Punching Bag Alternatives

A punching bag is a vital piece of equipment for testing and enhancing your striking power.

As your fists hit the bag, it moves around according to how you strike it. The faster you strike the bag, the quicker you will have to guard yourself against it and hit back. The punching bag almost mimics an opponent in the boxing ring that is attempting to bob and weave from your strikes, making it an excellent piece of boxing equipment.

But what if you do not have a punching bag? It doesn’t mean that you can’t box. Here, I’ve gathered six punching bag alternatives that will give you the same workout effects as a traditional punching bag and will help you achieve perfect punching.

Table of Contents:

1. Used Car Tires
2. Resistance Bands
3. Freestanding Punching Bags
4. Floor Bags
5. Wrist Weights
6. Focus Mitts
What Is the Best Punching Bag Alternative?
Poor Alternatives to Punching Bags
1. Shadowboxing
2. Sparring
Final Thoughts

Punching Bag Alternatives

Even if you don’t have space for a traditional punching bag or the funds to invest in one, many alternatives are available to give you the same intensive training as a regular punching bag. Enhance your upper body strength while saving money at the same time with these cost-effective alternatives.

Working on punching power with a punching bag or punching bag alternative works your biceps, triceps, shoulders, back, core, and legs. The activity involves moving your entire body to strike a punch onto the bag. How you alter your legs back and forth strengthens your hamstrings while the overall body movement enhances your core.

1. Used Car Tires

If you have a tight budget and can’t afford a new punching bag, pick up a few used car tires, glue them together with E6000, and hang them from a strong chain for a DIY punching bag. Alternatively, you can just get an old tire and tie it to a tree (like I’ve done in the photo below).

Tire Punching Bag Alternative

Tires feature natural and synthetic rubbers, as well as soft materials that are also durable and reliable. They’re extremely durable and relatively soft at the same time.

The durable materials tires use will give back resistance and cause you to work harder to make the tires move with your punching training, making them an excellent alternative. Be sure to remove the metal frame inside the tire before creating your DIY used car tire punching bag alternative, so they mimic the same weight as a standard punching bag.

An added benefit is the bounce back your punches get after you hit a tire. Most punching bags can’t really offer that, especially if they’re filled with something hard (like sawdust or sand, for example).

This bounce back will help you build the habit of pulling back your hand after you punch. Which is essential both for punching faster and for making sure you have your guard up after striking.

The main issue you might have with tires is that their rough surface could damage your boxing gloves. To combat that, you can just use cheaper boxing gloves (that way you won’t be mad if you tear them). Alternatively, you can wrap your tire with tape so that you won’t be punching such a rough surface.

2. Resistance Bands

Resistance bands work the muscles in your arms and core just like a normal punching bag. You can stand in the middle of the band with your two feet, hold one handle in each hand, and test your striking power against the resistance.

A quality set of three to four resistance bands aren’t too expensive and you can use them for a long time.

Simply wrap a resistance band behind your shoulders, hold each end with the bottom of your hands, and that’s it! You can start shadowboxing and practising different combinations.

Like the used tire example above, using a resistance band will help with that all-too-important pullback that’s going to help you increase your punching speed and pull your hand back to your guard after punching.

Resistance bands are not only cost-effective, but they also store well in any closet or bin if you live in a small house or apartment.

3. Freestanding Punching Bags

Freestanding punching bags are about a third of the size of a traditional punching bag. The small stand and even tinier bag won’t take up much room in your home. While some have smaller bags, some are taller but not as wide as the usual punching bag.

The stand on a freestanding punching bag moves back and forth with each strike you hit on it. They make for great fast-paced punching and kicking workouts because of how fast they bounce back into position once you strike them. However, it’s best to have a stable floor while working with these types of bags.

For a thorough workout, have a 10 to 15-minute fast-paced workout using a free-standing punching bag. Strike with a one-two punch, then strike with your left leg. Repeat the process with the two punches, but alternate to your right leg. If any of your legs or arms get tired, lower the pace and alternate by kicking with your legs or changing arms.

4. Floor Bags

Floor bags are traditionally what military personnel utilize for hand-to-hand combat training while on the battlefield in the army. Fighters that work best on the ground and natural grapplers in the boxing world use sandbags for an intensive self-workout that tests their strength and agility when needing to pick up someone over 150 pounds in the boxing ring.

Essentially, boxers in training with this fighting style straddle the bag and do different submission combinations as practice. They do stability training by placing one knee on the floor bag and twirling their body around continuously. This exercise is a rebound mechanism to learn how to keep their footing in the ring if someone retaliates against the attempted submission.

While you can buy a floor bag from your favorite sporting goods store, you can DIY one easily and cheaply. Simply fill a large backpack or an old brown potato sack and fill it with sand. Tie it off tightly and hang it up in your garage or other outdoor location.

You do not want to hang this specific piece of equipment in your home, as it could take forever to clean up the sand if you accidentally punch the bag just a little too hard one day.

And just like a normal punching bag, you can fill the sack with old clothes, rice or corn cobs.

