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Heavy Bag Training

Heavy Bag Training

Sometimes you can’t train muay thai with a partner so it’s up to you to do your own striking and conditioning. Here are 3 great ways to use the heavy bag to keep you on your toes and your heart rate pumping.


Interval Training:

Interval training is where you change intensity at set intervals during the workout. The most common type of interval training is high intensity followed by low intensity. This has recently gained popularity and has been given its own acronym, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). HIIT is quite beneficial for fighting as it replicates energy expenditure in a fight quite well: short bursts of energy with short breaks in between.

What we try to achieve with out intervals is making them long enough that we hit our lactate threshold, but not so long that we begin to pace ourselves (like jogging when we should be sprinting). A simple structure is 30 second intervals with 30 second breaks in between. By structuring our workouts well, we can improve multiple areas with the one workout. A great example is straight punches on the bag done as fast and/or hard as possible. This increases the endurance in our arms and shoulders by pushing our lactate threshold, and improving our anaerobic fitness (giving us the ability to sprint for longer and harder). This is very applicable for fighters since these are systems that are so important whilst competing in the ring.

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An example beginners interval workout may look like this:

3 x 3 minute rounds.

1st round: Punches
0 – 30 seconds – slow soft punches on the bag
30 – 60 seconds – hard fast punches on the bag
60 – 90 seconds – slow soft punches on the bag
90 – 120 seconds – hard fast punches on the bag
120 – 150 seconds – slow soft punches on the bag
150 – 180 seconds – hard fast punches on the bag

*30 second rest*

2nd round: Kicks – (right leg only)
0 – 30 seconds – slow soft kicks on the bag
30 – 60 seconds – hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag
60 – 90 seconds -slow soft kicks on the bag
90 – 120 seconds -hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag
120 – 150 seconds – slow soft kicks on the bag
150 – 180 seconds – hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag

*30 second rest*

3rd round: Kicks – (left leg only)
0 – 30 seconds – slow soft kicks on the bag
30 – 60 seconds – hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag
60 – 90 seconds -slow soft kicks on the bag
90 – 120 seconds -hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag
120 – 150 seconds – slow soft kicks on the bag
150 – 180 seconds – hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag

These interval rounds can be replaced with any exercise of your choosing. it could be alternating knees, hooks, low kicks, a set combination, or even freestyle bag intervals (throwing any combination of punches, kicks, knees or elbows) with maximum intensity. Once your fitness improves with regular interval training, you can start to increase the number of rounds that you are doing, or decreasing the time of the low intensity interval periods (30 seconds hard followed by 15 seconds slow).

Remember that all strikes should be done with maximum effort. We are keeping the periods short so that we can continue to push through the remainder of the round once we begin to fade, then we are giving ourself rest so that we can begin the next interval with maximum intensity again.

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Strength Training:

When people talk strength training, usually they are talking about lifting weights or moving some heavy object. Often times fighters will use weights to improve their overall strength hoping to make their punches and kicks harder. This method is effective and lifting weights should not be discouraged, but there is more than one way to improve how hard your strikes are.

One way to make our strikes hard, is simply to just practice hitting HARD. The great thing about a heavy bag is that you are able to hit it as hard as you want, where as sometimes when we have a partner holding pads for us, we are limited by the quality of the pads, or how big and strong our partner is.

Although we may think we already hit the bag hard, there are a few little mindset changes that can make our strikes a whole lot harder. One way is to change where we end our strike. If we think about stopping our strike at the surface of the bag, we are stopping our momentum as we hit the bag rather than continuing and transferring our energy into the bag. This thought process alone can increase the power of your strikes at the drop of a hat.

Another important tool when training and fighting is setting our intention. How often do we consider the purpose of what we are doing while training? Most of the time, we are just going
through the motions. Our partner or coach tells us to punch, and we punch. They tell us to kick, and we kick. We often forget that everything should have a purpose, whether it be to keep an opponent at bay, to throw a strike as fast as possible and get out of range again, or in this case, to throw a shot as hard as possible. Once you remind yourself of what you are trying to accomplish with a strike, the rest of your body will follow and help you accomplish it correctly. So before you strike the heavy bag to increase your punching power, just remind yourself that you ARE trying to hit HARD, and not just throw a normal punch at 70-80% power like so many of us throw while we train.

An example work out for increasing punching power may look like this:

– 10 x Jabs
– 10 x Right body kick
– 10 x Crosses (straight right hand for orthodox fighters)
– 10 x Left body kick
– 10 x Left hook
– 10 x Right leg kick
– 10 x right hook
– 10 x left leg kick

*1 minute rest, repeat exercises 2 more times (3 times total)*

These strikes should be done without worrying about time. This means that if it takes you more than 5 seconds between each strike to set your body and mind in order to throw the hardest strike possible, so be it. Rushing these strikes can often lead back into the old habit of going through the motions.

