The heavy bag is the best friend of every fighter. It is always there for you, even when no partners or trainers are around. It can take your best punch and will never complain, improving every aspect of fighting. But the full benefits can be yours only when you know how to train on the heavy bag.
There are countless excellent exercises and drills you can do on a heavy bag, and there is not one “correct” way. It’s a surprisingly flexible tool that can help you build power and speed and improve technique while reinforcing good habits.
The 8 great boxing heavy bag workouts I have compiled below are not groundbreaking, and they shouldn’t be. They are time-tested methods familiar to many who have spent any meaningful time in the gym. This means these workouts have proven to be very effective and worth your time and sweat.
This is in no way an exhaustive list. Still, each exercise has a different focus, and doing all of them at different times can be more than enough for years of training.
8 Powerful Boxing Heavy Bag Workouts
1. Single Power Punches
One of the best drills you can do on a heavy bag is throwing single-power punches. This may seem obvious, but we often get lost doing fancy drills and always look for new exercises to try, forgetting to do the basics.
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But we also must remember why the heavy bag was created in the first place: to have something to hit with full power that will not break but also not injure boxers’ hands.
You can use different tools and drills to perfect speed and accuracy, work on tactics, etc. Still, no better piece of equipment allows you to let your hands go without restraint than the heavy bag.
We have done extensive articles on how to punch harder based on scientific research. The shortest answer is simple: to punch hard, you need to have experience punching hard.
With experience, you will learn to enhance your effective mass and put the entire weight of your body behind your punches, which is done by countless focused repetitions.
So, use the heavy bag as intended and throw full-power single punches to improve the maximum force you can generate. Do not throw combinations or use other techniques like footwork or head movement while working on this drill.
Focus solely on delivering the hardest punch you can with proper technique. Isolate every punch, and focus on relaxing and stiffening at the correct times and on rotation.
Do this with straights, hooks, and uppercuts (on a suitable bag). Dedicate a whole round just for one punch.
2. Same Side Punches
A great way to build punching stamina is by doing same-side punches. This will also teach you to string same-side combinations, which are rare but can catch opponents off guard. Most boxers usually do it from the lead side but repeated punches from the rear side also work.
Start by throwing combinations only with the lead. Double and triple the jabs, throw hooks, and body shots. Make sure you reset and have a good rotation with each punch. After a minute, switch to the other side and do the same thing. If a minute per side is too much, you can start by alternating sides every 30 seconds.
The pyramid, also called the ladder, is a classic exercise for the heavy bag and is used with various exercises in combat sports and boxing strength training. The goal is to build up the repetitions from the ground up and then go back again.
Begin by throwing one punch. Then do a two-punch combination. Then go with three punches. The lowest ladder you should climb is up to 5. When you finish your 5-punch combination, start going back down by doing 4, 3, 2, and finally, a single punch. Then start going up again. The ladder’s most common “height” is 10, meaning you need to throw a 10-punch combination at the top.
You can do the heavy bag pyramid in a few ways. The most creative way is to do combinations. You can also combine it with same-side punches by doing only jabs, hooks, or just combinations from only one side.
4. Head Movement Flow
Contrary to popular belief, you can and should train head movement on the heavy bag. One of the ways to do this is to spend rounds making sure you move your head BEFORE and AFTER every punch. This creates great habits that will drastically lower the number of punches you receive if you transfer them to sparring or fights.
You can start with a slip, return with a counter, and then slip or duck again before you reset. For example, imagine a left jab coming, slip to your right, come back with a cross-left hook combination, and immediately duck to the left.
A great exercise to strengthen this habit is the following. Start with a jab-cross, then slip to the right, immediately throw a cross-left hook, and then slip to the left. Return with a left hook-cross, slip to the right, return with a cross-left hook, and slip to the left. This sequence can be done indefinitely.
The drill is simpler than it might sound. Throw a 2-punch combo and slip to the side of the arm you last punched with (slip to your right after a right hand and to the left after a left hand), then return with the same hand. You can use straights, hooks, body shots, or whatever you like as long as you keep the flow going.
5. Mayweather Stamina Drill
You can and should take many things from Floyd Mayweather’s boxing, but in this case, we are interested in his famous endurance drill on the heavy bag. One of his favorite exercises is very beneficial for endurance but also very taxing.
Here is the drill. Stand mid to close range from the bag and throw nonstop straight punches. These don’t need to be full extension punches, so don’t worry about that. And after every dozen punches, you rip two hard shots to the body, after which you immediately continue with the constant straight punches. That’s it.
