We always talk about how the best way to train is with someone who can deal as much as they can take. A training partner will keep you on your toes and show you which techniques are working and which aren’t. Still, that doesn’t mean we should discredit the wonders of a good Muay Thai heavy bag workout.
Sometimes, your usual partner can’t be around the gym to train with you outside classes. Or maybe you can’t be around to train with them. Either way, it’s up to you to make the most out of the time you train when you’re alone.
Even though having a partner is best, having a heavy bag also has its merits. In this article, we’ll walk you through picking a bag and coming up with your Muay Thai heavy bag workout. We’ll also be giving you some sample routines to get you started.
Picking your heavy bag
Finding the perfect heavy bag for you can be confusing since they come in various sizes. A longer heavy bag is ideal for Muay Thai since it can accommodate techniques down to your leg kicks. Bags about five feet (roughly 150 cm) or six feet (180 cm) offer plenty of height. These are great for working everything from punches, elbows, knees, and kicks.
Don’t stress out if you already have a bag that’s shorter than five feet. You can actually use any size to get your workout in. Just make sure to adapt the level of your strikes according to your target.
Here’s a review from TFC’s Ben Johnston to help you pick the best one for your Muay Thai heavy bag workout.
Setting your intention
The thing about personalizing your Muay Thai heavy bag workout is that it can be incredibly versatile. You can use it to improve your cardio, fine-tune your technique, or simply get your sweat on. It’s a fantastic stress reliever, and if you want to burn extra calories, just amp up the intensity.
However you choose to work out, make sure to set your intentions before you begin. This will help you make the most out of your time. Focus on one or two specific outcomes to maximize your Muay Thai heavy bag workout.
To give a few examples, in your next workout session, you could aim to:
- improve cardio through combinations, or
- drill kicks to improve kicking speed and balance.
Get that cardio
The heavy bag is an excellent tool for any Muay Thai fighter to improve their cardio. Your Muay Thai heavy bag workout doesn’t have to be complicated. When you’re pressed for time, simple workouts to max out your heart rate are the way to go.
Sean Fagan, aka. Muay Thai guy has a great channel on Youtube where he posts about Muay Thai workouts and training tips. Check out this video of a structured 20-minute routine that will have your lungs burning!
High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involves short bursts of activity with short breaks. It’s a great exercise for conditioning because it’s very explosive, but we can make it even better by customizing it.
It’s not all action when you fight. About half the time, it’s about timing your movements or waiting for the opponent to make the first move. When you create your interval training plan, keep this in mind.
Make the intervals long enough to feel your muscles really burn. The periods of high-intensity activity should be explosive from start to finish. At the same time, don’t make it too long that you lose steam and slow down.
Rather than rest in between the high-intensity intervals, make it a low-intensity period. This will simulate the times when we’re not actively engaging inside the cage, but we’re observing the opponent and watching their every move.
If you’re trying to squeeze your Muay Thai heavy bag workout in on a busy day, you can finish a full interval routine in less than 15 minutes. Half an hour will give you more than enough time to warm up, work out, and cool down.
When your interval setting becomes too easy, you can amp up the difficulty. You may increase the number of rounds. You may also increase the duration for high-intensity and decrease it for low-intensity. Or, if you’re up for a real challenge, do all three.
Drills for skills
The heavy bag is also helpful in doing drills. Drills help you fine-tune your technique and sharpen your form. They help you integrate techniques in muscle memory until they become second nature.
We recommend you take the time you need to perfect your execution. Make sure you get all the minute details of the movement down. (You really don’t want to get used to doing things wrong.) Once your form is perfect, it’s only a matter of increasing speed and power to make it useful in a fight.
If you’re struggling with techniques, you may want to focus your Muay Thai heavy bag workout on drills. Maybe you want to practice striking in the clinch. Or maybe you want to practise transitioning from punches to kicks, or kicks to elbows, or punches to knees… you get the point.
Combinations should mix up kicks and punches in a way that will get you past your opponent’s defences. That said, the ideal combinations are those that:
- Are unpredictable,
- Get your opponent’s defences away from your true target, and
- Make use of momentum from the last strike to deal a stronger follow-up.