You can choose to add or change which strikes you throw on the bag, depending on what you wish to improve, but it is a good idea to throw a set of punches, followed by a set of kicks, then punches again, and back to kicks. The idea of this, is to allow our arms to take a short break while we kick, then give our legs a break while we are punching again, making our workout what body builders may recognise as a superset.

Heavy bag

Drilling:

The purpose of drills are to practice techniques repetitively and burn in movements, so that when the time comes to use them in a real situation, the thought process is not required. If we need to dig through our memories to remember a technique before we throw it, our reaction time will be so slow that almost every opportunity will be missed during a fight.  We drill in order to make our movements autonomous with the best technique possible.

For our example bag drills workout, we will aim to practice combinations, but more specifically, practice our transition from punches into kicks, and also the transition from kicks back to punches. The idea of a combination is to throw multiple strikes in a row to make it hard for your opponent so see shots coming. If you throw only one strike at a time, it is easy for your opponent to block it since a well trained fighter can see one punch coming. But if 3 or 4 strikes are thrown in a row, maybe the first won’t land flush, but the second or third are far less likely to be seen coming, especially if one of those strikes is a kick, meaning the strikes are coming from all angles.

Example bag drill workout:

3 x 3 minute rounds – 30 second rest between rounds

All movements are to be done with the best possible technique, and not with maximum power.

Round 1 combination:
Jab – Cross – Hook – Low kick (kick with right leg for orthodox fighters)

Round 2 combination:
Jab – Cross – Low kick (left leg for orthodox fighters)

Round 3 combination:
Jab – Cross – Hook – Body kick (right leg) – Jab – Cross – Body kick (left leg)

The idea of practicing throwing kicks in the middle of a combination and continuing to strike afterward, is that this breaks the normal pattern that most fighters follow. Most fighters will throw punches, followed by a kick, followed by a small rest to regain their balance and footing after the kick. If we practice getting back to being balanced then continuing our combination, we are more likely to land the flush shot, potentially knocking them down or even unconscious, as our opponent will be less likely to be ready for another strike.

 

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:
Be sure that you have warmed up and stretched all of you muscles before starting this example routine!!

It is especially important that we have warmed up today, as we will begin with our strength training on the bag. The reason we start with our hardest strikes, is because if we put them later in our routine, fatigue may begin to have set in already causing us to not punch or kick as hard as we potentially could have in the beginning of our workout.

We then follow this with our bag drills, this is our technique and quality aspect of our training, with some endurance involved, as there always is when throwing punches and kicks.

Lastly we will finish with our interval rounds, as after these we will be too tired to perform other techniques with integrity (assuming we give the interval rounds maximum effort).

The workout will look something like this:

1. Warm up

2. Strength training:
– 10 x Jabs
– 10 x Right body kick
– 10 x Crosses (straight right hand for orthodox fighters)
– 10 x Left body kick
– 10 x Left hook
– 10 x Right leg kick
– 10 x right hook
– 10 x left leg kick

*1 minute rest, repeat exercises 2 more times (3 times total)*

– rest 2 minutes –

3. Bag drills:
3 x 3 minute rounds – 30 second rest between rounds

All movements are to be done with the best possible technique, and not with maximum power.

Round 1 combination:
Jab – Cross – Hook – Low kick (kick with right leg for orthodox fighters)

Round 2 combination:
Jab – Cross – Low kick (left leg for orthodox fighters)

Round 3 combination:
Jab – Cross – Hook – Body kick (right leg) – Jab – Cross – Body kick (left leg)
– Rest 2 minutes –


4. Interval rounds:
3 x 3 minute rounds.

1st round: Punches
0 – 30 seconds – slow soft punches on the bag
30 – 60 seconds – hard fast punches on the bag
60 – 90 seconds – slow soft punches on the bag
90 – 120 seconds – hard fast punches on the bag
120 – 150 seconds – slow soft punches on the bag
150 – 180 seconds – hard fast punches on the bag

*30 second rest*

2nd round: Kicks – (right leg only)
0 – 30 seconds – slow soft kicks on the bag
30 – 60 seconds – hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag
60 – 90 seconds -slow soft kicks on the bag
90 – 120 seconds -hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag
120 – 150 seconds – slow soft kicks on the bag
150 – 180 seconds – hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag

*30 second rest*

3rd round: Kicks – (left leg only)
0 – 30 seconds – slow soft kicks on the bag
30 – 60 seconds – hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag
60 – 90 seconds -slow soft kicks on the bag
90 – 120 seconds -hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag
120 – 150 seconds – slow soft kicks on the bag
150 – 180 seconds – hard fast repetitive kicks on the bag

5. Cool down and stretch.

If you plan to one day fight in the ring, you will need to find a gym, or at the very least, a reliable training partner!

Even though this is not a team sport, you cannot expect to be well trained unless you have someone throwing punches and kicks at you, and also someone to correct your technique. These bag workouts are not designed to replace the need for a Muay Thai or kickboxing gym/coach, but they are to help you find way to train without having to ALWAYS rely on someone else being there for you.

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Sometimes you can’t train muay thai with a partner so it’s up to you to do your own striking and conditioning