Free Standing Heavy Bag Vs. Hanging Punch Bag

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 5, 2024
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When it comes to choosing equipment for a garage gym, you’ll face the decision between free-standing punching bags and hanging bags, which are both commonly available.

I talked with other fitness experts and my clients who use free-standing and hanging punching bags to get their opinions.

Here's everything you should know to help you make a better decision about your personal workout plan and gym space.

Quick Summary

  • Free-standing bags offer ease of setup and portability, making them ideal for beginners and those with limited space, while hanging bags provide a more realistic training experience with their swinging motion.
  • Consider your fitness goals, available space, and desired level of resistance to determine whether a free-standing or hanging punch bag is the right choice for you.
  • A study in the National Library of Medicine says that a one-hour workout with a heavy bag can help you lose 500–1000 calories.
  • Personally, I find hanging punch bags to be more effective for intensive training, despite their installation challenges and space requirements.

The Free-Standing Heavy Bag

free standing heavy bag

What Is A Free-Standing Heavy Bag?

A free-standing heavy 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.


man using a standing heavy bag

According to an article on Academia EDU, using a punching bag can help you develop your hand-eye coordination, core stability, and strength [1].

Here are all of its benefits.

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.

However, 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.

In my training sessions, I've noticed that the upper end of the free-standing bag has more give, making it move more easily compared to a hanging bag.

This was particularly helpful when I started out, as it provided a gentler impact on my joints and allowed me to build up my technique gradually.

3. Better Portability

This is possibly one of the main attractions of 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.

I found it feels more realistic, especially when you consider that the higher up you kick, the more follow-through you would expect [2].

And free-standing bags tend to give you that follow-through.


man punching a heavy bag

That being said, there are a couple of drawbacks to a free-standing bag.

1. Less Resistance

The ability to get a good follow-through, which 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 that free-standing punching bags tend to be made of less durable materials.

The leather is often thinner because it tends not to be used for constant and heavy punching.

From my experience, after extensive use, the spring mechanism in the free-standing bag started to make noises and seemed to lose some resistance.

It's something to be mindful of if you're planning on really putting the bag through its paces regularly.

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 [3].

Best Suited For

children playing with a heavy bag

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

a hanging punching 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.

I found the smooth swinging motion it creates really mimics an opponent's movement, adding a dynamic element to my training that has been invaluable for improving my footwork and punch accuracy.

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 they 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.

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man boxing a punching bag

We talked to a few boxers and Muay Thai fighters to get 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 that resembles an opponent’s movement.

This makes it ideal for focusing on your footwork as well as your punching technique [4].

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.”


2. Heavy Resistance

Most hanging bags start at quite a heavy weight, which means that they naturally have a lot of resistance.

They are also available as much heavier options than free-standing bags, which suit 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 will start 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.


man kicking a punching bag

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.

I've found that one downside of the hanging bag is its lack of mobility. It's quite a task to unhook and move it without assistance, so it's not the most convenient option if you need to clear space frequently in your training area.

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

woman boxing

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.

The above advice is relatively simple in making the right choice between free-standing vs. best heavy hanging bags.

Customization and Adjustability

Both free-standing heavy bags and hanging punch bags offer unique customization and adjustability features that can significantly enhance your training experience.

Let's explore these aspects for each type of bag:

Free-Standing Heavy Bags

  • Adjustable height: Many free-standing bags come with adjustable height settings. This feature is particularly beneficial for practitioners of different heights or those who want to simulate opponents of varying statures.
  • Variable resistance: Some models allow you to adjust the resistance by altering the base's filling (water or sand). This can change the stability and rebound effect of the bag, offering a tailored training experience.

Hanging Punch Bags

  • Chain length adjustment: Hanging bags typically hang from a chain or strap system, which can often be adjusted. This allows you to change the bag's height, making it suitable for different training techniques, whether you're practicing low kicks or high punches.
  • Swivel types and movement: The type of swivel used can affect the bag's movement. A swivel that allows for more fluid motion can be ideal for developing footwork and timing, while a more static setup might be better for power training.
  • Customizable weight and filling: Some hanging bags come with the option to adjust their weight by changing the internal filling. This feature is particularly useful for those who wish to gradually increase the training intensity or for gyms catering to a wide range of users.

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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 may 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.


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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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