How to FILL a HEAVY BAG: The RIGHT and the WRONG way

Ever since I released my book The Fighter’s Guide to Hard-core Heavy Bag Training and its accompanying instructional video Hardcore Heavy Bag Training, “how to fill a heavy bag” is perhaps the most common question I received. It’s a good question and it deserves a decent answer.

How to fill the heavy bag?

Take a look at this video first:


The wrong way: how not to fill a heavy bag.

Sand is a horrible choice to fill a heavy bag. It inevitably settles and becomes hard as a rock. That’s because it is made of rock, so it shouldn’t surprise you. Now you might think that’s not a big deal and a lot of (young and inexperienced) practitioners enjoy hitting hard surfaces. I used to. But with advanced arthritis in all my shoulders, ankles, and knees, I can assure you it’s not worth it. Especially as there are better alternatives to fill a heavy bag that give you just as much intensity, without the risk of permanent injury.

Same thing when you use heavy objects to fill the heavy bag and don’t secure them. Sure, bricks and other things will add the weight you want, but if you don’t secure them correctly, they move around inside the filler until they are just underneath the surface of the bag. You won’t see that of course, but you will definitely feel it when you punch or kick full force and injure yourself. So make sure to wrap those bricks up in cloth or foam, put them in a strong plastic bag and wrap them up with plenty of strong duct tape. Then place them in the center of the bag with plenty of filler around them.


The right way to fill a heavy bag.

There are several options, ranging from free to cheap to a bit more expensive. Let’s start with free.

Old clothes

Go through your closet and take all the old clothes you won’t wear anymore anyway. Ask everybody you know to do the same thing and give them to you. Failing that, go to a thrift shop or use old sheets and other types of cloth you can find. Make sure there are no zippers or buttons on them. Then just stuff them into the heavy bag until it’s full.  Hang up the bag and do a few rounds on it so the clothes settle. Take the bag down and add some more clothes because it will have free space on top now. Repeat until the bag is full from top to bottom.


how to fill a heavy bag

Use old clothes to fill your heavy bag

Shredded cloth

A better alternative is shredded cloth.  Many shops, manufacturers, and factories work with cloth. They usually have leftover material that is useless to them and throw it away or shred it and get rid of it. Look around for those and offer to take some of it off their hands. Then you might have exactly what you need for free.

how to fill a heavy bag with shredded cloth

Shredded cloth to fill a heavy bag is even better

Shredded leather

My personal preference for heavy bag filler is shredded leather. Same deal as with cloth, find places where they use leather to manufacture products and check what they do with leftovers. Get enough of it and stuff your heavy bag with it. It will be markedly heavier than when using cloth, so there is usually no need to weigh the bag down. Leather also doesn’t stick together, even after prolonged use, so less need to empty out and refill the heavy bag all the time:



There are other filler materials and you have to experiment and see what works for you, but the above are cheap and easy to get. The alternative is to buy a pre-filled bag, and nowadays, many manufacturers offer those kinds of heavy bags. There are also lots of other kinds that have foam built-in, use a water core, or are filled with only water. These are great, but they are usually more expensive. So if you are on a budget or already have a regular bag, see if the explanation above helps you out.

Good luck.

For more information on how to get the most out of your heavy bag training, check out my book and instructional video.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like my other How-To guides for martial arts and self-defense.

How to make instructional videos for martial arts and self-defense

In this post on how to make instructional videos for martial arts and self-defense, I’ll cover some of the basics and typical errors to avoid. My goal is that with this information, you can improve the quality of your recordings right away. You don’t have to be a professional with expensive equipment to make good quality instructional videos. Nor do you need Hollywood-level post-production, providing you take into account these recommendations. With some forethought, planning, and experimentation, you can quickly make progress.

FYI: I made my first instructional video over 15 years ago with Paladin Press. I worked with them regularly before they closed down and have produced numerous ones myself. For the past few years, I have made over 150 instructional videos for my Patrons. There are people who are better at it than me, obviously, but I do have plenty of experience and will share it with you. Use what works for you and discard the rest.

