One of the most annoying things about training on a heavy bag is that you eventually have to refill it. Invariably (especially with the less expensive models) the filler ends up bunched together and it makes the bottom part of the bag rock-hard while the top becomes empty. When that happens, your joints take a beating when you strike the bottom part as there isn’t enough “give” in it anymore. Striking the top part is just as bad as it has too much give there and doesn’t absorb the impacts enough. So you risk hyper-extending your knees and elbows when you punch and kick high. The only option you have left then is to empty out the heavy bag and refill it.
Talk about a boring and mind-numbing job…
This is something I encountered a lot when I was doing research for my heavy bag book. Almost everybody I interviewed said they always postponed refilling the bag because they hated it so much. It felt like a total waste of time to them. Which I completely understand. However, you have to do it because, as I mentioned before, you risk serious injuries if you don’t.
That’s why I started looking into ways to get the bag in good working order without having to empty it out completely first. I’ll explain a couple things you can do here below but first a caveat: they aren’t perfect. Eventually, you’ll still have to empty out the bag and refill it manually. But with these tricks, you won’t have to do it nearly so often. You’ll also get some extra training in too, so there are no downsides here.
Here’s how you go about it:
- Bag humping: Take the bag off the chains and hold it horizontally near the middle. Then you make a weird sort of humping movement with your hips that lifts and rotates the bag. Your hands make a pulling motion to get that rotation going. The key point is to gradually slide the bag to the side as you do this. That way, the filler will drop in bunches toward the top as it becomes heavier and heavier.
- Stomp/side kick: Drop the bag on the floor and stomp or side kick it all the way up and down. Rotate the bag a half or quarter turn and repeat the kicks. Do this as many times as necessary until you feel the bag (especially the bottom part) become softer. The trick is to kick at a slight angle towards the top of the bag. That’ll help spread the filler out more quickly.
- Bag squats: Lift the bag into a vertical position with the top part (where the chains hook in) resting on the floor. Sink into a low squat and grab the bag as low as you can. Then lift it up and toss it a little bit into the air. Catch in with both arms and as you do so, slap both hands into the bag, pulling them towards your stomach as hard as you can. Do this a couple more times, hitting higher with your hands every time until you reach the highest part. Repeat as necessary. Be careful not to blow out your back here; use your legs to lift and throw the bag.
- Wall sparring: Place the bag near a wall with the top part resting against it, still in an upside-down position. Then you punch and kick it, especially the top part, as if you’re sparring with a partner in class. You don’t have to go full power here. Just land a bunch of techniques to help drop the filler. Do this for a minute or two. Don’t hit the middle part too hard as that can tear the bag in half.
- Free-standing bag sparring: Grab the bag and place it in the middle of your training area. Hold on to it with one hand and then hit it with the other as you let it go. Immediately grab the bag again so it doesn’t fall, which is half the fun and a good challenge right there. You can do this with all sorts of techniques, hitting the bag at all possible angles. Or you can let go of the bag and punch and kick it quickly to keep it from falling over. This is fun too because a small mistake in how hard you hit the bag will drop it to the floor before you can catch it.
- Vertical stomp kicks: This is always the last step in refilling your heavy bag. Drop it on the floor again and repeat the stomp kicks I explained before. This time, land them straight down on the bag, at a vertical angle to distribute the filler evenly. Also, don’t hit as hard as before or you’ll bunch up the filler again; you only kick just hard enough to fill up any spots that are still hollow.
This is the order in which I like to do things but you don’t have to follow it. If you’d rather do the wall sparring first and only then the bag squats, that’s perfectly fine. It all depends on your personal preferences and how bunched up the filler is.