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Best Heavy Bags for Muay Thai Home Training

Home Training Special Part 1

If you are looking to have a Muay Thai home gym set up and looking to purchase some fight equipment, your search ends here with this article. For the first part in a 3-part Home Training Special series, let’s look at that one equipment that is most frequently associated with almost all stand-up combat training and martial arts training in general: the heavy bag.

Introduction

Along with shadow boxing, pad work, clinching and sparring, bag work is an important aspect of Muay Thai training. It is an invaluable tool to improve offensive skills -if properly utilized. Back in the days, and likely still practised in some martial arts community, the sandbag was the equipment of choice for striking training. Just some good old gunny sack filled with sand or rice and martial artists were all ready for a few hours of bag work under the sun. These fighters were probably a lot tougher back in those days.

These days, legit Muay Thai gyms are equipped with modern heavy bags constructed from tough leather (real or synthetic) and filled with shredded cloth, rags and sometimes a mixture of sand. There’s also a trend with water-filled heavy bags that is all the rage in fitness gyms now. They are reportedly safer as they absorb impact better and offer a more natural feel. Gone though, are the days where Rocky-inspired men take to the abattoir for bloody meat punching workouts.

It is important to note that there are health risks involved due to the impact and hardness of heavy bags, especially for beginners. It is thus important to exercise due diligence and take precautionary steps to avoid injuries, such as hand-wrapping and using gloves with adequate protection for bag work.

Note for Beginners
I would not encourage complete noobs to Muay Thai to train at home right from the start. It is vital to have a solid grounding when learning martial arts. Without proper guidance and immediate correction, it is easy to develop poor form just learning from books and videos. Home training is beneficial for those who have already had some foundation, so I stress again, definitely not for complete beginners. However, if you have already started training in the gym, having a heavy bag at home can be good for practising what was taught in the gym. Just don’t attempt any new techniques on your own.

Benefits of training with heavy bag
best muay thai heavy bag

The heavy bag is an iconic prop for passive-aggressive displays of anger in popular culture. There’s a lot of accuracy in the portrayal as a heavy bag will take all your beating without retaliation, unlike a human. Beyond its usage for stress relief, there are other more practical benefits to be gained from heavy bag training:

Increase Power
The most obvious benefit is improving striking power. Putting in regular hours on the bag increases bone density and strengthen muscles and tendons. A stronger body equals the ability to withstand the impact of your kicks and punches and gradually throwing harder, more powerful strikes.

Sharpen Your Techniques
The solidity of heavy bags will force you to work on perfecting your techniques and form by giving you instant feedback via a sharp stinging pain. Regular, intense training on the bag will sharpen your form that will follow you through sparring and actual fights.

Improve Stamina
Heavy bags are frequently seen in fitness and weight-lifting gyms for the fact that they can give a really good cardio workout. The heaviness of the bags offer a lot of resistance which makes them an ideal tool for improving cardio endurance. Go a few rounds of 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.

Improve Coordination
As you incorporate movement into your bag workout, -and not just standing stationary- 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.

Train Alone
Muay Thai training really isn’t meant to be a solitary affair as it goes against the nature of a competing sport. It works best to have a trainer or a training partner for pad work, sparring/clinching practice and someone to push your limits. But having a trainer or training partner can be a luxury not available to everyone. Bag work, on the other hand, can be done anytime at home which makes it the most reliable training method for everyone.


Types of Heavy Bags Used in Muay Thai

Generally speaking, there are 2 main types of heavy bags used in Muay Thai gyms: the regular heavy bag and the taller/longer banana bag. Although many people refer to the banana bag as THE Muay Thai heavy bag, the fact is that the regular heavy bag is the recognized standard most commonly used in the sport. Step into any Muay Thai gym and you will always find more regular heavy bags than banana bags.

For a simple home training setup, there is no need to look beyond these 2 models. A standard heavy bag is a versatile enough equipment that it may be all that is needed. But with both bags in place in a home gym, you are all set for success. Success in terms of improving your Muay Thai performance in some ways, at the very least.

If you want to “show-hand” and set up a really spiffy home gym that you can charge people money for, then you can consider equipping with the teardrop bag and/or the angled heavy bag. Top it off with an Aqua bag or wall mount heavy bag and you have yourself a winning combination. Here’s the low-down on the types of bags used in Muay Thai:

Standard Heavy Bag

best muay thai heavy bag

The standard heavy bag weighs around 100 lbs filled and measures around 4 ft in height and is used across all stand-up combat training. This is still the single, most important heavy bag in Muay Thai training. I would say about 75-80% of bagwork revolves around this particular type of heavy bag. Besides your standard repertoire of Muay Thai strikes minus the low kick, you can manhandle the bag to mimic a clinch and knee; you can push the bag to train your core; swing the bag to work on your movement; there is so much you can do with it. If there is a need, just lower the bag with a longer chain and you will be able to practice low kicks albeit a mild hassle.

