How to work with a heavy bag?
January 25, 2008 6:34 PM   Subscribe

Newbie--never thrown a punch before--wants to work out with a heavy bag...

So, someone just donated the following to me:

Century Vinyl Water Core 70 lbs Bag
Boes Leather Bag Gloves
TKO Wrist Wraps
300lbs Heavy Bag Spring Coil

But I've never thrown a punch before or done any boxing drills. I've read past Ask Qs regarding heavy bags but they don't really mention the basics of throwing a punch.

I don't live anywhere where I can take any lessons. How would you recommend starting? Are there web sites with good videos for newbies so that we don't break our wrists?

My goal is to build muscle/lose some weight, increase stamina/endurance.

posted by Manhasset to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The problem is that you will get hurt without proper instruction. Here's a youtube link on how to wrap your wrists. Without wrapping them you'll break them.

To punch, roll your fingers up, put your thumb over your first two fingers. Absolutely keep your wrist straight. Punch landing the first two knuckles of your hand. Go slow at first. Try not to be Rocky.

Keep the bag light if you can to start with. Let's be honest you're causing an impact. Your body will need time to adapt (and stop if you get any sharp pains.)
posted by filmgeek at 6:58 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Heavy bag? To me, the best thing to do is kick it. Any martial arts studios around where you can take a few trial lessons (maybe for free)?
posted by Doohickie at 7:25 PM on January 25, 2008

Echoing the first two posters. Punching bags are sometimes marketed and sold as standalone exercise equipment, but they shouldn't be.

Punching and kicking on a regular basis, until you've had proper training, is an excellent way to get injured. Especially a heavy bag. You only get one pair of arms, and once you injure them, it takes time and money to get them back in working condition.

Before you even go near a bag, you'll need to spend a few months throwing punches at the air, thousands and thousands of punches, until good form becomes second nature. Then, you should hit lighter objects that will forgive a poorly thrown punch. Punching and kicking stuff is like golfing - there are a thousand tiny details that make the difference between a good punch and a bad one.

If you're looking to build muscle, lose weight, increase stamina and build endurance while having fun, look into Shovelglove. Nothing is more fun and low-tech than swinging a sledgehammer around in your livingroom, and unlike the punching bag, it's cheap and easy to go from beginner to expert. Once your $10 sledgehammer is too easy, buy another, and lend the old one to a neighbor.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 7:59 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

I strongly suggest having someone that knows what they are doing show you how to do things the "proper" way before you give that bag a go. A video is ok, but waiting until you can get a live tutorial is more than worth it.
Screwing up a wrist or ankle isn't worth a month or two of exercise. Most martial arts studios will offer a free trial session or two, or a per session fee. If you explain what you want to do, they should be able to show you how not to hurt yourself pretty fast.
posted by Ctrl_Alt_ep at 8:55 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer: Very much debating the first two posters. You stand to lose WAY MORE by taping your wrists WRONG than you do by NOT TAPING THEM.

We can't describe good form to you, we really REALLY need to SHOW YOU. I've taught self defense, TKD, and Kickboxing to newbies before in a university setting. We always use heavy bags, kicking targets, and bobs and no wrist wraps.

I'll tell you what I think about the whole process. If you want to get fast reflexes and good tone, you're going to want light gloves, as light as 8 ounces. You're NOT going to want to hit the bag hard with these. Don't wear anything less than 12 ounces if you actually want to hit hard, 16's are fairly common. That's a pound on your hand, and it adds up fast.

What is your goal here? Do you want to kick some ass, or just get in shape? Either way, 3 minutes of non-stop pounding on that bag should be your goal. I absolutely guarantee you can't go 30 seconds right now.

I'm so hesitant to talk about proper form on here because it's all about form and flow, but I'll try. Don't sue me if you break your wrist. I constantly yell at my GF when we beat on our heavy bag because she holds her wrists and thumbs wrong.

If you're a rightey, you start right foot BACK, left chin guards your face/neck. Reverse if you're a southpaw. Whatever is your dominant hand is your POWER hand, which is why you keep it back.

