This post is meant for amateurs only who are operating at a shoe string budget and constraints on space.
Why you need a punching bag?
After a stressful day at work, who does not like a piñata to beat the crap out of. Want to clear your mind: just stick the picture of your least favorite person on a bag. This is what prompted me to install a punching bag at home and I soon realized that it’s actually a good cardio exercise and a compact practical tool as well. Cycling, treadmill and most cardio exercising machines focus on mainly leg muscles but this bag gives much needed toning to the upper torso. Also a few lessons on self-defense are like swimming, you never know when you need them but can be lifesaving when you actually use them. MMA Pads occupy the least space, if you are unsure of your fitness goals. However, you would need one dedicated person to hold the pad and coach you for the pads to be of any use. Hence a suspended bag is preferred.
Let’s talk business: Why you need a punching bag, How to fill your bag, how to install it, and what protective gear to use.
How to fill your bag?
The most expensive punching bags have 5 layers of concentric cylinders. The outer most will be leather (vinyl or canvas if you opt for a cheaper version) then gel/fluid to prevent knuckle bruising, followed by a layer of dense scrap fiber or high density foam/mattress filling. In the core there will be high mass sand column encased in a PVC/cardboard tube (5th and 4th layer respectively). If you are at an amateur level, most likely you will buy an empty sac and fill it yourself. Here are a few tips:
- Inspect the seams and buckles of the bag carefully for any damage.
- Make sure that the outer bag is not of cheap vinyl. It can withstand at least 6 months of brutal assault by your fists and feet.
- Buy a roll of duct tape and reinforce the seams from inside. This will lengthen the life and prevent dust/fiber bits spraying after repeated blows. Also patchwork from inside is much more elegant than any repair you will do from outside.
- Avoid sand. The inner material will invariably leak and sand only makes a mess. If you are looking for a really heavy bag, go for rice/grain instead. They are homogenous enough to pack tightly, and large enough to absorb blow, yet not leak from the seams.
- Always encase your heavy material inside a bag/cardboard case. Else they will breakdown into powder and settle at the base. Sand/flour settling at the base is an issue because the bag will not be homogenous and also will make you more prone to injuries when you kick the bag. If you can stack it as thin long packets, duct-taped into a tube, it will be the best.
- Raid your old garments, old mattress to get the filling that you are looking for. Make sure that it is sundried enough to prevent any mold infestation. You could use paper shreds also to supplement. The ratio of width of inner dense core to softer filling depends on how hard you want to train and your endurance levels. For kick-boxing you could even use low density saw dust which is ideal for beginners.
- Remove any plastic, metal esp. buttons from the garments before filling. Try to have uniform packing from all sides and press as much as you can before adding a new layer. Keep in mind the intended heavy bag weight that you want to achieve before you seal the bag.
- Take care of the zipper and seams. Try to paste a duct tape on them to prevent them from spraying dirt when you hit them.
How to Install:
Most websites will recommend you to install the punching bag through the ceiling. That is great if you have access to a shed where there is a beam (timber or steel) to loop through and hoist your bag. If you have a dedicated MMA (mixed martial arts) room, then you could probably remove your ceiling fan and install a punching bag instead. However, most condo/apartment dwellers don’t have such a luxury.
Also most ceiling fan hooks are 10 feet high making the boxer to invest in an expensive long chain (default ones are usually only 1 feet long and ropes are susceptible to breakage) You could buy a boxing stand and attach it to the wall, but that is expensive and is going to be a permanent fixture.
What I did was install a simple door frame pull up bar on my door. (you could use it for pull ups and exercise as well) and install the punching bag on it. It has a few advantages:
- The bag will be low enough to allow you to kick without the extra expense of an extension chain.
- You can easily remove the bar and the bag without leaving any tell tale signs of being a fitness freak.
- You can install it yourself without need of any drilling machine and tools.
- Make sure that there is enough space below your bed/behind it to stash away the bag & bar when not using it.
- Also the bag swings a bit more than the ceiling mount, but a bit of rope can arrest this movement.
- When you want to do “round horse kick,” move the bag to one side of the door frame. During punches/jumping kicks move the bag to the center.
- Kick-Boxing is an intensive sport that allows you to tire every muscle really rapidly. Be mindful of the door frame when you exercise. Kicking/punching wood accidently could seriously harm you.
Luckily most boxing/mma gear is useful only when you go for actual combats or learn defense. Punching bag can only teach you offense and right padding on wrist is usually enough. Go for wraps (atleast 2m long and not more than 5cm wide) and boxing gloves with good amount of padding. Wraps tightens the small delicate bones in your hand to prevent carpal/arthritis/bone shards in the future. The cushion of the gloves prevent knuckle bruising and wrist damage due to impact. So one cannot compensate for the other.
Best of luck for your training and post pictures if you find the tips useful.