Verdict: If you have budget for only one heavy bag, then this is certainly the one to get.


Banana Bag

best muay thai heavy bag

The tall banana bag weighs around 120-130 lbs filled and measures around 5-6 ft. This longer design allows for low kicks which makes it really good for working on those combinations that incorporate low kicks. The thing that I have experienced with banana bags is that they will get rock-hard towards a bottom over time. So hard that it feels like kicking a bloody lamp post. This can be good for shin conditioning if you know what you are doing. Banana bags are heavier than standard bags and don’t swing as much so it can feel a lot less organic. Some people prefer that the bags not swing to work on double or triple kicks.

Verdict: Good for low kicks and shin conditioning but for everything else, I would stick with the standard bag.


Angled Heavy Bag

best muay thai heavy bag

My gym brought in a few of these a few months back and I’m liking them so far. The one in the gym measures at around 5 ft, which is around the same or slightly shorter compared to the Banana bag. The angled top is supposed to allow you to work your uppercuts so this can be thought of as a Banana Bag Plus. In reality, you are better off with the Teardrop bag (see next) for this purpose. The angled bag isn’t really angled enough to offer any realistic effect. Dimension-wise, it’s thicker than the banana bag and weighs over 130 lbs, so there is not much swing to it when you kick one. When you give it a teep, you find yourself getting pushed back instead. It’s almost like training with a padded tree.

Verdict: Best reserved for commercial or fight gyms to offer a variety of training equipment but is just an overkill in home gyms.


Teardrop Bag

best muay thai heavy bag

Same same but different. The teardrop bag has been marketed as the bag for clinch and knee drills due to its shape that most resembles the human torso. Slightly shorter than the regular bag at about 3 ft and weighs a lot less at about 60 lbs. They really are easier to knee because of the angled bottom but can feel slightly awkward when connected with roundhouse kicks. The rounded-edge design for knees is not that necessary and that’s why you don’t see too many of these. There might one or two of these at some of the Muay Thai gyms but you will find most of them to tend to stick to the good ol’ regular. The teardrop bags also tend to cost more so there really isn’t much reason to get it, especially if it’s going to be your first heavy bag. With the light weight, they really aren’t going to be of much use for training your power.

Verdict: Frivolous and unnecessary.


Aqua Punching Bag

best muay thai heavy bag

If you are looking for a bag to work on those punches, the water-filled Aqua bags are your best bet. I have had the opportunity to experience working out with these bags at a local boxing fitness club and they are really great. They are shaped either like a teardrop and a wrecking ball, designed exclusively for punches only. The bags typically come in 2 sizes: 18 inch (120 lbs) or 21 inch (190 lbs). The contours make them great for training uppercuts but what really differentiates these from old skool bags is the punching sensation that feels more similar to humans. There is less impact as it gets absorbed easily so it’s kinder on the hands and bones. All you need is a water hose to fill it up which makes it really easy to set up. They will shipped unfilled so that cuts the shipping cost by a large margin.

Verdict: For a good cardio workout or a bag to train specifically your punches, this is perfect.


Wall Mount Heavy Bag

best muay thai heavy bag

Not so much a bag. Like the Aqua punching bag, this is strictly designed for punches only. Not a lot of Muay Thai gyms use these, possibly because kicks tend to be favored over punches in the sport. I have seen these at YOKKAO and Sitsongpeenong gyms but don’t get much love elsewhere in the country. Like most bags designed for punching, this works the uppercut very well and the smaller targets can aid in training precision.

Verdict: You’d probably be bored punching this after 3 days. Doesn’t look like a very fun training equipment.


Best Muay Thai Heavy Bags

A good heavy bag should be designed to take regular beating for a prolonged period without coming apart. That’s all there is to it. Here are my top 2 picks of the best heavy bags for Muay Thai training:

Fairtex

This is easily my top choice since it’s the brand of choice at the gym where I train. Day after day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, these bags receive an unimaginable volume of battering from morning till night. I trust in the gym manager’s calculated and well-researched decision to fill the gyms (all 4 locations) with Fairtex heavy bags and no other brands. Fairtex is of course, a renowned Muay Thai gear and equipment manufacturer, so the guys that run the gym obviously know what they are doing.