5. Wrist Weights

Boxing with wrist weights or even dumbbells can give the same workout effects as using a punching bag, despite not being standard boxing equipment. Wrist weights come in various sizes based on your desired resistance. They wrap around your wrists using Velcro. As you punch, the resistance from the weights tests your overall striking power.

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Wrist weights. In case you don’t have dumbbells.

While the weight of dumbbells does not sit on top of your hands as wrist weights do, the act of lifting the five to 15-pound dumbbells acts as a resistance mechanism to enhance the muscles primarily in your arms such as biceps and triceps. Striking your arms while holding dumbbells encourages a full-body workout.

For the best results, use three different wrist weights of varying sizes. For example, you have wrist weights that are five pounds, ten pounds, and fifteen pounds. Rotate using the different wrist weights to test your endurance. You may find it easier to strike with a five-pound or ten-pound wrist weight, but you still need more practice with the 15-pound one.

As you get enough resistance training with these three wrist weights, try 20- to 30-pound dumbbells. However, remember to pace yourself by changing the weights and resistance. Going too quickly with the transitions can make it more difficult to get the optimal training you need.

6. Focus Mitts

While focus mitts are not the best punching bag alternative, they deserve an honorable mention in this list. When it comes to developing punching power, utilizing the smaller striking surface of focus mitts is still a good way of enhancing your boxing skills.

Focus mitts are also great pieces of equipment for developing defensive skills. Because, unlike a punching bag, focus mitts cannot “hit back” by swinging back and lunging forward at you in response to a strike.

One person will hold up the focus mitts as you strike them while wearing boxing gloves. While the person holding the focus mitts does not strike back as if they were an opponent in the boxing ring, they pace around and move their hands steadily so that the boxer doing the drill knows how to maneuver their fists to land a blow on one of the mitts.

If the exercise partners agree, the person with the focus mitts can tap the person on the side of their hips or their shoulders quickly to see the fighter’s reaction time. Adding in these extra quips can make it more effective to learn more about rebounding while in the boxing ring.

What Is the Best Punching Bag Alternative?

If I had to pick, the best punching bag alternative is used tires – it’s basically free (lots of people just throw them away) and it’s the closest to a traditional punching bag. A close second is a good resistance band.

But ultimately, it’s really up to you. Every alternative has its different applications. However, they all have one thing in common: building your punching power and endurance while improving your form and technique.

Wrist weights, dumbbells, free-standing punch bags, and resistance bands are great if you live in a small house or apartment without a garage. You can do your workout in an open space of your home and easily store the equipment when you are finished.

The floor bag and used car tires are best if you have a garage with more open space. In the case of used car tires, you can tie one to a tree in the park or in any outdoor area close to where you live. If the floor bag is struck too hard, at least you will be outside to make cleaning up easier. Tires are large and bulky and may not work well if you live in a small home and don’t have an outdoor area nearby.

Poor Alternatives to Punching Bags

Now that we know some of the best punching bag alternatives, we should note which methods are not the best alternatives. Learning what not to do can give you a better perspective on which methods work to enhance your arms, core, legs, and other parts of your body during boxing training.

A punching bag alternative should test your resistance and strength while enhancing muscle power. Shadowboxing and sparring with an opponent are not considered punching bag alternatives, as they do not train these specific parts of the body. 

1. Shadowboxing

Shadowboxing is a strategic way to enhance your overall boxing training. Don’t use it as a punching bag alternative.

When shadowboxing, you are punching and kicking in the air as if you are fighting a real opponent. You are pretending to fight an imaginary opponent. As you look in front of you, you may imagine your opponent dodging your kicks and rebounding with a strike to where you fall back and follow up with another kick from the opposite side.

Since your arms and legs are hitting the air, there is no real resistance to this training exercise. While it is an awesome full-body workout, it will not effectively enhance your striking power like using resistance bands, a free-standing punching bag, or one of the other punching bag alternatives mentioned above.


2. Sparring

Sparring is another great form of exercise and it’s a vital skill for any boxer. Just like shadowboxing, it’s not ideal for developing your punching power.

As you get more advanced, you will naturally want to do full-contact sparring as a training method to improve your overall fighting style. However, one of the most important aspects of sparring is not to harm your training partner and not just use them as a punching bag.

When doing exercises with a sparring partner, be courteous and fair to one another. If you or the partner admit defeat to submission or need to take a break, honor those requests. You are not at your best if you are fatigued. Remember not to overdo it and be open-minded to new methods of combat training. 

Final Thoughts – Punching Bag Alternatives

If you can’t afford a standard punching bag or a membership to a fancy gym, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a boxer. Boxing is a great form of exercise, whether casual or intense, and investing in a punching bag or an alternative can help you achieve your fitness goals. 

Which punching bag alternatives have been useful for your boxing training? How can you utilize these alternatives to achieve an overall workout you are proudly doing? Tell us your methods in the comments below. A little bit of collaboration can go a long way in enhancing the strength of the boxing community, and we all love increasing in strength! 

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