How to Punch a Punching Bag Correctly (and Not Get Hurt)

For safe and effective boxing workouts, you need to learn how to hit a punching bag with good form.
Image Credit: Prostock-Studio/iStock/GettyImages

Throwing some punches into a punching bag can be a major stress buster, but if you're not careful, it can land you out of the ring and leave you with a bruised hand, friction burns or worse, a fractured wrist.

Advertisement

Fortunately, learning the six different boxing punches and refining your punching technique can help you get the most out of your workout while keeping your hands safe. The key to hitting a punching bag correctly is to use your entire body, not just your arms and hands.

Advertisement

"[Boxing] is truly a full-body workout, because you're using your entire body to drive power," says Kendall Wood, CPT, a boxing, HIIT and strength training instructor for Tonal. "We generate power from our base upward, so your legs play a huge role in that."

Advertisement

It takes lots of practice and coordination to get the hang of punching a bag, so give yourself some grace. Here, Wood breaks down how to do the six boxing punches correctly.

How Do You Properly Hit a Punching Bag?

As mentioned, boxing is an intense, full-body workout (both cardio and strength), so when you're punching a bag, you're engaging your legs, core, shoulders and arms. Your boxing stance is what's going to help create a solid base of support for your body as you throw punches into a bag.

Advertisement

If you're right-handed, take an orthodox stance, Wood says. This means your left foot and hand will be your lead (in front), while your right foot and hand are behind. Maintain a staggered stance and avoid having your lead foot directly in front of your back foot. Maintaining a slight bend in your knees will also help you move more quickly and be agile, Wood says.

If you're left-handed, your stance would be the exact opposite, with your right foot and hand as your lead. This stance is known as south paw.

Advertisement

Tip

If you're new to boxing, Wood recommends shadowboxing, which means you're punching air versus a bag. This way, you're nailing the technique of the different punches and allowing your body to find its flow.

"Put on some music," she says. "Try to follow the rhythm and find some [punch] combinations that work for you. Anything from two punches up is considered a combination, so you can throw a jab, cross and then a jab, cross, hook, and just continually add on."

1. Jab

The jab is a straight punch that is thrown from your front, or lead, hand.

"You're working through extension at the elbow, driving the punch straight off of your chin, rotating the fist in a forward motion to make contact with your opponent's mid-face or even their body," Wood says.

Advertisement

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Boxing
  1. Start standing in an orthodox or south paw stance, depending on which hand is dominant.
  2. Make fists with your hands and bring them up by your cheeks.
  3. Maintaining your boxing stance, punch your lead hand (this is the same side as your front leg) straight out in front of you.
  4. Quickly pull your arm back in by your cheeks.

2. Cross

Just like the jab, the cross is a straight punch that's thrown from your back hand.

Advertisement

"On the bag, you would just imagine that you were facing off with an opponent and make contact at your eye level or drop levels as if you were making contact with your opponent's torso," she says.

Advertisement

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Boxing
  1. Start standing in an orthodox or south paw stance, depending on which hand is dominant.
  2. Make fists with your hands and bring them up by your cheeks.
  3. Pivoting your back leg, punch your rear hand (this is the same side as your back leg).
  4. Quickly pull your arm back in by your cheeks.

3. Front Hook

Hooks are done with a 90-degree bend in your elbow, so there's flexion in the elbow and rotation in your wrist, Wood says. "It's almost as if you're hooking your opponent in the side of their face or body," she says.

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Boxing
  1. Start standing in an orthodox or south paw stance, depending on which hand is dominant.
  2. Make fists with your hands and bring them up by your cheeks.
  3. Maintaining your stance with your back leg and keeping your back fist by your cheeks, bend your front arm to 90 degrees.
  4. Rotate your trunk and swing your arm to punch as if you're hooking your opponent on the side of their face, pivoting your front foot, knee and hip to face the same direction.
  5. Then, quickly pull your arm back in by your cheeks.

4. Back Hook

Similar to the front hook, the back hook is thrown with a 90-degree bend in your elbow, and you would imagine striking the side of your opponent's face or body.

Advertisement

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Boxing
  1. Start standing in an orthodox or south paw stance, depending on which hand is dominant.
  2. Make fists with your hands and bring them up by your cheeks.
  3. Maintaining your stance with your front leg and keeping your front fist by your cheeks, bend your rear arm to 90 degrees.
  4. Rotate your trunk and swing your arm around to punch as if you're hooking your opponent on the side of their face, pivoting your back foot, knee and hip to face the same direction.
  5. Then, quickly pull your arm back in by your cheeks.

5. Front Uppercut

Uppercuts are punches thrown with an upward motion, hitting underneath your opponent's chin or body, Wood says. The front uppercut is done with your lead hand.

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Boxing
  1. Start standing in an orthodox or south paw stance, depending on which hand is dominant.
  2. Make fists with your hands and bring them up by your cheeks.
  3. Maintaining your stance with your back leg and keeping your back fist by your cheeks, rotate your front hip and shoulder forward and pivot on the ball of your front foot to punch upward as if you're hitting your opponent's chin.
  4. Then, quickly pull your arm back in by your cheeks.

6. Back Uppercut

The back uppercut is done with your rear hand, and you want to imagine punching underneath your opponent's chin with an upward motion.

Advertisement

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Boxing
  1. Start standing in an orthodox or south paw stance, depending on which hand is dominant.
  2. Make fists with your hands and bring them up by your cheeks.
  3. Maintaining your stance with your front leg and keeping your front fist by your cheeks, rotate your back hip and shoulder forward and pivot on the ball of your back foot to punch upward as if you're hitting your opponent's chin.
  4. Then, quickly pull your arm back in by your cheeks.

How Many Types of Punching Bags Are There?

The most popular types of punching bags are speed bags, hanging bags and free-standing heavy bags. Some trainers prefer bags filled with water, because they offer more give than bags that feature foam and sand. However, free-standing bags don't require you to mount them to your ceiling, while hanging ones do.

Speed bags are ideal for — you guessed it — building speed instead of strengthening against resistance, so they're filled with air instead of water or sand and are substitutes for heavy punching bags. The idea is that you can move more quickly with a speed bag.

So if you're looking to purchase a punching bag, consider what type of punching bag works best in your home and fulfills your needs and goals.

Can You Punch a Punching Bag Bare-Handed?

It's important to always use boxing wraps around your hands, in addition to wearing gloves, when making contact with a punching bag.

"Wraps are there to fully secure your joints, knuckles and wrists. And with that, it's super important to make sure that you lock in the appropriate technique before you decide to go all out on a punching bag because it's very easy to meet the resistance of a 200-pound punching bag and turn a wrist, injuring yourself," Wood says.

If you're new to boxing, you can expect some bruising and discomfort in your hands. But as your hands adjust to boxing over time, you shouldn't see any bruising or experience discomfort.

There is no substitute for live instruction from a qualified trainer. Even an hour of boxing lessons will help you make more progress toward proper punch technique than many weeks of punching on your own.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Report an Issue

screenshot of the current page

Screenshot loading...