As for my personal experience, everything’s been really positive. Nothing to complain about. Fairtex heavy bags are constructed using Fairtex Syntek Leather with heavy duty, water resistant and non-tear nylon lining, finished off with indestructible nylon straps. I would expect them to chalk up many years of striking mileage.

Do note that Fairtex heavy bags come unfilled which cuts down on the shipping fees.

User Reviews
Great bag. Solid construction and materials.
Amazing… Filled it with clothing from salvation army
Great bag. Solid construction and materials. Worth the wait of shipping.
Fairtex makes the best quality Thai Boxing gear on the planet, and these bags are priced just right if you dont mind filling your own.

>> Click here to shop Fairtex Heavy Bags on Amazon <<


Outslayer

Outslayer is a MMA equipment manufacturing company based in California. If you are reading this somewhere in the United States, you will be happy to know that Outslayer heavy bags are made with pride in USA. Outslayer bags come with a 10-year warranty that speaks volume of the confidence the company has in their own products.

Outslayer bags come filled with shredded cloth like all good bags should. Depending on the model, they can weigh from 80 to 150 lbs. 80-100 lbs for a regular and 130-150 lbs for a banana bag. The bags are made with high-quality, heavy duty American vinyl (not leather) for long-lasting durability.

While I have not had an opportunity to train with Outslayer heavy bags, there are loads of positive reviews from their users. This is a brand that knows what it is doing.

User Reviews
Great bag. Solid construction and materials.
Amazing… Filled it with clothing from salvation army
Great bag. Solid construction and materials. Worth the wait of shipping.
Fairtex makes the best quality Thai Boxing gear on the planet, and these bags are priced just right if you dont mind filling your own.

>> Click here to shop Outslayer Heavy Bags on Amazon <<

Pre-filled or Unfilled

Some merchants will offer the option of buying a heavy bag pre-filled or unfilled. The price difference is not the only consideration when it comes to making a choice. Given that a pre-filled bag weigh around 100 lbs on average, this can add weight to the the shipping cost which in turns, can take a hit on your wallet before you even get a chance to hit it.

Unfilled bags are a lot kinder towards the budget and it’s actually pretty easy to stuff your own bags. Just fill it up with your unused clothes or buy some from the salvation army and it’s good to go. Avoid using sand as it will create an extremely hard bag inhumane for kicking and will weigh a ton. Of course, if you find DIY a hassle, paying that extra for convenience to have it pre-filled is not such a bad idea too.

It boils down to 2 things: budget and convenience. Remember to factor in the shipping cost and weigh it for yourself if it’s worth to Fill-It-Yourself.


How to Hang Your Heavy Bag

You will need to find a way to hang your heavy bag, unless you plan to use it as a bolster. There are 2 general ways to do it: wall mount bag hanger or heavy bag stand. The former will require some minor structural work but wall mounts using hangers or brackets are a cheap solution. Heavy bag stands require some quick assembly but the problem is that most stands only allow you to hit the bag from the front which is counter-effective. On top of that, stands are less stable and will wobble from a solid power kick unless you secure them to the floor permanently.

My recommendation: Use a wall mount/bracket.

You can either mount your heavy bag to a ready-made hanger or wall bracket. Alternatively, you can weld and build your own metal frame. The latter makes sense if you are planning to hang a few heavy bags to justify all the work involved but if it just one bag, a ready-made mount will do just fine. If you have a high ceiling, then a wall bracket makes for a better solution by eliminating the need for a long chain which can introduce too much swing.

Heavy Bag Maintenance
Sweat and traces of blood can stain the heavy bag, breeding nasty bacteria that can give you plenty of dermatological troubles. Wiping the bag after training using a damp cloth and mild soap solution to remove sweat and grime, then again with a dry cloth to remove excess moisture will help to keep it sanitized. Regular maintenance also helps to prolong the lifespan of the bag by preventing mold and reducing bacteria growth.

Conclusion

TL;DR, if you are looking to get your first heavy bag, the regular 100 lbs bag will be a good start. This is the standard equipment in Muay Thai gyms around the world for good reason.

On days when you have to skip training due to work, school or other commitments, having a heavy bag to return to at the end of the day is simply a savior. Just 15-20 minutes of intense bag work may be all you need to keep you . Being able to practise the new moves at home that you picked up from your instructors can really help sink them in. As they say, practice makes perfect.

Chok dee!

2 Comments
  1. […] the first installment of this Home Training special, I wrote about picking the right heavy bag. Bag work is largely a solitary exercise and while it has many benefits, you must not forget that […]

  2. […] is a plethora of benefits from training with heavy bags. Here are some reasons why bag work is a staple on all fighters’ training […]

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