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I've heard that hitting a heavy bag is taxing enough that it is easy to overtrain using it, especially for beginners.

How much rest should the average person (i.e. NOT a boxer who grew up hitting things) take in between intense heavy bag sessions to let the muscles, joints, tendons etc. recover?

On a similar note, what caution signs should someone look for to avoid injury/overtraining on the heavy bag? I know wrist pain is something to look for. Anything else?

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4 Answers

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Just like any other exercise - it's dependent on the person and everyone needs to find their own level through gradual structured increases in intensity. Personally, I have 1 or 2 heavy bag sessions a week consisting of 12 x 2 minute rounds with 30 seconds rest. Boxing rounds are 3 minutes and MMA 5 minutes. Depending on your focus, you can adjust as needed.

As with all exercise, the order of progression should be: technique, speed, power and then duration. The obvious impact areas of the body are the one's to watch and protect: hands, wrists and feet (if kicking is involved). Use wrist wraps and GOOD gloves.

Here's one and another article on using heavy bags and a great training video.

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Cool! Any recommendations for a decent set of gloves? I don't need top of the line, just good enough for hitting the bag. –  parkker007 Sep 2 '11 at 17:01
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@parkker007 - I would recommend: store.titleboxing.com/psbg.html - some wrist support and padded. I would stay away from MMA type gloves where the fingers pop out and are separated - they tend to dig into the finger grooves (the stitching could cut your skin). Here's a link to some more: store.titleboxing.com/gloves-bag-gloves.html –  Meade Rubenstein Sep 2 '11 at 17:47
    
Awesome, thanks. I like the order of progression you talked about, it's interesting that I've never really thought about separating a new exercise into steps like that. It makes a lot of sense, though. –  parkker007 Sep 2 '11 at 21:02
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Pro heavyweight John Guthrie used to do 12 3 min rounds with 1 min rest three times a week. Usually on same days he does resistance training and weights.

I wouldn't train on it more than three times a week at first. Very important to use good quality bag gloves. 14oz with thumb protection. Avoid thumbless gloves on heavy bag work. Also it's important to wrap your hands before you put on gloves. To avoid wrist injury make sure you punch the bag at the proper distance. Standing to close will jam and jar your wrist and throwing punches too far away will hyper-extend your shoulder. Bag should shake more than swing. If it's swinging a lot your too close. If you have any pain in wrist stop immediately. Shoulders will be sore at first. The main problem is developing heavy arms due to lactic-acid. The more you train on it the better your body will process the acid.

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Like the others said, its like any other exercise. You start off slow and work your way up as you get better stamina and skill. Hitting a bag can be pretty taxing starting off, but you should aim for timed intervals. Maybe starting off at 1-2min rounds, then 1min break for 3-4 rounds would be good. Then as you get comfortable increase the time in the rounds. If you want you can also start to lower your rest time but never go below 30sec rest.

Just be careful when punching and that you have your fist tight, thumb on the outside and your wrist flat. Your wrist flat means the back of your hand should be in a straight line with your forearm. If its not you risk injuring your wrist. Gloves are a good idea. Unless you are training for some bare knuckle boxing, there is no reason to tear up your knuckles. And remember keep your hands up and that its all in the hips.

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Disclaimer: I'm not an expert in bag work or boxing.

The amount of rest you can take between sessions is entirely dependent on the intensity of your bag work, your recovery, and your conditioning. There's no overarching answer other than to start the first few sessions light and short before gradually building up to hard 20-minute workouts. The first few times you should stop before you feel wiped out and before you tweak something.

Since bag work can be tough on a new person's joints in addition to the cardio aspect, be careful and don't try to hit the bag as hard as you can your first few times. Work technique and later, over several workouts, add power.

Personally I'm on the lookout for joint pain across the entire upper body chain--wrist, elbow, shoulder.

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