People usually associate strength training with weights. Fighters often use weights to get stronger so they can hit harder, and it does work. However, strength training isn’t all about weights. You actually can power up your strikes without them.
As they rightfully say, repetition leads to mastery. The best way to power up your strikes is to practise hitting hard. Set aside time for a good Muay Thai heavy bag workout dedicated to striking at least once each week.
Hit the bag as hard as you can, but remember to keep your form perfect. It won’t do for you to hurt your joints because of bad form.
A simple way to power up your punches is to change where to end your strike. Don’t just aim at the bag’s surface. Instead, think of hitting through it so you’re really pushing that momentum.
Don’t mind the time when you’re training strength. If that means it takes more than five second to set you up for your hardest strike, then so be it. Take your time to go full force, and you’ll reap the most benefit from it.
It’s up to you what to focus on during your Muay Thai heavy bag workout and the order you go through the strikes. We do recommend alternating punches and kicks so that some of your limbs can rest while the others work.
Bring it all together
If want a full Muay Thai heavy bag workout, then bringing it all together will get your heart pumping and lungs burning.
Make sure to warm up properly! We’ll be starting with the strength portion of our Muay Thai heavy bag workout. You’ll very likely pull a muscle if you don’t warm up, and then you’re out of the game before you even really get started.
We start the workout with strength so we can get it out of the way. If we do it later in the routine, fatigue may have started to set in, and we won’t be able to go full force.
2. Strength training (3 rounds)
We’re building power here, so strike the bag at full force.
Jab x 10
Body kick (R) x 10
Cross x 10
Body kick (L) x 10
Hook (R) x 10
Leg kick (L) x 10
Hook (L) x 10
Leg kick (R) x 10
Rest for one minute, then repeat the set two more times for a total of three rounds.
Rest for two minutes at the end of the third round.
3. Bag drills (3 minutes x 3 rounds)
Remember that this isn’t about speed or power, it’s about perfecting your execution.
0:00 – 3:00 Jab – Cross – Hook – Low kick (right for orthodox, left for southpaw)
3:00 – 4:00 Rest
4:00 – 7:00 Jab – Cross – Low kick (left for orthodox, right for southpaw)
7:00 – 8:00 Rest
8:00 – 11:00 Jab – Cross – Hook – Body kick (right) – Jab – Cross – Body kick (left)
Rest for two minutes at the end of the third round.
4. Interval rounds (3 minutes x 3 rounds)
1st round: Punches
0:00 – 0:30 Slow, soft punches
0:30 – 1:00 Hard, fast punches
1:00 – 1:30 Slow, soft punches
1:30 – 2:00 Hard, fast punches
2:00 – 2:30 Slow, soft punches
2:30 – 3:00 Hard, fast punches
3:00 – 4:00 Rest
2nd round: Kicks (R)
4:00 – 4:30 Slow, soft kicks
4:30 – 5:00 Hard, rapid kicks
5:00 – 5:30 Slow, soft kicks
5:30 – 6:00 Hard, rapid kicks
6:00 – 6:30 Slow, soft kicks
6:30 – 7:00 Hard, rapid kicks
7:00 – 8:00 Rest
3rd round: Kicks (L)
8:00 – 8:30 Slow, soft kicks
8:30 – 9:00 Hard, rapid kicks
9:00 – 9:30 Slow, soft kicks
9:30 – 10:00 Hard, rapid kicks
10:00 – 10:30 Slow, soft kicks
10:30 – 11:00 Hard, rapid kicks
11:00 – 13:00 Rest
5. Cool down and stretch.
Finally, the cooldown is an important part of your daily workout. Many people neglect their cooldowns, especially when they’re on a rush. But we have to iterate that it’s very important that you do your cooldowns. Our muscles tighten up as a result of all that exercise, and stretching will help loosen them up before you rest. Otherwise, your muscles may grow tight enough to severely restrict your range of motion.
And there you have it: a comprehensive Muay Thai heavy bag workout you can do even when you’re alone.
The heavy bag is great for solo training and focusing on specific aspects of your skills, but we’re not going to say that it can give you everything you need. If you’re aiming to compete, or you just want to apply your skills practically, you absolutely should also make time to train with others.