The heavy bag is the staple training tool of all striking martial arts, and Muay Thai is no different. An indispensable tool in developing many other skills and attributes, the heavy bag is extensively used by absolute beginners and world champions alike.
Ever since Muay Thai adopted many aspects of western boxing in the 1920s, the heavy bag has been an integral part of every Thai gym. As simple as the heavy bag is as an instrument, there are multiple ways to use it. It can be a very versatile piece of equipment with the proper knowledge.
This post will show you multiple ways to train on the heavy bag that will improve different aspects of your Muay Thai game.
Develops Strength and Power
The heavy bag was initially invented so that boxers could hit something with full force without breaking it or injuring their hands. This remains the main characteristic of the heavy bag.
It develops punching power and strength. Pummeling the bag repeatedly builds strength and density to the muscles, bones, and ligaments of the body and conditions the body to the overall impact.
Related: Does Punching A Bag Build Muscle?
Endurance and Stamina
If you think you are in good fighting shape, try blasting the heavy bag a full 3-minute round with max power. You will be surprised at how quickly you will fatigue.
The bag is one of the best training tools to develop sport-specific endurance and stamina. Hitting the bag increases the endurance in the arms and shoulders. You can manipulate the intensity to target predominantly aerobic or anaerobic adaptations or a mixture of both.
For most martial arts training, you need a partner or a trainer. On the other hand, the heavy bag is excellent as a solo training tool.
A great convenience is that if you have some small space in the garage or basement, you can easily install a bag and train without needing a gym or a partner. Going to a training session at a fixed hour is not always possible, but the bag will always be at your disposal.
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All In One Training
There is no other tool that helps you hone your technique while building the physical attributes simultaneously. Strength and conditioning and technique drills are very important to be done separately, but heavy bag training combines both in a single exercise.
Related: Conditioning For Muay Thai
6 Muay Thai Heavy Bag Workouts
Before we take on the actual workouts and exercises, I need to point out some crucial things. Like with every other skill in life, training should be done with focus for optimal results.
Aimlessly hitting the heavy bag will still work the body, but if you actively think about what you are doing and focus your mind on every strike and drill, you will get immensely better results for the time you spend.
The other valuable thing you can do when hitting the heavy bag is to visualize hitting an opponent. See your roundhouse digging at his ribs, and imagine crushing his leg with your low kick. The mental aspect of fighting is essential and should not be neglected for any reason.
Power training- a staple of Muay Thai training is slow and repetitive power strikes. There is simply no better way to increase the power in the hands and feet.
This type of training time is not relevant, only the number and quality of strikes. Hit the bag hard, reset after every strike and focus on delivering the next one with maximum power. Here is an example workout you can do:
- 10 x jabs
- 20 x low kicks (10 left, 10 right)
- 10 x right cross
- 20 x body kicks (10 left, 10 right)
- 20 x hooks (10 left, 10 right)
- 20 x high kicks (10 left, 10 right)
- You can switch these up or add other strikes to your liking. The aim is to build power.
Related: Strength Training For Muay Thai
Interval training is beneficial for fighting because it replicates energy expenditure in a fight. It alternates between shorts burst of high energy and periods of light activity.
For the example, we will take a standard 3-minute round and split it into 30 second periods.
- 30 seconds speed (hit as fast as possible)
- 30 seconds technique (aim to hit with the best possible technique without power)
- 30 seconds power (hit with full power)
- 30 seconds technique (again focus on technique, this segment serves as a break from the high-intensity ones)
- 30 seconds speed
- 30 seconds power
There are many ways to switch things up. The main idea is to alternate between different periods of work. A popular way to split the intervals is 30 seconds of light work with 30 seconds of power strikes for the entire round.
Attack and Defense Drills
The heavy bag is not limited to training only offense, although it is best suited for that. You can also incorporate defensive training.
A great Muay Thai specific drill is to hit with a two-punch combination, check an imaginary kick from the opponent, and throw a roundhouse with the same leg. Here is a great video illustrating that:
As Muay Thai is the art of 8 limbs, we cannot go without including the most Thai specific heavy bag drill. This one is pretty simple as it is created to teach how to land effective knees from the clinch position.
To execute the drill, grab the heavy bag with both hands and drive your knee straight into the bag at approximately rib level. Alternate between both knees rapidly.
Drilling different combos should constitute most of your heavy bag training. Training different combos on the bag is a great way to improve technique and creativity and build power and endurance.
There are countless combos to work on, depending on your level. Drilling them is not about power or speed, although they will also improve in the process. Focus on throwing the combos as cleanly as possible to integrate them into your brain and body, so the combos will start coming automatically in a fight or sparring.
Here are some bread-and-butter Muay Thai combos that you should drill on the bag as well as with partners.
- Jab-cross-left low kick
- Jab-cross-switch left roundhouse kick
- Left hook-low kick-left hook
- Right roundhouse kick- front teep
- Jab-cross-left hook to the head-left hook to the body
There is no point in listing numerous combos here. We can make a complete article only for different combos and their utility. But a good idea when drilling them on the heavy bag is to have a few that you plan on working on beforehand, so when the timer starts, you won’t lose time by wondering what to throw.
Spend an entire round, or go without a timer focusing on flowing from one strike to another without stopping. Don’t throw with power and speed. The goal is to be creative and learn how to flow seamlessly.
Try and make 5-10-15 strike combinations, alternating punches and kicks. Usually, you don’t have time to figure out combos in a fight and then use them. You will have to be in the moment and use what’s in front of you.
All of the workouts above can be great for beginners. Still, sometimes when the practitioner is not experienced, it may be a good idea to reduce the complexity of the exercises further and work on a single aspect only.
Here are a few drills geared mainly toward beginners but should not be neglected even by seasoned nak muay.
The teep or the front kick, as it’s widely known in the west, is the foot jab. It’s used as a range finder, as a tool to keep the opponent away and to set up other attacks. To do this simple heavy bag drill, throw alternating teeps.
Wait for the swinging bag to come towards you and intercept it like an opponent rushing you. This is a great way to learn to put your weight behind the teep so that you can use it as intended.
Left Hook – Right Roundhouse
One of the best ways to set up the right roundhouse kick is by a left hook. The hook pins the opponent to the ground transferring his weight, so it’s harder for him to check your right kick. Switch up the levels and kick at leg, body, and head level.
Right Cross – Left Roundhouse
The same formula as the previous drill but with the opposite limbs, throw a right cross and switch left roundhouse at all levels.
Focus Only On Power Or Speed
If you are new to Muay Thai, alternating between different work rates may be challenging. So, it can be a good idea to dedicate the whole round to just working on power shots or max speed.
To better focus on the specific aspect, just shorten the round to 2 minutes or a minute and a half to avoid gassing out.
Learning how to use the heavy bag is a must. Try the workouts we’ve shown you, train with laser focus and intention, and the time you invested in the heavy bag will get you impressive returns.