You absolutely must learn to lock your wrists. You'll think they're locked, and as you increase how hard you hit the bag, you'll fast realize they're not locked enough. I want to emphasize that you should NOT be hitting the bag with everything you have for at least the first 3 workout sessions. You have to ease into it. Also, even with gloves, you will tear up your knuckles. Never EVER hit a heavy bag w/o gloves...especially if it's vinyl or canvas covered.

Gloves make it fairly hard to hold your fists wrong, but you must squeeze TIGHT and LOCK THOSE WRISTS perfectly in line with your forearm. You are making a spear out of your arm, and if you don't transfer that momentum via a straight line, your arm or wrist absorb the shock and you'll hurt yourself. Fast.

I'm not going to tell you how to make a bare-fisted fist, because I don't want you to hit anything with one.

Basic punches (face):
Jab. This is a short, fast, less powerful punch. You never EVER throw just one. 3 is a minimum, and never all with the same hand. Eventually you're going to move into combinations, but 3-5 punch jab series are a good warm up and intro to combos. left-left-right, right-right-left. You're aiming for the nose here.
Cross: Always follows a jab. Always. Contrary to popular belief, a cross does NOT swing around in front of your body. That's a haymaker and is a good way to get yourself knocked the fuck OUT. An overhand right is hardwired into the brains of males---but avoid that gangster swooping motion. It's stupid. A cross simply hits the opposite shoulder. Opponent moves to your left, you throw a right cross. He moves right, you left cross. You're aiming for the chin here.
Uppercut: just avoid this one. You can't even throw it at a heavy bag.

Basic punches: (Body)
Jab-imagine this hitting your opponents chest. You'll never do this.
Cross: a body cross is closer to a haymaker, you'll bob right and throw a right cross, you'll bob left and throw a left one. You're aiming for your opponents kidneys here. These are devastating in combat.
Uppercut: a body blow that's aimed at the solarplexus. Again, these will devastate an opponent because they literally make it so you can't breathe. These are difficult on a heavy bag, but you CAN do them.

Other things to learn:
Push-just what it is. Sort of a jab, but really you have no intention of hitting. You're pushing your target back. Ideally you can drive them back with jabs, or push them away with a push. You'll push a lot with a heavy bag to get it back in position.

Punch power: You're not aiming at the bag. You're aiming for a spot behind the bag. Never think of hitting your target, hit BEHIND your target, punch THROUGH. Do NOT stop your punch at the bag. Same with kicking a soccer ball, you follow through.

Jabs start in your back and develop most of their power in your arm. They're fast and not too hard.

Crosses start literally in your toes. Remember how righties have their right arm to the back? You've just right-right-lefted your opponent, he's a little back and to your left. You toe IN with your right foot, sort of like at a track starting block. You're going to push with your toe and develop power up your calf, to your hip. At your hip you'll be pushing with your entire leg, especially your thigh. This power will move up your back and down your arm, always ending with a SNAP that's 90% of the movement in the last tenth of a second. You will feel this punch with your entire body, and it will end a fight. With a heavy bag, it'll just move it to your left so you're going to have to reposition and/or push to continue.

Start learning each punch. Google them or youtube them or message me for more details. You WILL want to work combos. Jab Jab Jab Cross Jab Jab Cross...make up your own. The jig is to keep moving, keep punching, and do NOT let the bag hit you. Stay on your toes and REALLY crush those crosses. Move. Jab, Jab, dance left, dance right, duck, etc.

Oh, and I forgot to mention. I come from a wrestling background. Greco, not freestyle. Don't be like me. I ALWAYS forget to protect my face, because someone can't deck you in wrestling. Keep a hand by your chin all the time. Stay hydrated, and ALWAYS end your workout with a timed series. Start at 30-45 seconds. You'll have no power after 20 seconds, but don't stop. Moving your hands is the thing.

When you love that, get some punching targets and then really get fast. Your partner will move them how she wants you to punch them, and it's up to you to recognize the correct punch. Kicking is my favorite part...I can't tell you how many kicking targets I've broken with roundhouses...god those kicks are fun.
posted by TomMelee at 8:55 PM on January 25, 2008 [10 favorites]

My advice would be to start slow. It's all-too-tempting, once you've got your form right, to start wailing on the bag. Until your body has had time to get used to the stress, you're highly susceptible to injury. I broke my hand delivering a perfect punch--the only bone I've ever broken. Never healed quite right.

