A Buyer's Guide to Punching Bags: What Style Is Right for You?

buyers guide punching bagsFor an aspiring boxer, mixed martial artist or fighter in training, there’s no piece of equipment more vital than the punching bag. These durable bags act as practice targets for helping you perfect your punching and kicking techniques, even when you don’t have a real-life opponent on hand. But just like the rest of your sports equipment, your punching bag should be tailored to your particular athletic goals, so understanding which style, size and material you need is important to training, especially if your goal is to push yourself further in a way that’s both safe and efficient.

You see these durable, heavyweight bags in many athletic environments, from basement gyms to full-scale training facilities, and that’s by design. Professional and amateur athletes know that there are dozens of reasons for training with a punching bag, including benefits to your physical health and mental well-being (some experts even recommend punching bag techniques as an outlet for venting stress, frustration and anger). Regardless of if you’re looking to power up that right hook or develop some practical self-defense skills at home, making the right bag investment is likely to bring a significant return.

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man punching ringside bag

As you’ll learn here, there are several different punching bag styles to consider, based on your desires and sport. A heavy punching bag — ideal for improving your overall punching and kicking technique — may not be appropriate for an athlete looking to improve speed, reflex and reaction time, while a speed bag won’t be used for polishing your front kicks. The right punching bag for kickboxing may not be the best one for Muay Thai, and so on.

At Ringside, we have nearly 200 unique punching bags to consider to suit your specific goals, sport, athletes and budget. Here are a few of the most popular kinds:

  • Heavy Bag — These large, heavy-duty punching bags are typically suspended from the ceiling so that they can withstand more power. In general, heavy bags are designed for improving overall punching and kicking technique, and “standard” heavy bags are cylindrical, but heavy bags come in several different shapes (see more below). They weigh between 30 and 200 pounds and are typically hung with a chain, swivel or rope. Choose this kind of bag for boxing, MMA, Muay Thai, karate and more.

ringside large leather heavy bag


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  • Banana Heavy Bag — A slimmer and longer version of the typical heavy bag, the banana bag is designed differently for training low kicks and knee strikes. These kinds of bags are often used in Muay Thai and MMA.
  • Round Heavy BagShort, circular heavy bags, or those with teardrop shapes, may be used to hone in on certain body punches. For example, you may use what’s known as a “wrecking ball” heavy bag if you want a heavyweight bag that will help you perfect more targeted kicks and punches.
  • Angle Heavy BagThe angled heavy bag usually features a top-heavy design with a broader top portion and a slimmer trunk. These kinds of punching bags allow you to throw better straight punches, hooks, uppercuts and body shots.
  • Double End Heavy Bag — The double end heavy bag is like the angle bag, but it features two dramatic angles — think of an hourglass shape. The benefit of this is that it allows athletes to train body-head combinations, since the silhouette of the bag roughly mimics that of an opponent.

types of heavy bags

  • Free-Standing Punching Bag — As you can see, most punching bags are designed to be mounted in some form or another, either so that they hang from the ceiling or are attached to a wall. On the other hand, free-standing boxing bags are mounted on a durable base and often have a spring-loaded design so that they still provide you with some recoil and movement for a challenge, but come with easier installation. These kinds of bags are ideal for practicing low kicks, especially in Muay Thai, kickboxing and other mixed martial arts, and are perfect for home use or gyms where ceiling or wall installation is not an option.

ringside freestanding punching bag



  • Speed Bag — As its name suggests, the speed bag is meant to help athletes improve their fast-paced punches, by assisting with with strength, timing, endurance and specific goals, such as helping fighters learn to keep their hands up or building shoulder strength. Speed bags are filled with air and are significantly smaller than heavy bags, so they’re often suspended from the ceiling or wall with a platform. They’re usually shaped like a globe or a teardrop and are most commonly used for traditional boxing training.


ringside boxing speed bag


  • Double End Bags – These bags are meant to help athletes land an effective counter punch by sharpening reflexes, improving speed and hand/eye coordination, and effectivity nailing down a sense of timing and rhythm. Double end bags come in various sizes depending on the fighter’s needs and can be mounted from a wall or ceiling.

double end boxing bag


  • Uppercut Bag — Unsurprisingly, the uppercut bag is uniquely designed for focused uppercut practice. It can also be used for straight punches, such as jabs and crosses, hooks and more. These kinds of bags can be mounted onto the wall or ceiling, depending on their shape and size. We recommend uppercut bags for serious boxing athletes.


