How To Pick A Punching Bag

With the rising popularity of mixed martial arts, demand for fitness programs involving heavy bags and punching bags have also increased. But if you’ve ever gone shopping for a punching bag or just took a quick browse online, you’d be surprised at the variety and different products offered with various features, such as:

  • Weight: 60lb, 70lb, or 100lb – What’s the difference?
  • Filling: Sand, Water, or Old Rags – Does it matter?
  • Covering: Vinyl, Canvas, or Leather – How durable is it?
  • Type & Purpose: Standing, Hanging, Banana – Which is the best?


The weight of a bag is how much resistance it offers. A heavier bag can withstand more force from your strikes before it starts moving around. It’s critical to choose a weight that is appropriate for your size, as striking a moving bag can cause injury to your fingers, wrist, or legs. Furthermore, a bag offering more resistance is useful as your strength and technique improve over time. The general rule of thumb is to pick a bag that is half your weight. So if I was 200lbs, I’d pick a bag that weighed 100lbs after it was filled.


Filling of the bag will have a direct impact of how it feels when you strike it. A bag filled with sand will have a different feel that one with old rags, and water filled bags are another product of their own. Sand filling is usually avoided these days as it usually sinks to the bottom, creating an unbalance in the feel of the bag. Furthermore, sand is also very harsh on the bones and joints when you strike it. The preferred method is to shred and cut old rags, clothes, or bedsheets. Water bags have the most realistic feel of hitting a human, but after time the bladders have been known to crack and break down with intense usage. In the end, the fill you choose for a heavy bag depends on your preferences and physical limitations.


The three main types of covering on the market are vinyl, canvas, and synthetic leather. Vinyl is the cheapest quality and will wear out the quickest. Canvas and Leather both last the longest, and will be able to stand up a beating as you improve. Most heavy bags in the market come with a leather covering now, so there is not much you can do about it. If you do go with a vinyl bag and it breaks, using duct tape to cover the cracks may be a temporary solution until you upgrade to a new heavy bag or punching bag.


Before purchasing a bag, you should also consider your goals of training with a heavy bag. Each bag type has different features depending on what you want to train. Standard heavy bags, whether hanging or standing are good for general training. For those who are focusing on Muay Thai, you should go with the banana bag as the increased height offers flexibility to practice different kicks and punches. If you are striving for realism, a body bag can offer you the option to practice jabs, hooks, uppercuts, and kicks similar to an opponent. To train for reflexes, reaction, and coordination, a double-end bag or speed bag are the best options. It’s important to determine which bag is right for you based on your training goals and physical condition before making a purchase!


How important is it for you to move the bag around? The standard hanging bag requires you to find a place to install and hang. Once its up moving it can be very tedious. Furthermore if you knock it out of the ceiling, you’re left with a huge hole! Because of this, standing heavy bags have become popular in recent years, where the base can be filled with either water or sand to make a strong foundation. The flexibility to move it anywhere you want is a key reason for its popularity, especially if you are keeping it in in your garage!


In the end, be honest with yourself on what you will be using the bag for and how often. A good way to try out bags is to visit a MMA gym as they will have virtually all types for you to experiment with. Take a few hits on different bags and weights to get a feel of what is right for you. If you need a breakdown of the different types of punching bags, check out our punching bag table here.