Whether it’s boxing, Muay Thai, or MMA – if you’re into martial arts, a heavy punching bag is one of the first pieces of gear you should be investing in. When used properly and consistently, it’s one of the best tools for strength and technique that money can buy.
With that said, buying the best heavy bag can be tricky. As if there weren’t enough options already, the number of completely different types of bags – like freestanding bags or hanging bags – can only confuse a first-time buyer.
“Should I get a freestanding bag or a hanging one” is a question that I’m asked a lot. Although stand-up punching bags get a lot of flak lately, I believe that they still have their pros; and can even be a better choice in some situations.
After several in-depth reviews on some of the most popular free standing punching bags on the market, as well as doing the same for hanging heavy bags, I’ve decided to write an article that compares the two. I’ll do my best to clear up some common misconceptions and helping first-time buyers make the right choice for their needs.
What's the difference between a freestanding punching bag and a hanging bag?
Hanging heavy bag
A hanging heavy bag, like the name implies, is suspended in the air, usually by a chain or leather/vinyl straps. When hanged properly, this allows a 360 degree approach to the bag. An ideal punching bag workout involves a lot of movement and circling, so having plenty of space to do so is essential.
The straps also cause the bag to swing back and forth when punched or kicked; the lighter the bag, the bigger the swing. If you’re trying to practice power punches, you should look for a more heavy punching bag to ensure that it doesn’t fly all over the place. Ideally, you want a punching bag to be 50% of your body weight if you’re boxing, and up to 70% of your body weight if you’re throwing power kicks.
The biggest problem with hanging bags is, ironically, the hanging part. While these are an ideal choice for a gym setting – many homes don’t have any beams or ceilings that are strong enough to support their weight.
Freestanding heavy bag
Instead of using straps and hangers, freestanding bags are usually mounted on a weighted pedestal that provides stability. This design usually allows more mobility – once a hanging bag is mounted to the wall, it’s likely going to stay in that spot forever.
With a free standing bag, you can move it around freely, or even knock it down and roll it outside for an outdoor workout.
In many cases, new freestanding bags are sold with an empty base. The base needs to be filled with sand or water to prevent the bag from toppling over. Very often, most of the bags weight is concentrated in the base – which allows you to empty the base and easily transport the bag if you need to move it to a new location.
Unfortunately, many free standing bags don’t come with the same stability that hanging bags have. Hard punches can move the bag, and make the base “bounce” up and down the floor. Particularly powerful strikes can even knock the bag down.
Remember when I said that a hanging punching bag should ideally be 50% of your weight? A free standing bag, when filled, should be about 1.5 times your weight to ensure enough stability. Most standing bags are fairly heavy, though – the Wavemaster XXL, for example, can weigh up to 270lbs, which should be enough for most fighters.
But which punching bag should I buy?
If you’re a heavyweight, have lots of space to practice, and are sure that the construction of your home can take a hanging bag – I’d strongly suggest one. They’re the standard in boxing equipment for a reason, and you’re likely not going to regret your purchase.
On the other hand – if value mobility, can’t hang a heavy bag, or just want to be able to move your bag somewhere else after a workout – freestanding bags are a solid choice. While they do have their faults, most of their flaws can be avoided. If the base is too light, you can fill it with sand instead of water for additional stability. If the “bouncing” action annoys you, you can always add padding between the base in the floor.
Freestanding heavy bags also come with a number of unique designs that have their advantages. Some have handles that allow grappling practice, which is great for MMA training. Others, like the BOB punching bag, realistically emulate a live opponent, and are great if you want to practice different angles and precision.