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Punch Bag Workout Tips That Improve Boxing Performance

A picture of Manny Pacquioa working the punch bag demonstrating how to maximise your punch bag workout.

In this article, you’ll learn four tips that will enable you to get the most out of each punch bag workout. Most beginner boxers make the mistake of failing to apply a process to bag work. Consequently, they miss the opportunity to maximise their training time which in turn slows progress and improvement.

The four simple tips outlined below will ensure you avoid making the same mistake. By utilising these tips, you will bring structure and purpose to your punch bag workouts. This will enable you to get more out of each boxing session thus maximising your performance.

So, without further delay, lets have a look at those four tips to improve your punch bag workout.

Punch Bag Workout Tip #1: Length and number of boxing rounds

Before wrapping your hands and lacing up a pair of gloves, you should know how many rounds you’re going to box for. Deciding on the length and number of rounds immediately gives structure to your punch bag workout.

Also, knowing the number of rounds your workout will last, provides a start and endpoint to your boxing training. This is beneficial for two reasons.

First, it improves training motivation as you can easily keep track of progress. From a training psychology standpoint, knowing how long your workout is going to last can boost productivity while also alleviating boredom.

Secondly, it teaches you to conserve energy and when it’s time to empty the tank. This second benefit teaches you how to conserve energy thus enabling you to maintain a consistent work rate from the beginning to the end of your workout.

Below you’ll find a range of punch bag workout lengths that you can use.

Boxing rounds

A grid showing a range of boxing rounds for the article on how to improve your punch bag workout.

Punch Bag Workout Tip #2: Maintain the fight mentality

An image of Mike Tyson for the article on how to improve your punch bag workout.

The fight mentality means that when the bell sounds the start of the round, you imagine that you’re facing an opponent and not a punch bag. Maintaining the fight mentality hones boxing discipline such as keeping your hands up and chin down while facing your opponent.

A punch bag workout can yield both positive and negative outcomes. The positives of punch bag training are that you can develop fitness and punch power. In fact, the heavy boxing bag is arguably the best way to increase the force of your punch.

However, because punch bags don’t hit back, or bring your attention to sloppy form, it is easy to imbed bad boxing habits. For example, some of the most common mistakes boxers make on the punch bag include:

  • Telegraphing punches: the equivalent of a poker player’s ‘tell’, telegraphing is where the boxer gives away their next move. A common telegraph is to drop the hand slightly before throwing a punch.

  • Dropping the guard: as mentioned above, because punch bags don’t retaliate, there’s little incentive for the boxer to keep their guard up. However, while this isn’t so much of a problem during a punch bag workout, it is a dangerous mistake to make when facing an opponent.

  • Becoming a statue: as well as their noble pacifism, punch bags don’t move all that much. This same static behaviour can rub off on the boxer if they do not remain conscious of the need to keep moving.

Optimise your punch bag workout to improve your pugilism

It may come as a surprise, but the list above only scratches the surface of the mistakes boxers make when punch bag training. While these mistakes can’t be eradicated completely, not unless you have a boxing coach watching over you, they can be minimised.

One simple method of reducing boxing mistakes during punch bag workouts is by maintaining fight mentality. Imagining that the punch bag is an opponent that could strike you at any moment will, at a minimum, encourage you to keep your hands up and chin down.

As for reducing other punch bag-prone mistakes, a method I use is to record a couple of rounds of my workout. After recording the round I’ll take a minute out to assess and appraise my performance. When I identify a mistake, which typically stick out like a sore thumb, I’ll double down on removing it.

Punch Bag Workout Tip #3: Decide on the punching combos

In all my years of boxing training, not once did I come across a boxer who implemented this tip. The standard procedure when working the heavy bag is just to throw punches. This is a mistake.

To develop, hone, polish, and perfect a technique you must practice it to the point of monotony – and beyond! The legendary boxing coach and mentor Cus D’Amato developed a training system somewhat similar to what I’m getting at here.

D’Amato assigned punch combinations a specific number; for example, a jab-cross would be numbered one, while a jab-cross left hook numbered two. When coaching his boxers either on the pads or observing them work the heavy bag, D’Amato would call out the numbers and the boxer would respond accordingly.

This simple system improved training efficiency while also enabling D’Amato’s boxers to polish punch combinations to perfection.

‘Boxing is a contest of character and integrity. The boxer with more will, determination, desire, and intelligence is always the one who comes out the victor.’

