Heavy bag work is one of the most important aspects of many martial arts training, including Muay Thai. While it is certainly not the one-size-fits-all solution to training Muay Thai, it is an invaluable tool to improve offensive skills -if properly utilized. However, there are health risks involved due to the impact and hardness of heavy bags. It is thus important to exercise due diligence and take precautionary steps to avoid injuries, such as hand-wrapping and using gloves with proper protection.
Benefits of training with heavy bag
There is a plethora of benefits from training with heavy bags. Here are some reasons why bag work is a staple on all fighters’ training program:
We have all been there before. A badly executed kick can result in a lot of agony for the shin bone, or top of the foot. So can a poor punching form wreck your hand and wrist. Maybe you are not turning your hips enough when you kick; or maybe you are not keeping your wrist and forearm straight when you punch. The solidity of heavy bags will force you to work on perfecting your techniques and form by giving you instant feedback. Regular, intense training on the bag will sharpen your form that will follow you through sparring and actual fights.
Increase Striking Power
Bag work is a great way to work on your striking power. Repeatedly punching and receiving the impact from the heavy bag aids in the strengthening of a wide range of muscle groups. At the same time, regular bag work can increase bone density and strengthen muscles and tendons in your hands, wrists and forearms, allowing you to withstand the impact of your punches and gradually throwing more powerful punches. The same goes with your kicks as your shin gets conditioned. Also, as you refine your techniques, understanding the importance of twisting your hips, pivoting with the toes and ball and swinging your leg like a baseball bat: you will be able to throw harder and faster kicks.
Go 3 rounds of non-stop 3-minute intense striking on the heavy bag and you will see why bag work is one of the best and direct ways to train your fight stamina. Sure, you can take it slow and chat with your mate beside you while you throw half-assed punches. But if you want to improve your endurance, you should go all out like your life depends on it. You may not last more than 1 round at first. But as you keep pushing your boundaries, things will get easier and you will last longer than you did before.
As you incorporate movement into your bag workout, -and not just standing stationery- you will improve coordination and balance. This is accomplished as you need to work on stability with each kick and punch especially when the bag swings back at you. Knowing when to kick and punch with a swinging heavy bag will test your coordination and technique as striking at the wrong moment can be a painful experience.
Heavy bag doesn’t only train your strength, power and endurance. Like shadow boxing, bag work trains you to be a thinking fighter. It trains your brain as much as your muscles. Instead of the usual 1-2 punches, get creative and try out as many combinations as your mind can conjure. The idea is to build up your arsenal of trickeries so as to be as unpredictable as possible.
We all have our down days when we feel crushed and defeated, because life isn’t always easy. If you had a particularly difficult day at work or home, unleash your fury, anger, frustration and any negativity you are carrying onto the bag. The heavy bag will take your beating without retaliating. And feel your heart getting lighter, as your low spirits dissolve with every punch and every kick.
How to prevent boxing (hand) injuries
The hand is made up of many tiny bones and soft tissues and this makes them prone to injuries if not adequately protected. It is common for beginners to experience knuckle bruises but the good news is that they will harden up fairly quickly. However, joint sprains, finger/hand fractures and wrist injuries are more serious conditions that result from inadequate protection or poor techniques. Here are some ways to prevent hand injuries from punching bags:
Do not underestimate those subtle wrist stretches that you perform at warm-up. Proper and regular wrist stretching will improve their flexibility. Boxing with inflexible wrists increases the risk of wrist ligament tear. So be sure to do your wrist stretches diligently.
Work on Your Techniques
Many people start out over-enthusiastically especially when it comes to unleashing their fury at the heavy bag. It feels good as a way of destressing but the aftermath can cause you some physical stress instead. Start with light punches and then slowly build up your speed and power. Make a fist firmly and land your punches correctly with maximum contact on your first two knuckles. Also make sure your wrists and forearms are straight/aligned and not bending at awkward angles.
A stronger wrist is vital not only for more powerful punches, but also for withstanding the impacts of your punches. You can promote wrist strength by performing exercises such as knuckle push-ups, wrist curls, and wrist grips. Besides wrists, working on strengthening the forearms will also help to minimize wrist injuries
Hand wraps are not optional, they are mandatory! Certainly so if you want to avoid any hand or wrist mishap. Hand wraps are worn to hold and compress your knuckles, wrists, tiny bones and the soft tissue, keeping them in place and lessening the impact of your punches on them.
Gloves for bag work
You need gloves with good shock absorption qualities and proper wrist support. This is especially recommended if you are just starting out but is as valuable for experienced fighters. Using gloves with appropriate protection will go a long way in minimizing hand and wrist injuries given the high impact nature of Muay Thai, preventing any unnecessary, premature retirement from the sport.
Gloves recommendations for Bag Work
The first thing when it comes to buying gloves is to choose the right weight. Punching gloves sizing are measured in terms of weight and run from 8oz to 20oz. Generally speaking, heavier gloves equate to more padding which offers better overall hand protection so you can see how this is important when it comes to bag work. Heavier gloves will slow you down but they will lessen the impact of your punches and decrease the risk of injuries. Additionally, they are good for conditioning and building arm strength. For added protection, we recommend the following sizes based on body weight:
|Body Weight||Recommended Gloves Size|
|100lbs & below||12oz|
|100lbs – 120lbs||12oz – 14oz|
|120lbs – 150lbs||14oz – 16oz|
|150lbs & above||16oz – 18oz|
For the best in hand and wrist protection, here’s a list of our top recommendations to get you started:
Fairtex is the top Muay Thai brand with quality and durable gloves that are built to last. The BGV1 is perhaps Farirtex’s most popular Muay Thai gloves model. They boast a streamlined design making them look smaller than contemporaries such as Twins and Top King, but offering comparably high quality padding with outstanding hand/knuckle protection and shock dispersion.
