Take the Lead – Putting the Heavy Bag to Work for You

For as long as the modern day sport of boxing has existed, the heavy bag has been at the core of nearly every prizefighter’s workout routine. In the beginning, they were constructed of everything from canvas bags to gunny sacks filled with sand or grain. Although construction methods have advanced, the purpose that the heavy bag serves has remained the same.  It provides a substantial target for a fighter to practice the art of power punching, movement and crafting a full arsenal of punches.  Everything in the book, from the jab to the body shot, can be perfected on the heavy bag.  The key to this integral piece of equipment and getting the most out of it is to be sure that you work it and don’t let it work you. What that means is that you don’t let it become a force that you only react to.  Instead, control its’ movement, dictate the pace of the round, the direction of the bag and every aspect of what you do with it.

Too many fighters stand in front of the bag, hit it a few times (or once) and allow the bag to swing back and forth while they wait to hit it again.  There’s really much more you can get out of the heavy bag than that, by not allowing yourself to follow, but lead the charge.  If it were a dance, you would want to be the man, not the woman.  Lead, don’t follow.

One of your goals on the heavy bag is to keep it moving, don’t let it settle into place. When you strike the bag, either pursue it and throw an additional combination or step to the side and throw.  It is best not to hit the bag when it is coming straight back at you. Instead, step off and counter the direction the bag is going to interrupt its natural movement or hit it so that it continues its motion.  The idea is to control the bag, where it goes, how fast it moves and when you stop its motion.  If you have just hit the bag and it is swinging back at you, step off to your right and let a right cross go or plant a solid right hand to the body.  Or as it swings back, step off to your left and rip a left hook to the body or head. By stepping to the side in this manner, you are accomplishing three main objectives.

First you are training yourself to remain in perpetual motion and making each minute of each round on the bag a real workout.  Time spent standing flat-footed, waiting for the bag to come back it pointless.  That means you are conditioning yourself to wait for your opponent to lead and take control.  That’s a bad habit to get into and a dangerous position to put yourself in.

Secondly, as you step of to the side, you should be shifting your weight to the lead foot that you stepped with.  When you do this it is re-establishing a firm foundation and is putting you in the proper position to throw another punch or combination.

Although it may sound basic, by working around the bag or pursuing it, you are hitting a moving target, as opposed to an “opponent” that is just coming straight at you or running away from you all of the time.  That is both unrealistic and too simple.  When the bag moves and you move to counter it…that’s more like a real fight.  It requires you to respond and place your shots more precisely.  When you’re attacking a moving target, it requires better timing, judging range and adjusting your distance. You have to think more and work the bag more deliberately.

It is also good to sometimes follow the bag.  This form of attack may play into your already aggressive fighting style or is just good to work on in case you ever find yourself in the type of situation where you need to apply pressure and force the attack.   By keeping your head planted on the bag while you bury punches into it, pressing the action and firing off powerful combinations, this will get you accustomed to moving forward.  Even if this is not your typical fighting style, it will get you in the type of shape that you will need to be able to constantly apply effective pressure and will make you a more adaptable fighter.

What you do on the heavy bag, the types of drills you incorporate and the various routines you work on are virtually endless.  But, more important than what you do, is how you do it, because ultimately, the heavy bag will never make you work harder than you want to.  It’s not going to push you or punch back or make the rounds any more difficult than you dictate.  Let the seconds tick by while you watch the bag swing lazily on its chain or take charge and put it to work for you and you’ll quickly find that the heavy bag can be your greatest ally or your worst enemy.

Doug Ward is the President and Trainer for the Underground Boxing Company.