The Speed Bag
“In the boxing vernacular, the small, pear-shaped, leather bag that is attached by a swivel to a wooden platform is known by several names, including: the light bag, the striking bag, the express bag, and the speed bag.”
Most beginners will start with large speed bags. As you get more proficient you will eventually graduate to smaller bags. Experienced fighters can often be seen using a “peanut” bag, so-called because of its size relative to a regular speed bag. The speed bag is attached by swivel to a base board that is normally mounted by solid metal beams to a wall. Therefore, this contraption actually has three main parts: the base (rebound) board or “drum”, the swivel, and the bag itself. To maximize your learning, you should demand quality from each item. For example, if you buy a flimsy board with flimsy attachment beams, a lot of the energy from the bag will be dispersed from the vibrations caused by the bag hitting the base board. You do not want this. Alan Kahn, author of the renowned book, The Speed Bag Bible, says, “Excessive vibration kills the natural rebounding of the bag.”2 You want all the energy from your strikes to stay with the speed bag so that the bounce off the base board is harder.
The leather speed bag actually encapsulates an internal air-bladder with nozzle that is pumped for optimal rebound action. Sample air-bladders and nozzles are below:
If you opt out of choosing individual parts to construct your speed bag platform, you can buy a set, as shown below (note: I also opted for this choice for my home gym):
Before starting out, you should make sure that the bottom of the bag is about level with your chin. Your legs should remain stationary in a comfortable position when you are still learning. As you advance, you can add foot movement like bouncing or running in place while you hit the bag.
The proper rhythm of the standard hitting style has a three beat sound. The first beat is the sound of your fist connecting with the bag, the second beat is the sound of the bag hitting the back of the board, and the third beat is the sound of the bag hitting the front of the board. Although it will be quite evident that you did not hit the bag flush when it begins either bouncing all over the place or rotating around the swivel, you can also tell from the sound it makes. The rhythmic beat of the speed bag tells you that you are doing it right.
In true Zen form, Alan Kahn says, “You never want to try and keep up with the bag, but rather have the bag controlled by the speed of your fists.”2 The key takeaway there is that you do not have to hit the bag hard, since the most important thing is control. Quick, short movements of the fist produce enough force to keep the bag moving.
Some trainers tell you not to worry about using fancy moves on the speed bag. However, some boxers spend fairly significant amounts of time learning to perform snazzy tricks to show off during open workouts. According to Gary Todd in his book Workouts from Boxing’s Greatest Champs, Roy Jones Jr. used to hit the speed bag for 16 minutes straight during training sessions.3 No wonder Jones can do such ridiculous things to the speed bag.
1. Acunto, Stephen B. Champions’ Boxing Guide. New York: Shea & Haarmann Publishing Company, 1996.
2. Kahn, Alan. The Speed Bag Bible. Waco, TX: Rehabilitation & Sports Consulting, 1994.
3. Todd, Gary. Workouts from Boxing’s Greatest Champs. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press, 2005.