Don’t let the simplicity fool you. This drill is hard on the shoulders and will build exceptional stamina if you go long enough. Try it for a full 3-minute round, and you will know what I mean. Some have criticized this drill, but I find it ridiculous that Floyd would do anything related to boxing that doesn’t work.
6. Counter Punching
Countering is essential in boxing once you are past the beginner stages and can be exercised on the heavy bag. Partner drills or pads may be better for that purpose, but the heavy bag can also be a good partner in their absence.
You need to engage your visualization skills as you would in shadowboxing and work as if someone is throwing punches back at you. Entertain different scenarios you come across in sparring.
You can start by imagining a punch coming, slipping it, and firing back. For example, visualize a right cross coming, slip to the right, and counter with a left hook to the liver. Or duck under a right hook and come back with your left hook. The possibilities are endless.
Work also on the catch and counter. Block a shot and immediately throw with the same hand. For example, block with the right hand as if you would against a left hook and immediately counter with a right straight or hook.
You can throw, defend, and return a counter to make this drill more advanced. This is common in higher-level fights- a boxer attacks to draw a reaction, then defends that reaction and counters back.
The possibilities are endless, but here are a few common realistic sequences you can do.
- Jab-parry a jab, jab
- Jab- slip left-left hook
- Jac-cross- pull back- counter
- Cross-block a left body hook-right uppercut
- Jab-cross-duck under-overhand right
7. Constant Work
A great way to build endurance and flow is by working without stopping. The focus in this drill is not speed or power. Here you work for the entire round with medium or even slow speed and power.
The focus is on creating and maintaining the flow between punches and motions. Maintain a good balance and rotate with every strike, fluidly going from one punch to another. Use head movement, slip, duck, and punch in one beautiful sequence.
This will not improve your punching power but will enhance your combinations and endurance. I also like to do this as a last round of a heavy bag workout and do it bare knuckle to condition my hands.
As I said, there is no need for speed or power here, so you won’t get injured, and it can be a good time also to focus on which knuckles land with each punch.
8. Change Distances
Boxing and fighting generally happen at different ranges, and you need to be capable of performing in all 3 of them—long, middle, and close range—regardless of which one is your favorite.
This is not a single drill, but working at different distances is very beneficial. An excellent way to do it is to separate them into different rounds.
- Round 1 – Start with fighting on the outside using footwork and long straight punches. Find the longest extensions you can get on your jab and cross. Move around the bag, enter with a combo, and quickly get out.
- Round 2 – Stay at the mid-range. This is usually something that you wouldn’t want to do in a fight because this is where exchanges happen and where you are in the most danger. Throw a lot of combos in this range. You can exit from time to time to rest a bit.
- Round 3 – Infighting. Stick to the heavy bag and work on the inside. Work the body, throw short hooks and uppercuts. Push a bit, duck, and counter.
Warming up is a no-brainer, but you need a bit more than the regular warm-up for some of the exercises, like the full power punches. Make sure you do some shadowboxing and possibly a couple of other exercises before you let your hands go completely.
We’ve all been guilty of doing things automatically without thinking about it. Heavy bag workouts are the most common times to do it because there is no danger and no need for precision like on a reflex bag or pads. But focusing on the task and being mindful of what is happening will bring immensely more benefits than just going through the motions.
Always know what you are working on and focus entirely on the task at hand, which is getting better by training on the heavy bag.
Maintain good breathing patterns throughout your heavy bag workouts. This type of work is tiring, and you must breathe well to keep up. Exhale with every punch and maintain a steady pattern when not punching. Breathing is always essential; heavy bag training is another time to be careful how and when you breathe.
Keep Your Balance
Everyone advises you to keep your balance during striking, but what does this mean? It means you are stable by having a good foundation and control over your center of gravity. This is done by keeping your feet moving with the upper body and not leaning too much forward, backward, or sideways.
Ensure you are stable, your center of gravity is low, and your body is upright while hitting the heavy bag (and always while fighting). This will create valuable habits for when punches are flying, and you don’t have time to think much about balance.
Heavy bag training is a staple of all combat sports because of its numerous benefits. While not enough to develop all the skills you need in the ring, the heavy bag is immensely helpful across almost all skills and should be practiced diligently. Maintain your focus, study the workouts, change, adjust, and improve according to your needs, and watch yourself become better.