Take your time.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:47 PM on January 25, 2008

Couple things to add:

When throwing a cross, it's VERY easy to hit with your last two knuckles, since they're on the outside of your motion. DON'T DO IT. Those two knuckles don't line up with your wrist and arm and will strain or break from the impact.

When throwing a jab, it sometimes helps to tilt your fist down SLIGHTLY, so that the first two knuckles better line up with your wrist and forearm. The idea is to get all those bones in a nice line so the shock is not isolated on the knuckles alone.

In fact, for safety's sake, I might suggest throwing palm-heel strikes instead. They're the same motion as a punch, but instead of using your fist, you use the big meaty base of your hand. You will, however, lose a bit of range, but it's a great striking surface. The only thing to look out for in this case is hyper-extending your wrist by having the hand bend back. (this is more of a problem when hitting people, since the palm-heel may go for the throat while the hand hits the face and bends backward.) This can be solved by throwing the strike with you hand tilted maybe 15 degrees in towards your center, which means your fingers would be at about the 10:30/11 o'clock position. This is not exactly a punch, but for exercise purposes, it's the same thing.

Really, though, instruction is the best idea. I learned the basics from Krav Maga, which has some foundation in boxing. But, the third thing they taught us was front-kick to the groin. Might be worth your while to pick up that one. (NOT a good idea on a heavy bag.)
posted by Doctor Suarez at 11:22 PM on January 25, 2008

I should also add that starting out light is DEFINITELY wise. That way, when you do it wrong (and you will) you'll feel it hurt, but not enough to injure you. Every time your wrist puckers you'll know you're screwing up and it's time to get back to fundamentals. Pain will be your teacher, but you have to start out with the intro courses before you get to the thesis.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 11:26 PM on January 25, 2008

Best answer: All good answers. TomMelee gives loads of good technical information.

Might I add that you make sure to fasten the bag securely - and I mean securely. Find an overhead-beam that you can use (and check with the proprietor if needed).

Reading your question I think you should make use of footwork and not just punching. That'll be the cardio that build stamina. A good way is to work around the bag, side-stepping, when you've made a revolution - go the other way.

If I might suggest the following simple workout:

Start with warm-up - 5 minutes (jumping jacks, skip rope - what ever that'll get you heart pumping and priming the muscles) Do not skip warmup. When you see boxers entering the ring for prize-fights, they're allready dripping of sweat: They know the importance of proper warming up. Rotate your wrists, loosen up your shoulders.

Act 1 - 5 minutes: left foot forward for one minute. Simple jabs - loose, letting the muscles get used to the motion. Switch leg (put the right forward) for one minute.

Hooks - left foot. One minute - still loose. Switch leg - one minute.

End act one with one minute of alternating hooks and jabbs - just play away.

Act 2 - 5 minutes: Left foot forward. Left jabb + right cross. Do not put all your might into it, take it easy. Do two combination (that's 1 jabb+1 cross and 1 jabb+1 cross) Now sidestep and put your right foot forward. Two combinations. Sidestep. You can picture the bag from above as the centre of a clock. You work around the clock from 12 to 3 to 6 to 9. Change direction after one circle. Keep going for five minutes (you're using a timer, right? Or music with the appropiate lenght?). Find your rhytm and just keep going.

Act 3 - 5 minutes: Now I'd put some power into it. One right hook, one left hook and then get close to the bag and do a knee-attack from the side. Swich leg and do a knee-attack from the other side also. Step back and repeat. Hook, hook, knee, knee, step back - and attack again. Keep going for the full five minutes. Do not stop - it's okey to take it slower - but do not stop.

Act 4 - 5 minutes: Rotate around the bag, throw loose jabbs and hooks and whatever. Cool down for two minutes. Stretch for two minutes - triceps, shoulders, wrists, fingers etc - do armcircles: Generally check out the feeling of your body for injuries or tightness.

That's 25 minutes to get you started with a love-hate-relationship with your bag.

Take care.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 1:52 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your answers.
posted by Manhasset at 11:06 PM on January 26, 2008

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