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.
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.
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.
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.
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.