The heavy punching bag is by far one of the most vital pieces of equipment in a fighters locker. Even if you're not a fighter, you can't deny the immense physical benefits that heavy bags have to offer.
With that being said, deciding between a free standing and a hanging heavy punching bag can be a difficult decision. Personal preference, space and quality are some key factors that play a role in deciding which type of heavy bag is right for you.
With that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to analyse the whole free standing vs heavy hanging bag debate, hopefully allowing you to decide which option is best for you.
Before we begin, lets' take a look at exactly what each type of heavy bag is, then we'll start to analyse the pros and cons of each.
What is a Hanging Heavy Bag?
The hanging heavy bag is seen as the more traditional type of heavy bag, and as the name suggests, the bag hangs from either a beam attached to the ceiling, or from a specialised heavy bag stand. Heavy bags tend to have a large surface area and unsurprisingly, weigh more than most other bags.
They come in a variety of different lengths and sizes, each tailored towards a specific style of fighting. For example, Muay Thai heavy bags tend to be longer and thinner, where as boxing heavy bags are shorter and fatter.
What is a Free Standing Punching Bag?
Unlike hanging bags, free standing punching bags are not attached to the ceiling or stand. Instead, they make use of a larger base attached to the bottom of the bag, which can be filled with either sand or water. This weighted base helps to prevent the bag from toppling over when it's struck.
Some of the best free standing bags feature a spring loaded design, which provides more stability and allows the bag to bounce back into place once it has been hit.
It's probably worth mentioning that both of these heavy bags are pretty solid and often feature an outer layer of tough material. With that in mind, it's a good idea to find yourself a decent pair of heavy bag gloves for you to use when working out.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Hanging Heavy Bags
Ok, now it's time to take a closer look at both the pros and cons of hanging heavy bags.
Benefits of Hanging Heavy Bags
Due to the way the heavy bag is attached to either a stand of the ceiling, the bag itself will swing back and forth when it is struck. Now, this is handy for a number of reasons.
Firstly, this means that unlike free standing punching bags, heavy bags are impossible to knock over. No matter how hard you punch or kick the bag, it's going to swing back and be ready to struck again.
Secondly, the bags' swinging motion far more accurately simulates the motion of a real life fighting experience, as opposed to the stationary design of a free standing bag. A swinging heavy bag will allow you to work on your timing and footwork against a moving target.
Can Withstand Powerful Strikes (Better for Kicking)
This kind of links in with my previous point, due to the fact that the bag swings, it allows you to throw far more powerful strikes such as high kicks, without it toppling over.
For example, if you're looking to work on your Muay Thai techniques such as head kicks, a hanging heavy bag will be far better suited than a free standing bag.
Tend to be Cheaper
A solid, good quality hanging bag tends to be cheaper than a solid, good quality free standing bag. It's worth mentioning here though, that if you're unable to hang your heavy bag to the ceiling or a suitable beam, you'll need to get a heavy bag stand.
This can add to your cost, however you can get a pretty solid stand for around $50. Even so, this will still be cheaper than a high quality free standing punching bag such as the Century Wavemaster XXL.
Drawbacks of Hanging Heavy Bags
Can be Hard to Set Up
One the major drawbacks of a heavy bag is that their difficult to set up. As I mentioned earlier, you need to find somewhere suitable to hang the bag itself. This may require you to attach a mount to your ceiling, or find a suitable beam in your house that is able to take the weight of the heavy bag.
Failing this, you'll need to get yourself a heavy bag stand, which in itself can be pretty tricky to set up. This may not sound massively bad, but when you compare it to the simplicity of a free standing bag set up, makes it look like a lot of effort.
Require More Space
As I've already mentioned numerous times, heavy bags swing back and forth. This means that you need a room with adequate space to accommodate for the heavy bags swinging and for you to comfortable work out.
This is alright if you've got a large house or garage, however for people like me who live in an apartment, this isn't the easiest thing in the world.
May Need a Training Partner to Counter the Swinging Motion
Jeez, again talking about the swinging motion of the hanging heavy bag. If you've ever attended a boxing class, you'll probably see training partners taking it in turn working the heavy bag, whilst the other person holds it in place.
Having to wait for the bag to swing back can slow down your work out, especially if you're looking to throw, say 10 explosive high kicks in quick succession. Whilst this isn't really a massive problem, I thought it was still worth mentioning.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Free Standing Heavy Bags
Now we're going to take a look at some of the main pros' and cons' of free standing bags.
Benefits of Free Standing Punching Bags
Easy to Set Up
Setting up a free standing heavy bag is incredibly easy. Some models come fully constructed, meaning all you have to do is fill the base with either water or sand (I would recommend water). Others may require you to mount to the speed bag to the base, however this usually takes a couple of minutes and is very easy to do.
Requires Less Space
Free standing punching bags tend to swing far less than their hanging counterparts, meaning that they take up much less room. Plus, to put the bag away, simple put it on its' side and roll it where ever it needs to go.
Tend to be Softer
From what I can tell from the different heavy bags I've used, free standing bags tend to be made with softer foam. This makes hitting the bag a little bit more comfortable on your hands and feet, however I 100% still recommend wearing gloves.
Different Types & Shapes
One of the best aspects of free standing punching bags is their diversity. You've got your standard free standing models such as the Ringside Elite free standing bag, and you've got some more unique designs as well.
For example, the Century Versys free standing bag comes in a number of different designs and is able to double as a grappling dummy. Similarly, Century also offer a free standing punching bag in the shape of a body, known as the Century BOB (body opponent bag) that allows you to practice throwing strikes at particular areas of your opponent.
Larger Models Can be Used For Low/ Leg Licks
There's also a number of different free standing bags with incredibly long designs, allowing you to practice throwing low/ leg kicks, something that isn't really possible on most heavy bags.
Drawbacks of Free Standing Punching Bags
They Can Topple Over Easily
Unfortunately the design of free standing bags means that they can topple over fairly easily, especially if you've got a powerful kick. Spring loaded bags are slightly more resistant, however can fall over if struck with enough force.
Limited Choices & Brands
Due to the fact that free standing bags haven't been around that long, there' not a tonne of different options. The market is very much dominated by Century, which isn't such a bad thing as their products are top notch, but it's good to be aware that you're going to have a limited choice.
A few other big brands are jumping on the bandwagon though, Everlast have their Omniflex freestanding bag, which isn't too bad, so expect to see more models coming out in the near future.
Spring Loaded Options Can be Loud
As I mentioned earlier, some free standing bags feature a spring loaded design. However, this can sometimes be pretty loud, especially once you've been using the bag for a while. You can reduce the squeaking with some oil, but you'll need to keep on re-applying it every now and again.
Check out the video below that discusses the difference between a free standing BOB dummy and a traditional heavy bag:
Free Standing VS Hanging Heavy Bag: Which Should You Choose?
Now for the interesting part, deciding which one you should buy. I'll be honest, here there really isn't a right or wrong answer, it completely depends on your circumstances.
If you want a bag that's easy to set up, easy to hide away in a closet and you've got a limited amount of room, then a free standing bag is going to be your best bet.
On the other hand, if space isn't an issue, going for a hanging heavy bag is the better option. Although it's harder to set up, the durability and the opportunity it provides to work on your timing can't be matched by a free standing model.
There we have it, hopefully now you've got a clear idea what kind of heavy bag you should choose. Make sure you do your research and read reviews before making a purchase, as there are some pretty terrible options floating around out there.
If you've got any questions or thoughts on the topic, feel free to ask away in the comment section below.