The Ins and Outs of Buying a Heavy Bag
How to Buy a Heavy Bag
For anyone that has ever gone shopping for a heavy bag, the vast selection can be very confusing. You will quickly find that there are a multitude of weights, fills, and coverings. What is the difference between a 70lb heavy bag and a 100lb heavy bag? Does it matter what kind of fill it has? How about the covering, is leather better than canvas?
All are valid questions and questions I myself had very recently as I looked for a bag to hang in my basement. In the end, I seriously asked myself exactly what I was going to use it for and went from there. But anyways, so you can learn from my experience, here is what I found out.
1. What is the difference between a bag weighing 70lbs vs one a lot heavier, say 100lbs?
The Heavy Bag
I asked many a stupid salesman this question and most of them had no clue and the ones that tried to feed me a line of B.S. usually said the heavier bags are for pros because they hit a lot harder. In the end, I analyzed what everyone said, cut through the crap, used some common sense and came up with an answer.
Basically, the difference is the amount of resistance the bag is going to give. This is quite obvious, a heavier bag is going is going to be able to withstand a lot more force before it starts swinging wildly. Not that a swinging bag is bad thing as it ensures you aren't stationary while you are hitting it. The added resistance will be beneficial in the development of stronger punches.
I cringe as I type that, however, as power punching is more technique than raw strength. Like weight training, though, you have to continually increase the resistance in order to experience gains in strength. I believe the same goes for a heavy bag.
That said, I settled on a 70lb bag for my basement. I weigh about 170lb and have a pretty good swing and I find the bag puts up a pretty good fight. It does feel different from the 100-150lb bags hanging in my boxing gym though. They move a lot less and I find myself using a little more power when I'm hitting them.
But, that brings me to my next point about buying a heavy bag:
2. Does it matter what the heavy bag is filled with?
Absolutely. A 100lb bag filled with cement is going to feel a lot different than one filled with feathers. There are 3 general types of filling and which one is used also helps determine the weight of the bag. First, there is hard fill. It is a shredded fiber fill enclosed in a 1" closed cell foam liner. Second, there are soft fill bags that have slightly more give as they are enclosed in a 2" liner. Third, there are water filled bags which are in a class all their own.
The differences between the types of fill can be measured in the stiffness of the bag, how well it holds its shape, and the effects on your body. A hard fill bag will hold its shape well and is very solid. There will not be much give, so it is going to be the hardest on your body. Your joints and bones will get a workout from this kind of fill.
A soft fill bag, is a lighter version of the hard fill. A little bit of give was introduced to lessen the impact on the bones and joints and make it easier on your hands.
Water filled bags give a unique workout. There is lots of give which makes them easy on your joints, but they also hold their shape. If you think about it, these are most like hitting a human body which is mostly water anyways. Not to mention all the organs splashing around in there...
Which fill you choose is a matter of personal preference and your physical limitations. If you want to really strengthen your bones/joints (or break them), the harder the fill the better. In fact, why don't you forgo the heavy bag and hit brick walls :) No matter which one you choose though, you will still get a great workout.
3. How about the covering - leather or canvas?
You can find cheap vinyl heavy bags, canvas bags, and leather bags. A good quality leather bag will outlast you. It will not tear or crack and will be around long after your hands have shriveled up into little arthritic claws.
Canvas bags are just as good. They will last a long time as well and are extremely durable. I'd tend to stay away from the super cheap vinyl bags. Remember, you are punching and/or kicking this thing. It has to stand up to a bit of a beating or you're going to be wasting some more money on another one in the near future.
4. Other considerations when buying a heavy bag:
Some other things you may want to think about. First, do you have a strong roof or somewhere to hang it? If not, you may want to consider a free standing bag or a heavy bag stand. They offer the convenience of not having to find a way to anchor a 100lb weight that is going to get the crap kicked out of it everyday from that load bearing rafter in your house. More than one person has knocked the bag off the roof leaving a nasty hole in the ceiling.
Second, do you really care which brand name you are buying? I hate to say a heavy bag is a heavy bag because there are very good quality bags and then there are shit bags. However, just be careful you are paying for the product and not the brand name on it. Everlast, Ringside, TKO all make excellent bags.
Third, consider your size. I weigh 170lb and I work out on both 70lb and 100lb bags. If you weigh 120lbs, will a 100lb bag be of more benefit to you than a 70lb bag? Maybe, maybe not. I'm guessing the added resistance of a bigger heavy bag is not really going to be that big of a deal. You probably get plenty of resistance from a 70lb bag.
Take a good, hard look at what you are actually going to be using the bag for and how often you are going to use it, before wasting your money on a top of the line model. For myself, I needed a bag that I could hang in my basement and use when I couldn't make it to the boxing gym - I have a wife and 2 kids, so even though I'd love to hang out at the gym 7 days a week, my family is never too thrilled about it. However, if I am in the basement, they feel so much closer. So, rather than wasting a month's pay on a $200 bag, I opted for a $90 - 70lb bag that even came with a skipping rope and it is working perfectly for the job I had in mind for it.
Ideally, find different weighted bags and try them out. Most sports stores have them hanging up. If not, stop by a boxing gym and try them out there. You will quickly find out the differences in "feel". When you hit it and find it is moving too much or has too much give, then maybe you need a heavier bag. It's all quite a personal decision.
If you're looking for a good dealer, check out the How to Box Boxing Store with a huge selection at discount prices. Feel free to comment on this article and add your thoughts, especially if you disagree with something I've written...