionals frequenting a certain studio, then that’s a good sign the trainers there know what they’re talking about.
(A lot of the better studios are run by former pro boxers, which is a great sign.)
While there are punching bags you can purchase to have at home, they can get fairly big. You also have to consider the noise you’ll make and whether that will disturb any neighbors.
Unless you want to work the bag as your main source of exercise, or if you’re training for actual boxing skill, it’s best to do your bag work at the gym.
Again, some commercial gyms will have heavy bags, but if boxing workouts really interest you and you’d like to do them frequently, you’re much better off at a boxing, martial arts, or MMA gym.
Just remember to consider the cost — at a gym, your membership cost will likely be somewhere around $50 per month for unlimited visits and use of the heavy bag (if your gym has one).
Boxing classes at a specialty gym or studio will run between $10-20 per class, or $100-200 per month for class bundles. You may or may not be able to get anytime-access to a boxing gym as a part of your membership for self-guided workouts.
How to use a heavy bag at the gym safely
Working out with a heavy bag can be a lot of fun and a terrific workout.
However, if you don’t know the proper jabbing form, then you could end up doing more harm than good. Here are some basic pointers for ensuring you don’t accidentally hurt yourself while utilizing a punching bag.
Maintain your balance
You want to avoid leaning too heavily into the bag. You want both feet firmly planted on the ground with your arms doing most of the heavy lifting.
This also includes avoiding jumping around too much as you’re exercising. The best boxers have a firm stance, so practice just in one spot initially until you get the hang of it.
From there, you can begin moving around the bag more, but even as you step, you want your feet secure.
Avoid pushing the bag
A lot of beginners have a tendency to merely push the heavy bag around with their fist. This causes the bag to sway excessively, which is what you don’t want.
Instead, you need to focus on landing solid punches. Your fist should make a firm thud sound with every punch.
A good way to achieve this is to make sure your fist isn’t making prolonged contact with the bag. Your jabs should be quick.
After making contact for the briefest second, you want to quickly pull the fist back. This keeps the bag relatively in place, so you aren’t dealing with something swaying back and forth, which is dangerous.
Good boxers snap their hands back to protect their face from a counterblow.
Focus on breathing
A lot of people new to heavy bags will engage in explosive bursts of punching followed by over a minute of rest.
You aren’t going to have such a break in a real fight, so the best way to train is by focusing on your breathing patterns!
You shouldn’t be overly concerned with throwing the hardest punch possible. It’s better to give a sustained effort with proper form for the best workout.
Over time, your endurance will improve and you won’t get tired as easily, so you can continue working out on the heavy bag for longer.
Working the heavy bag is an unbelievable workout. If you haven’t done it, you’ll be surprised how quickly you tire — even if you’re already in great shape.
You can always buy one for home, but they can be tricky to hang properly. They’re also pretty loud!
Check your local Crunch, Life Time, Equinox, LA Fitness, or Gold’s to see if they have heavy bags. You might be in luck.
Otherwise, you’ll do great with regular boxing workouts at a nearby specialty gym — though you’ll pay quite a bit more.
Before you go, check out:
Hope this helps!