Why you should buy a punchbag, even if you’re not the type

It’s just a piece of exercise equipment, not a lifestyle choice.

Buying a punch bag comes with a lot of uncomfortable implications. It’s not something for a dating
profile. It hints at a Samurai sword collection and unacceptable political affiliations. But really, when
decoupled from the slightly too rich culture that surrounds martial arts, they are just exercise tools.
I’ve been an ungifted but enthusiastic kickboxer for twenty years and can say that flailing your arms
and legs around in kicks and punches is just fantastic fitness and enormous fun. I’m not prepping for
a competitive fight (too rubbish) and I have no interest whatsoever in what is referred to as a “street
situation”. My favourite street situation is going into a bakery to buy an iced finger.

Just bought a 5 ft tall, free-standing bag that sits on a base filled with water. It was £200 (I think
there was an offer on). The classic heavy bag you see Anthony Joshua working out on is better but
requires a frame or chain fitted into the ceiling of an NYC loft I don’t own. Bags on chains always fall
apart – anything you hit repeatedly will fall apart, but a free-standing bag won’t hurt your ceiling.
I bought one with lots of springy wobble built in because it will force me to move more. This punch
bag can hit you back. Movement is the goal for me – because there is no title shot coming up and I’m
not in a training camp but a garden in North London, I don’t need to hit hard, I don’t need to hit well,
the bag is just a moving target.

Here are some hints about how to feel good around a bag:

Never stay still, don’t stand there and punch or kick, be in an imaginary sparring match, always
shifting around the bag. Move in and out – your legs are longer than your arms so if you’re kicking as
well as punching you have kicking range and punching range – move between the two. Then move
side to side as if were fighting a human who is also moving.

Equipment: Protect your hands and feet with gloves and the special padded shoes – no need to
overspend on these, the cheap ones in the discount sports shops are fine for buggering about. I
don’t wear those cool wraps on my fists, too fiddly, but I do wear the little protector gloves that go
inside the boxing gloves. But the best safety tip – don’t hit really hard. No one cares, there’s no one
making appreciative ‘ooh’ noises and you’ll only damage your wrists. You can enjoy a very good
workout while hardly touching the thing – as long as you keep moving.

Finally, download a rounds timer app. Mine’s called Workout Timer. I do three-minute rounds with
30 second rests. The three minutes will start to feel very long, very quickly but the rounds mean you
don’t do a glorious 30 seconds before fading.

Within minutes of the bag being set up my wife, son and daughter were all queuing for their turn.
This doesn’t happen with a 5k run. I used to hit a bag every lunchtime when I had an office job, I
would completely lose myself in the movements, almost in a trance and it was a perfect antidote to
a day of complicated, sometimes tense meetings. Punchbags are compelling and if there are wells of
pent-up rage and frustration (I’ll admit to a few wells) there is a unique, cleansing pleasure in
pounding a tube of padded plastic.

PS, this is possibly the only article every written on punchbags that makes no reference to Rocky
Balboa hitting sides of meat. Won’t say there weren’t moments of temptation…

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