The Benefits Of Heavy Bag Training
What benefit could there possibly be to hanging a big, stuffed bag from the ceiling and repeatedly pounding parts of your body into it? Put that way, one might question the benefits of heavy bag training.
But if you look a bit deeper, apply a little “health and safety context,” you’ll see that there are significant benefits to a well-designed and intelligent heavy bag training program.
Obviously, hitting a heavy bag is nothing like a real fight. However, it does develop fight-related qualities that are indispensable in personal combat. It can hone your strikes and kicks into powerful and devastating self-defense weapons.
The strikes and kicks most applicable to hitting the heavy bag are classified as “gross motor skills.” Gross motor skills are simple, large muscle actions that don’t deteriorate under stress. In fact, the jolt of adrenaline from the fear or anger, likely to accompany a combative situation, will enhance your performance.
Examples of techniques conducive with heavy bag training include:
- Lead punch (jab)
- Cross (reverse punch)
- Hook punch
- Forearm/elbow strikes
- Round house kick
- Front kick
- Back kick
- Knee strike
Impact training contributes to a healthy “Hit Psychology.” I use this term to describe people’s willingness to hit and be hit in order to protect themselves. Believe it or not, many people are reluctant to defend themselves.
Those who lack confidence in their ability to influence the outcome of their situation, perform poorly under stress. Proper impact training (hitting bags, pads and partners) builds striking competence and confidence that increases the effectiveness of a physical response.
“Blitz” training, can build mental tenacity. A blitz is an intense, rapid-fire barrage of strikes and kicks intended to simulate the all out aggression required during a confrontation.
If you are ever thrust into a situation where you must fight for your life, you must do so with every ounce of your being. In a situation like this, your greatest enemy is your desire to give up. “Blitz” training builds both physical and mental stamina and the tenacity to keep gong until you succeed.
Note: Blitz training should not be incorporated unless you are in good health, have developed a solid conditioning base and have good striking/kicking mechanics. To do so without the preliminary groundwork is inviting injury.
Fitness Benefits of Heavy Bag Training
A good heavy bag program strengthens your cardiovascular system, tones and strengthens your muscles, burns fat, increases bone density and connective tissue resilience. Not only can you get into great shape, but you can develop functional self-defense qualities at the same time.
By repeatedly striking and kicking the bag, you activate all of the major muscles groups in your body. The arms, shoulders, waist, and leg muscles must be coordinated and conditioned. This training also builds athletic qualities such as speed, power, balance, timing, and coordination.
Stress Management Benefits of Heavy Bag Training
Evolution has wired our brains and our bodies for survival. At the first detection of danger, the “fight or flight response” kicks in. A host of physiological changes occur intended to prepare us to fight aggressively or run like the wind.
In a survival situation this is a good thing. However, in modern society, this same response can be activated over and over in situations that don’t merit a simple solution like fighting or running away. A hectic day of deadlines, traffic jams, frustrations, and personal conflicts fires off the fight or flight response and pollutes our body with the toxic byproducts of stress.
Physical action is required to flush this “fight or flight residue” out of our bodies before it compromises our health and immune system. Vigorous exercise, such as heavy bag training, simulates the exertion needed to burn off this residue and return the mind and body to a healthier state. That’s why bag work is an excellent way to manage stress. It satisfies the body’s inherent need to fight.
Heavy Bag Work Is Fun!
It’s often been said that, “the best form of exercise is the one you’ll do on a regular basis.” If you don’t enjoy an activity, you won’t do it for long.
The final benefit is that heavy bag training is fun! Crank up the stereo, imagine the bag was your worst enemy (if you have one) and blast away. You’ll be dripping with sweat, huffing and puffing and feeling rejuvenated in no time!
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If you have any questions, experiences or opinions about heavy bag training, please feel free to comment below.
About Randy LaHaie
I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.