What is the Best Filling for a Punching Bag?

With over 18 years of martial arts experience, I’ve seen people use all kinds of stuff to fill their punching bags. But what is the best filling for a punching bag?

Table of Contents

Good Materials to Fill a Punching Bag With
Cloth or Old Clothes – The Most Practical Option
Shredded Cloth – Better than Old Clothes, Harder to Get
Shredded Leather- Even Better than Cloth, Even Harder to Get
Water – The Best Hit Absorption
Sawdust Filling – Just Make Sure You Use Boxing Gloves
Bad Materials to Fill a Punching Bag With
Sand – a Great Way to Get Arthritis
Marbles – Even Worse than Sand
Improperly Secured Heavy Objects

Good Materials to Fill a Punching Bag With

Repeatedly hitting a hard surface is very bad for your joints, so you want to fill your punching bag with something soft

At the same time, the filling needs to be heavy. That way the heavy bag will have enough resistance so you can really work on your striking strength and endurance.

Old Clothes – The Most Practical Option

Old clothes are the best, cheapest and easiest-to-find material to fill your punching bag with. 

They make your punching bag soft and you can even use it without boxing gloves. They’re surprisingly heavy and they’re absolutely free! Just raid your closet or ask your friends if they’ve got any old clothes lying around. Or simply go to the local thrift store and you’re golden!

Just make sure to remove any buttons and zippers from the clothes. That way you won’t get tears on the inside of your punching bag.

Then, all you need to do is cut up the clothes into pieces, roughly the size of your hand.

At first, you’ll feel that your punching bag is a bit uneven. But no worries! After some punching, the clothes will get compressed and settle down, giving the bag a much more consistent density.

Shredded Cloth – Better than Old Clothes, Harder to Get

Shredded cloth is similar to old clothes. It’s soft and surprisingly heavy. But unlike old clothes, shredded cloth gives you a much more consistent density compared to old clothes. This is because 

The only downside is that it’s not that easy to get your hands on it. The best place to look is clothes factories or manufacturers that make cloth. They usually have leftover material that is otherwise useless to them.

Alternatively, you can also shred any old clothes you have. But it’s a difficult process and you’ll need a lot of clothes to fill a punching bag.

Shredded Leather- Even Better than Cloth, Even Harder to Get

TUZECH Leather Scrap - Large Pieces of Full Grain Leather Cowhide Remnants Bag - Design & Make Crafts - Mixed Colors (10 Lbs)

Shredded leather is by far the best material for filling a heavy bag. 

First off, It’s heavier than cloth. So if you manage to fill a punching bag with it, the extra weight is going to do wonders for your strength and endurance.

Second, shredded leather is very soft. Like cloth, you’ll be able to use your heavy bag without gloves. 

The reason it’s not high on this list is because it’s much harder to find compared to cloth. And even if you do manage to find some, it’s going to cost you, stronger than cloth and it’s soft. But it’s more expensive than shredded cloth and it’s harder to find.

Water – The Best Hit Absorption

Thanks to the fact that water is a liquid, water-filled punching bags have a very high level of kinetic shock absorption. This means that when you punch, most of the kinetic energy goes into the bag rather than into your body.

Speaking from personal experience, it takes quite a long time for my hands to feel sore after punching a water punching bag. Much longer than when I’m working out with a heavy bag filled with a more stiff material. 

The only problem is that you need a punching bag designed to be filled with water. Also, if the outer layer of the bag gets a puncture, it’s very hard to stop the water from leaking.

Sawdust Filling – Just Make Sure You Use Boxing Gloves

Just like shredded cloth, sawdust is also pretty cheap. It’s relatively soft, but definitely not as soft as cloth or leather. So you’ll definitely need some heavy bag gloves when working on a sawdust-filled punching bag!

Sawdust is also surprisingly heavy. It’s a great option if your punching bag is on the small side and you want to make it a bit heavier.

The only problem is that you need to make sure all the holes at the top of the bag are filled so you don’t get sawdust all over your training area.

This is one of my smaller punching bags that I’ve filled with sawdust. I’ve had this bag since I was a kid, and it’s held up surprisingly well! But as you can see in the red circle, I’ve had to tape the holes where the ropes are so I don’t have pieces of sawdust flying out of it.

Bad Materials to Fill a Punching Bag With

There are lots of bad materials for filling a punching bag. Here, I’ve listed a few of the more common ones. All these have one thing in common – they’re really, really hard and they’re very bad for your joints.

Sand – a Great Way to Get Arthritis

I’ve seen a lot of people say that you should fill your punching bag with sand. These people are idiots. If you fill your heavy bag with sand, initially it’s going to feel OK. But pretty soon, that sand is going to get compressed and become as hard as a rock. At that point, you may as well be punching a wall! 

Needless to say, it’s going to be very bad for your joints.

Glass Marbles – Even Worse than Sand

glass marble punching bag filling

Admittedly, I’ve only seen this done a couple of times. Some people seem to think that having a really hard punching bag is going to improve your strength. Those people don’t get to train for long, on account of all the injuries they accumulate. It’s absolutely not worth it.

Improperly Secured Heavy Objects

Sometimes, when people fill their heavy bag with a softer material, they find it to be too light. 

So, they put something heavy to weigh the bag down. Some people like to put bricks, an old dumbbell, or some other heavy item they’ve got lying around. This is a fine way of increasing the weight of your punching bag.

But if you do that, it’s essential to wrap that heavy item very well in something soft, such as several pieces of cloth, for example, and secure it with duct tape.

That way, even if the heavy object moves around as you punch and kick it, it won’t come around to the surface of the heavy bag. And believe me, you don’t want to kick a brick when you least expect it – that’s a surefire way to break something!

This is why I also recommend putting that heavy object at the very bottom of your punching bag. Just make sure you’re very careful when you’re practising your low kicks!

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