Let’s get started.


Planning an instructional video


First things first, what is the goal of the video? Detailed instruction of a specific technique? Highlighting the flow of a drill? Showing a kata or form from beginning to end for reference? To get a good finished product, you need to work towards it from the beginning: you can edit the footage to improve it but it is difficult to show what you didn’t record. Re-shooting is not always possible and pick-ups only go so far. So save yourself some time and think before you start:

What do you want to teach with this video?

Determine that first and then you can proceed.

Obviously, you can have multiple goals at once, that’s fine. But then adjust the rest of the planning accordingly. I would suggest keeping things simple if you are new to making instructional videos. As you get more experienced, you can take on more complex projects.


Script or Outline

Now that you know the goal of the video, it’s time to specify all the elements that need to be in it. Let’s say you make an instructional video about how to throw a straight punch. Here are some of the elements you might want to include:

  • Introduction.
  • Theory and context of the technique.
  • Slow demonstration of the technique for reference.
  • Highlighting the individual components of the technique: legs, left arm, right arm, torso, footwork, etc.
  • Demo with a partner at different speeds.
  • Demo on a heavy bag or focus mitt.
  • Common mistakes.
  • Final thoughts and outro.

Add and subtract to such a bullet list depending on your goal. Also, go into as much or as little detail as you need and create sub-bullets if that works for you. For some scenes, I have everything written out but for others, it’s just a word or a sentence. It all depends on the individual video or the series I’m making. For instance, this is the beginning of the outline I used for my Hardcore Heavy Bag Training instructional video: [Read more…]

How to use the Hyperice Viper 2.0 for Martial Arts and Self-Defense Practitioners

Last month, I published my “Stretching and Mobility Exercises for Martial Arts and Self-Defense” instructional video and promised to do an additional video for the resources page. It took a while due to technical problems, but here it is, my review of the Hyperice Viper 2.0 and how to use it as a martial artist or self-defense practitioner. The first part explains the basics and theory. The practical demonstration starts at 11min.25sec.

Here goes:

I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the Vyper is worth every cent for me, and not just when it comes to mobility. It’s not cheap, but it has done so much for my recovery that it’s hard to put into words. I still use it every day, usually twice a day.

There are knock-off products available at a much lower price point. I haven’t tried any of those, but in my experience, there is often a reason why they are cheaper: lower quality. If you are feeling adventurous, feel free to give those a try. I prefer to save up a bit longer and then invest in long-term quality.

Go here to get your Hyperice Viper 2.0

How to make a fist: the myths, the truths and everything in-between

A few years ago I wrote an article here called Open hand or closed fist striking, which is best? and it got a lot of feedback. A little while ago, I posted something on facebook about how to make a fist and it triggered some responses too. As a result, I just created a discussion on Patreon on how to make a fist. You can join us there for loads more details and information.

It’s with that discussion in mind that I made this video. I wanted to illustrate that there is lots of misinformation and dogmatic thinking when instructors give advice on how to make a fist. They claim only one specific way of making a fist is correct and the rest is not. As always, the truth is more nuanced and it depends on so much more than you see at first glance.

So watch this video with that in mind:

This video is just an example, a proof of concept if you will. Obviously, the “Shaka fist” is nonsense: I made it up just to make my point. I would never advise anybody to punch like that. But the proof is now in front of your eyes that you can use that kind of fist and hit pretty hard with it. If you are to believe what so many instructors claim as an absolute best way to make a fist, I should have sprained my wrists, broken knuckles or hurt myself in a variety of ways when I was punching my heavy bag like that. I was supposed to lack all kinds of structure and stability in my hand; it wasn’t supposed to work.

But it did…



There are tons of considerations when training how to make a fist and there is no easy, one-stop-shop answer. On my Patreon page, we are going to dig deep into those factors so you can make informed decisions on which way to go, so feel free to join us there.

To help you get started, here is a more detailed picture of the two main ways I made a fist in the video.

How to make a fist

How to make a fist

Good luck with your training!