BGV-1s are also constructed with premium leather for excellent comfort and durability. These are the best selling Muay Thai gloves and you won’t go wrong with them as your training gloves.
|– “They are much more supportive on my wrists than my old pair of Everlasts and they also don’t carry too much bulk. My punches feel like they’re landing much better as a result.“
– “They provide ample wrist support and keep a smaller profile than a lot of other gloves, which is perfect for muay thai.“
|Rating: (4.6 / 5)|
Twins Special Muay Thai Boxing Gloves
In terms of popularity, Twins Special is right up there with Fairtex. These premium leather gloves are favored by everyone from casual gym goers to trainers to professional fighters alike. As a high impact sport, you want gloves that can give you good wrist support and provide sufficient protection for your knuckles.
The great overall padding offers ideal protection while you work on your techniques and strengthen your hands to withstand the impact of your punches. They are, in fact, more padded than most gloves which means no more sore hands after punching them heavy bags. Good quality leather gloves giving you good mileage at great prices. A real working class hero.
|– “they have more cushioning than other gloves I have used for Muay Thai and I highly recommend getting them.“
– “ The gloves do a great job absorbing the shock when hitting the heavy bag and the wrist support is excellent.. After two years, the velcro is still going strong and the gloves still protect my hands.“
|Rating: (4.7 / 5)|
Rounding up the trinity of Muay Thai brands is Top King. Offering comparative protection to Twins gloves, it is interesting to note that the 2 brands are actually owned by 2 brothers. One reason why they are well-liked is the bold and distinct aesthetics of their gear. For cool looking gloves, the quality of the craftsmanship and the cowhide leather used is exceptional.
These sturdy gloves are well construct and have good foam padding to protect the knuckles and wrists. One thing to note is that the cuffs extend almost halfway up your forearms and would make very support for your wrists while you go hard at the heavy bag. With such great qualities, you might not be switching brands ever after.
|– “The wrist strap holds tight and it feels very secure.“
– “They’re sturdy, with good fist and wrist protection.“
|Rating: (4.3 / 5)|
One of the most popular and widely recommended gloves in terms of wrist support. Hayabusa is known for extensive research and innovation in the design of their products. It boasts an engineered (synthetic) leather proven to outlast regular leather. But the really outstanding feature of these gloves is the dual wrist wrap. This patented design provides excellent alignment of the hands and wrists, guarding against harmful twisting, flexion and extension. Additionally, it secures the gloves and provides ample padding for protection.
Another outstanding feature is the inner fabric which boasts an anti-microbial technology that delivers anti-odor properties, improved ventilation, enhanced breathability and thermo-regulating properties. What that means, is that they will keep your hands cool and will dry up fast, giving you the best comfort and protection while you work it on the heavy bag.
|– “The wrist support is second to none.”
– “Every awesome thing you’ve read is true.”
|Rating: (4.6 / 5)|
Venum are known for their eye-catching aesthetics, but they make pretty darn good gloves too. If you are deliberating between the Elite and the lower-tier Challenger model, go with the former for better wrist support and durability. In fact, the Elites are one of the best-selling gloves. These gloves are constructed with skintex leather which is a high grade vinyl-based synthetic leather. They have an enhanced grip giving it a really good grip when you make a fist. They are also well ventilated through the mesh panel under the fist. And most importantly, the triple density foam padding offers fantastic shock absorption to provide added protection for your hands.
Elite models are also proudly made in Thailand and offer strong stitching and good wrist support and protection. The Elites come in wild neon colors, handsome black and a really classy white so these not only feel good, but they look really good too.
|– “Aside from its aesthetics, these gloves are also super padded and protect my hands very well.“
– “My hands don’t hurt and the 12oz gloves allow me to have enough speed to get in a killer workout but also enough padding where I can hit as hard as I want.“
|Rating: (4.5 / 5)|
Title is a reputable and popular boxing brand. These Gel World Bag gloves are approximately 16oz gloves but are made in different sizing (from S to XL) to suit different hand sizes. They use a multi-layered foam padding for superior protection for your hands and knuckles, making them very ideal for training with heavy bag.
Even if you are a heavy hitter, the durable all-leather gloves will protect your hands sufficiently and you will be pleased with their mileage. With these gloves, you can hit the bag as hard as you like without any knuckle pain. For bag work, these gloves will deliver what they promise.
|– “Knuckle pain gone with these gloves.“
– “After upgrading from my last pair of cheaper off brand gloves to these my hands / wrist thank me.”
|Rating: (4.7 / 5)|
Heavy bags are cold and merciless but also faithfully honest. They are your best friend as much as they are your worst enemy. It is a love-hate relationship. Train like your life depends on it. Train like everyone’s looking. But remember to stay safe with the right protection with the right pair of gloves for bag work.