ringside uppercut heavy bag


  • Wall Bag — Wall punching bags can be used for a wide range of training endeavors and in gyms or training facilities with high or vaulted ceilings. Unlike typical bags, these bags are mounted to the wall and don’t provide any rebound or swivel. Otherwise known as mounted punching bags, these bags are much less common than swinging bags, but may be a good choice in environments where typical ceiling mounting isn’t an option.


cleto reyes wall bag


  • Grappling Dummy — Arguably the most lifelike punching bags around, grappling dummies look like a human opponent, often complete with a head, legs and hands. Grappling dummies are generally freestanding (not mounted to the wall or ceiling) and don’t have a base to keep them rooted, which allows you to perfect your takedowns, throws, submissions and strikes. These are commonly employed in wrestling and MMA, including jiu-jitsu and judo.


combat grappling dummy


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Of course, finding the right punching bag for you comes down to your desired fitness goals and your specific sport. But once you’ve nailed down which kind is most apropos for your fighting pursuits, you need to look closer at the bag’s specifications to ensure that you get an even more perfect pairing. Factors such as size, material and fill should be chosen to align with your user, demand level and budget.

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The primary considerations for choosing a punching bag size are the fighter’s age and size. Just like in a real bout, a fighter should be matched with a bag that works well with his or her own height and weight. Punching bags come in sizes ranging from 2.5 feet to 6 feet and weights ranging from 60 pounds to 150-plus pounds, but this is not a hard and fast rule. You’ll find bags in a variety of heights, widths and weights. Some punching bags have integrated mechanisms that allow you to adjust the weight as needed.

We always recommend choosing a kids’ punching bag for youth trainers. Youth punching bags weigh significantly less-than-standard styles, which makes them more affordable and good for early technique training, rather than power and endurance training. Kids’ punching bags don’t need to be as heavy as adult versions, as they don’t require the same amount of strength or impact absorption, since the blows will naturally be less powerful.

For adults, of course, you’ll need to choose a larger and heavier bag. But which size is right for you or your clients?

The general rule for sizing your adult heavy bag is that it should be approximately half your weight. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should choose an 80-pound punching bag. Heavy bags that are 4 or 5 feet long are usually sufficient for adults. As long as you have enough resistance and steadiness — i.e. the bag doesn’t flail wildly in every direction each time you land a square punch — then you should be in good shape, size-wise.

pair punching freestanding bags

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In general, punching bags are made of either leather or a synthetic material, such as vinyl or plastic. Leather punching bags are the most traditional and are still arguably the gold standard, desired because they’re incredibly durable and comfortable, not to mention classic in aesthetic.

With that being said, leather tends to be more expensive than manmade materials. For this reason, many punching bag brands utilize a lifelike synthetic leather that provides a similar feel as leather without the high cost.

Still, synthetic punching bags do bring some advantages, especially in specific environments. For example, vinyl and nylon may be better suited to humid spaces because they’re more resistant to developing mold and mildew. Occasionally, you might see a bag constructed from canvas. While much less durable than genuine and synthetic leather, canvas punching bags are extremely affordable and can be good in very low-use scenarios.

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The final consideration in punching bag selection is the fill, AKA what’s inside the bag. The fill determines the firmness, comfort, weight and even the cost of your punching bag. In most cases, your punching bag will come pre-filled, but you may need to buy filler for a bag that was sold empty or refill it as needed if you’ve had a leak or the fill has begun to disintegrate. The most popular punching bag fillers include:  

  • Sand Naturally, sand is the best option for people who want maximum weight in their punching bag. Sand is easy to fill into almost any reservoir and, unlike water, won’t cause a huge mess if it leaks. On the other hand, sand tends to change in hardness if it’s exposed to moisture and may leak out of the bag’s reservoir into other areas.
  • Water — Water-filled punching bags are convenient, since most of us have water nearby at all times. Today’s water bags are more dependable, reliable and safer to punch. Usually, water-filled punching bags have a “bladder,” which allows for easy filling and prevents breakage.
  • Air — Often used in speed bags and double end bags, air is a cheap and convenient filler for those who need a lighter weight option. The primary downfall of air-filled punching bags is that most tend to deflate slightly with constant use, so they will need to be refilled every couple of days.
  • Textile  Punching bags that use textile fillings are good for applications where you want to reduce muscle strain on the wrist, elbows and shoulders, because the material is relatively soft, lightweight and conforming.

bag filler quote

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We know that shopping for punching bags, and fighting gear in general, can be a tough task. With so many options to weigh, it takes a bit of time and effort to pick out a punching bag that’s a perfect match for you or your customers. If you’re still not sure which one is best for you, the team here at Ringside is always available to provide you with one-on-one advice. Contact us today if you need more information or product recommendations.

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