Who doesn’t love to throw a few punches every now and then to blow off some steam?
What most people don’t realize is how effective punching is for cardio and fitness training. It isn’t just useful for mixed martial arts training.
But when it comes to choosing equipment for a garage gym, you’ll face the decision between free-standing punching bags and the hanging bags that are both commonly available.
To help you make a better decision for your personal workout plan and gym space, I’ve put together this guide that will help you avoid making the wrong decision.
The Free-Standing Heavy Bag
What Is A Free-Standing Heavy Bag?
A free-standing punching bag is a tall leather cylinder filled with heavy material that stands directly on the ground.
While cylinders are the most common shape you’ll find, they have become more popular in shapes that better represent the human body.
These are trendy standing bags for martial arts disciplines, and you’ll often see them in MMA schools.
You’ll also find that free-standing punching bags often have some sort of spring mechanism that forces the bag back into an upright position after every kick or punch.
1. Easy To Set Up
When you unpack free-standing punching bags, you’ll find that they don’t come with too many pieces.
A base and some sort of spring or connection mechanism usually slot into place and may require a screwdriver or spanner to tighten up.
But I found that my non-existent DIY skills were more than enough to get the heavy bag stand set up and ready to go.
2. Not As Solid For The Knuckles
If you haven’t done much punching work, then a free-standing bag might be ideal as it’s less severe on your knuckles.
There’s more give at the upper end of the bag, meaning it will move easier than a hanging bag.
3. Better Portability
This is possibly one of the main attractions for a garage gym where you might not have a permanent space for your heavy bag.
A free-standing bag might not be the lightest gym equipment, but it should be easy enough to move around once you’re finished with it.
4. Space Saving Option
So, the two types of bags are often the same size, but the way they move and the control you have over the movement is very different.
A standing punching bag only moves from the base up, limiting how far it will move and ultimately how much space you need for your heavy bag training.
5. Ideal For Martial Arts
Many martial arts workouts happen on heavy bags, and many fighters find that standing bags are more suitable as they give a better feel for having an opponent.
It just feels more realistic, especially when you consider that the higher up you kick, the more follow through you would expect .
And free-standing bags tend to give you that follow through.
That being said, there are a couple of drawbacks with a free-standing bag.
1. Less Resistance
The ability to get a good followthrough that I mentioned as a positive above also tends to limit the amount of resistance you get.
That can become quite a disadvantage once you become much stronger, where every punch and kick in a bag results in a lot of bounce.
You could end up waiting a while in between punches until the boxing bag stabilizes again.
2. Not As Durable
We have noticed with free-standing punching bags that they tend to be made of less durable materials.
The leather is often thinner because they tend not to be used for constant and heavy punching.
The more beating it gets, the more you’ll find that the spring mechanism might start to make noises and even become less resistant.
3. Limited Footwork
Many boxers don’t like a standing punching bag because it can limit the footwork you can do. The bounce of the free-standing bags is very different, and it’s not as suitable for working your way around the bag .
Best Suited For
If you’re a beginner or you have limited space in your home gym, then I’d suggest free-standing bags over a heavy hanging bag any day.
You’re still going to get great use out of it, and unless you’re aiming to pack a punch like Mike Tyson, you’ll do just fine with the convenience of a standing bag option.
The Hanging Heavy Bag
What Is A Hanging Heavy Bag?
A hanging heavy bag is a cylindrical bag filled with sand or foam and between 3 and 5 feet tall.
They also tend to come in a variety of weights and widths depending on the specific workout needs.
Unlike a free-standing punching bag, the hanging types have to be hooked onto a ceiling anchor or designated frame, with the idea being that it can swing freely under the pressure of punches and kicks.
Most traditional heavy bags are made of leather as it tends to be the hardest wearing material that can withstand years of abuse at a gym.
Related: What to Fill a Punching Bag With?
We talked to a few boxers and Muay Thai fighters to give us some feedback on what they liked about hanging heavy bags.
We gathered five specific advantages of heavy bags.
1. Favored Swinging Motion
A hanging heavy bag is ideal for punching as it creates a nice and smooth swinging motion, which resembles an opponent’s movement.
This makes y bags ideal for focusing on your footwork as well as your punching technique .
You can essentially work on both your offensive and defensive stances without the extreme swings you tend to get with a freestanding punching bag.
“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.” - ExpertBoxing.com.
2. Heavy Resistance
Most hanging bags start at quite a heavyweight, which means that they naturally have a lot of resistance.
They are also available as much heavier options than free-standing bags, which suits people with a powerful punch or better kick e bag over, which is less disruptive to your training.
3. Highly Durable
Hanging heavy bags are designed from the start to withstand a lot of abuse, and as a result, they tend to be considerably more durable.
There are also no moving parts like a spring mechanism in free-standing bags. The worst that can happen is that years of abuse will wear the leather thin, and some of the sand or foam starts to spill out.
4. Flexible Workouts
Because the hanging punching bags don’t swing wildly around, they are ideal for many different workouts and training techniques.
Boxers often switch between punching and footwork to take a short breather. They’re also great for doing speed drills as you don’t have to wait until the bag is stable again.
5. Easy On The Budget
You’ll find that for a comparable weight, size, and quality hanging heavy bags tend to be cheaper and longer-lasting.
There are no moving parts to account for or break down, which ultimately means that you get a cheaper heavy bag that is likely to last longer.
With all the benefits, there are a couple of downsides to highlight.
1. Not The Easiest Installation
Now, you have to understand that I have two left hands when it comes to DIY, and my skills barely extend beyond a screwdriver.
But heavy bags require a solid anchoring hook to be installed in your ceiling, and then you’ll need some help to lift the bag off the ground to attach it.
It’s certainly not a one-man job.
2. Fixed In One Place
The other downside is that you really need to plan where you position your hanging bag as they aren’t easy to move out of the way.
It’s also tricky to unhook them without someone else’s help, so it’s not like you can just get it out of the way when it’s not in use.
3. Space For Swinging
Finally, if you want to use it properly for offensive and defensive training, then you need to allow for quite a bit of space.
First of all, hanging bags will end up swinging quite a bit. And then you have to add the space for you to move your body around it in a fighting stance.
Best Suited For
If you’re a bit more serious about boxing or other fighting styles, then the durability and resistance of hanging bags are going to be the favored option.
Once you gain a certain punching and kicking strength, you’ll have a lot more flexibility for your workout as well.
Is a Free-Standing Punching Bag Better Than Hanging?
No, a free-standing punching bag isn’t always better than a hanging one. It does provide more flexibility, but hanging heavy bags tend to be more durable and offer more resistance.
Are Heavier Punching Bags Better?
Heavier punching bags are better for athletes who have a powerful punch. The more force your punch or kick has, the more the bag will move, but you want to limit excessive movement.
What weight of the heavy bag should you buy?
You should buy a heavy bag that is about half your body weight. It is a general rule of thumb and will largely depend on how much power is behind your kicks and punches.
Have You Made A Decision For The Right Type Of Bag?
The above advice is relatively simple in making the right choice between the free-standing vs. heavy hanging bags.
If space is an issue in your garage gym, or you’re not planning to punch with maximum force, then standing ones are going to do perfectly fine.
But if you need something that will stand the test of time and give you maximum resistance, then hanging punching bags are the way to go.