Different Types of Punching Bags

Tamsen Butler
Confident woman standing in gym

A punching bag is not only effective as a means for getting out pent-up aggression, but is also an excellent choice for a tough, versatile workout that scorches calories and can help build endurance. Various punching bags are available for just about any training regimen, from casual punching to full-blown MMA training.

The Classic Heavy Bag

Woman hitting heavy punching bag

Heavy bags are so named because they are bags with significant weight contained within - typically around 70-100 pounds. Bags are filled with material to add weight and absorb strikes; usually they are filled with sand, a synthetic material blend, or water. Heavy bags can be strung from the ceiling, mounted on a base, or used on the ground as a straddle device for punching.

Powerful Punches

A heavy bag is designed to help increase punching power in boxers. It's also appropriate for exercisers who want a quick, simple workout without choreography or fancy movements. While there are indeed many gyms offering group fitness classes centered around heavy bags, a person can just as easily get a workout in at home with a heavy bag and a pair of boxing gloves (to protect the knuckles).

Heavy Bag Use

Heavy bags are not only appropriate for punches but also elbow strikes, palm strikes, kicks, and knee strikes. Heavy bags on bases (called "free-standing") typically cost more than hanging bags; buying a brand-new bag for at-home use can cost anywhere from under $100 to upwards of more than $200. Heavy bags for professional gym use may cost more and can come in a variety of shapes including, but not limited to, round (often referred to as a "wrecking ball") and horizontal for uppercut drills.

Reflex Bag

woman punching reflex bag

A reflex bag comes with a small punching bag mounted to springs and a base or anchored to the floor and ceiling. The small punching bags are similar to heavy bags in the sense that they are filled with material designed to withstand a punch, but these bags have a lot more movement to them. The design allows for the bag to rapidly wobble to and fro and side to side upon impact.

Quick Reaction

These bags are designed to help boxers work on their reaction time and speed. Instead of the heavy bag barely moving upon impact, these bags rebound quickly and make users think quickly to land the next strike while also bobbing and weaving out of the way of the bag. Reflex bags are similarly priced to heavy bags, starting at less than $100.

Reflex Bag Use

Reflex bags are used similarly to heavy bags in the sense that they're appropriate for punches, strikes, kicks, and knee strikes. This equipment is popular amongst those training in mixed martial arts as it trains agility alongside accuracy.

Speed Bags

Female boxer using speed bag

This type of punching bag is what people most often visualize when thinking of punching bags. These small bags, mounted to hang vertically, are anchored in a way that allows for quick movement of the bag. These bags are used specifically for improving speed and rhythm in punching along with hand-eye coordination.

Hands Up

The speed bag gets exercisers accustomed to keeping their hands up, which is a fundamental practice in boxing and other forms of fighting. Speed bag kits, including the speed bag and mounting station, start at less than $100 and are generally less expensive than larger punching bags.

Speed Bag Use

The speed bag is used by some martial artists to hone kicking accuracy skills, though its most popular use is for rhythmic punching drills. These punching drills typically involve small circles with a matching rhythm for each side.

Dummy Bags

Human-form punching bags are available as both mounted bags and as dummies that can be tossed around. The mounted dummy bags are popular among kickboxers while the dummies are typically used in mixed martial arts (MMA) - in particular, in Brazilian Jiu Jitzu.

Kicking "Bob"

Woman ready to punch dummy bag

Affectionally nicknamed "Bob" by fighters, the human-form dummy mounted to the base features a male form with a menacing grimace. Though there are accessory packs available to add arms to "Bob," most units are armless. Punch, kick, and strike Bob just as you would a heavy bag, using his features as targets. A "Bob" unit will typically cost a little more than a standard heavy bag, starting at more than $200.

Tossing the Dummy

Human-form dummies are weighted punching bags that mimic a human body in the sense that they have a torso, arms, legs, and a head. These punching bags are great for fighters who want to practice grappling in addition to punching and striking from a ground position. These dummies are expensive, starting at more than $200 and reaching up to $1000 for the most advanced models.

Surprisingly Versatile

Punching bags can offer more than just a safe place to punch - they can offer a wide range of workouts involving the entire body. From punches to kicks and from speed work to slow, powerful moves, a punching bag provides a wide range of workout possibilities.

Different Types of Punching Bags