– Cus D’Amato

Punching combos for each boxing round

Setting a theme – or punching combo – for each round is an effective way to develop your boxing skills. The method is super simple to apply and requires no forethought.

As opposed to punching away arbitrarily, decide on a punch or punch combination and practice it for the full duration of the round. It doesn’t matter which punch or combination of punches you select. What matters is that, once you have made a choice, you stick with it until the bell sounds.

You can ‘work the jab’ between combinations. So, if you decided to focus on the jab-cross left hook, it is perfectly fine to apply the jab to create space and set up the combo. Approaching the method in this way is more realistic than a boxing contest. Also, when the punch bag is swinging excessively, it might need controlling before you can deliver your combination. The jab is the punch of choice for positioning the heavy bag.

Boxing combinations

Jab-cross (or: left-right / one-two)
Jab-cross-left hook
Jab-left hook to the body
Jab-cross-left hook to the body
Jab, cross, left hook, cross

Simple though this tip is, by deciding on a punch combination for each round you will be afforded the opportunity to focus on specific techniques for protracted periods of time. Of all the training methods available, repetition is by far the best.

Punch Bag Workout Tip #4: Practice makes perfect pugilism

An image of Mike Tyson and legendary trainer Cus D'Amato.

There’s no getting away from the fact, to progress your boxing performance requires countless hours of dedicated practice. Even acquiring competency in the basics of boxing demands at least a year or two of consistent training.

When you’ve applied the three tips above to your punch bag workout, all that’s left is to work diligently on perfecting your pugilism. This means practicing techniques over and over again until you can deliver them with precision accuracy.

But there’s so much more to boxing than throwing punches. This is a common misconception among boxing enthusiasts and beginner practitioners. When I teach beginner boxers, they are always surprised by how much must be learned before they get to throw a punch. Most arrive at the club thinking that they’re going to glove up and start boxing. However, for much of the first week or two, beginners are taught how to organise their stance, hold their hands, and move correctly.

The fundamentals of boxing can be improved throughout your punch bag workouts if you apply the methods outlined in this article. Another way of improving boxing skills is drill work.

Practice heavy bag drills

Heavy bag drills consist of throwing specific punch combinations while integrating movement patterns. For example, you might decide for one round to focus on the jab-cross-left hook. That is an acceptable heavy bag drill. But you don’t have to stop there.

Other integral boxing skills include footwork, movement, and evasive tactics. So, after delivering your punch combination, you could step off to the side – also known as ‘changing levels’.

Related: Check out the best Uppercut Boxing Bags

Also, you could include head movement into your drills along with faints, slips, bobs, and weaves.

The difference between heavy bag drills and focusing on a specific punch combination is the work rate. It’s perfectly acceptable to take short breaks after each drill. For example, concluding the jab-cross-left hook combo followed by a distinct sidestep, you could take a brief rest, appraise your technique, reset, then restart. This is a highly effective method for developing your skills.

Basic punch bag workout

‘Inactivity is the biggest sin in boxing.’

– Sugar Ray Leonard

Now that we’ve covered four tips on how to get the most out of your punch bag workout, it makes sense to apply them to a workout plan. Below you’ll find a 60-minute(ish) boxing workout that has been organise around the punch bag. Feel free to copy the plan and try it out during your next boxing session.

Boxing equipment

All you need to complete this workout is a skipping rope, punch bag, and a pair of boxing gloves. If you're not a competent skipper, this tutorial will teach you how to skip in seven steps.

  • 10-minute skipping (warm-up)

  • 3 x 2-minute round shadowboxing (30-second rest between rounds)

  • 10 x 2-minute round punch bag workout (30-second rest between rounds)

  • Round 1: Focus on single punches – jab, cross.

  • Round 2: Same as above

  • Round 3: Double jab-cross

  • Round 4: Same as above

  • Round 5: Jab-cross-left hook body

  • Round 6: Same as above

  • Round 7: Jab head, jab body, right hook head

  • Round 8: Same as above

  • Round 9: Jab-cross quick sidestep to the left finish with a cross

  • Round 10: Fitness – throw as many punches as possible in 2-minutes

  • 3 x 2-minutes shadowboxing (30-second rest between rounds)

  • 10-minute skipping (cool-down)

Related: Improve your Boxing Fitness with this workout

For more boxing blogs see our dedicated Boxing Page

In this text box it says: As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance! Blog Author: Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

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