Date Posted:18 February 2019
The heavy bag training is for developing efficient power, not absolute power. You’re not breaking bricks with a single punch. You need power punches you can sustain throughout an entire fight, not just for one round. Keep your hands up, move around the bag, and make sure you’re always throwing fast punches. Pay attention, stay balanced, and work that bag! If you do it right, it gets easy. The heavy bag becomes a warm-up for the real workout, which is in the ring.
The number one problem of heavy bag training is that it builds bad eye habits. The two common problems I see are fighters staring too hard at the bag or not looking at the bag.
Too Much Staring
This kind of intense eye contact is pretty cool since you feel like a hunter keeping his eye on the target. In the ring, staring at a target telegraphs to your opponent where you are going to punch next. Whatever you do, do NOT look down when you throw a body punch. This makes the punch so much easier to defend and so much easier to counter. You especially don’t want to telegraph a body punch because your head is wide open.
The correct way to look at the bag is to just look forward. Imagine the bag as an opponent in front of you and try to keep the entire bag in your field of vision. You want to keep an eye on his head and body movements at the same time. You aim your punches but you’re not staring so much into one spot that you can’t see anything else.
This is when the fighter is not even looking at the bag. Believe it or not, some fighters can’t answer when I ask them, “What are you looking at when you punch?” I’ve caught new boxers staring at the ground or just looking to the side when they throw big punches. It’s amazing how often boxers punch blind when they get tired.
Don’t just let your eyes roam all over the place. Lazy eyes leave you vulnerable in the ring! Stay focused and pay attention to the bag. This increases your accuracy and more importantly, so you can see counter-punches coming your way. Best way to cure lazy eyes: put little squares of duct tape around the bag to give the eyes something to look at…or just spend more time using other equipment like the double-end bag which keeps your eyes alert.
Ultimately you want to keep your eyes on the bag without staring into it. You want to have a general awareness of the entire heavy bag. Keep the bag in view and also be aware of how far the bag is from you at all times.
Throw punches at the bag but don’t throw yourself at the bag. Stand on your own two feet and don’t fall into the bag. Keeping your balance makes for better punching power and better footwork around the heavy bag.
Don’t use the bag to hold you up. Don’t push with your shoulders; this bad habit allows skilled fighters to keep you off-balance by moving when they feel you leaning into them. Worst of all, do not push the bag around with your head; that’s just a great way to leave yourself open for uppercuts.
Don’t push the bag, hit it. Don’t make the bag swing all over the place, give it a seizure. There’s an old saying that goes, “If you want to know who’s hitting the bag correctly, just ask the blind man.” This is because you can tell if you’re punching correctly just by listening to the sound of your punches hitting the bag. What you want a snapping SMACK sound when you punch it and not a dull THUD sound. In case you don’t know, I wrote guide a while back: How to Throw a Snapping Punch
A push punch will only push the bag around as your arms get tired. A fast snap punch will jolt the bag in place with a big smack sound. Relax your arms and throw quick snapping punches. Commit some power but don’t have your fist making contact with the bag for too long. As soon as you make contact, return that fist and throw the next punch. You can always tell if you’re pushing if your arms are getting tired quickly. Again, limit the amount of time your fist makes contact with the bag.
Plant those feet when you punch. Being grounded means more balance, more power, more control, more mobility to move away after the punch, more everything! You can move around all you want but when it comes time to punch, ground your feet! If you find it hard to keep your feet on the ground, just take smaller steps when you move around. The pros punch so much harder because their feet are always on the ground even as they move around the ring.
As my trainer use to say, “Move your hands or move your feet or move your head.” If you’re not making an offensive move, you’re making a defensive move. Because a heavy bag isn’t punching you, we won’t worry about head movement but we can definitely work on foot movement. Always move when you finish punching.
Keep Your Distance
Maintain a proper distance at all times. Move with the bag and keep it at arms reach at all times. Don’t let the bag get too far or too close. Don’t be lazy with your legs. Move with the bag instead of standing there and waiting for it to come to you. Back up when it comes at you and follow it if it swings away. If you can’t move your feet as swiftly as the bag swings, you need to lighten up the punches or get a heavier bag…or develop better footwork.
This is what separates the men from the boys. Watch any professional fighter work the heavy bag and you’ll see that they’re ALWAYS throwing punches. Even when they rest, they only rest for maybe 2 seconds at most.
The beginners are always waiting around in between combinations. They’ll throw big punches and then just walk around for 5-10 seconds to catch their breath. These long periods of inactivity will kill you. Real fights don’t have 10-second breaks for you to catch your breath.
So what’s the moral of the story? —NEVER STOP PUNCHING! You don’t always have to punch hard, but you have to keep throwing. Put in some light punches and jab as you move around the bag to catch your breath. When you’re ready to throw the big shots again, step in and fire away.
Hitting the heavy bag is a lot like running–it’s all about the breathing! Don’t worry so much about trying to hit hard. Focus on explosive breathing, not explosive punches. Stay relaxed and work on your breathing so you don’t get tired.
Power and endurance have very little to do with how much effort you put into your punches. The pros throw hundreds of power punches using nothing but good technique and breathing. Good breathing allows you to stay relaxed and throw many punches without tiring out. Good technique allows you to deliver maximum power without wasting any of the energy you put into the punch.
Don’t let the bag wear you out. A bag works at your rhythm which is only when you want to punch. Learn how to conserve your energy for more challenging workouts like the double-end bag or sparring. If you’re still getting tired against a heavy bag, you’re not ready for competition.
Throwing 3 to 6 punches at a time is the sweet spot. Not 1, not 2, and NOT 10. It’s enough to do damage, yet short enough for you to get out before your opponent fires back. Combo all your punches together. Try some normal combos (1-2-1-2, 1-2-3, etc) as well as some unorthodox combos (1-3-2, 3-1-2-3-3, etc). Fights are fought in combinations, not single punches. Keep throwing combinations and keep up that rhythm.
Aim your punches high for the head and low for the body. The biggest problem I see is people who don’t punch high enough for the head. Come time to fight, their shoulders get tired because they're not used to punching high.
Don’t just stand there when you get tired. Keep moving! If you’re going to rest, do it as you’re moving around and throwing light punches. Do NOT rest by leaning on the bag or doing your Mike Tyson slip choreography. Worst of all, do not rest by standing still like a punching bag.
You have to be careful not to get carried away with your power.
You THINK your hands are up but you don’t really know until you get punched. You could be racking up hundreds of hours on the heavy bag developing a bad habit and not find out how open you are until you step into the ring. Don’t drop your right hand when you throw the jab and especially do not drop your right hand when you throw the left hook. Don’t just cover your head; keep your elbows down to protect the body as well. The most helpful tip I can recommend is to have a trainer or friend watch you and yell at you every time you drop your hands.
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