4 Alternatives to a Punching Bag — Including a DIY Version

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A punching bag provides an effective workout for boxers and fitness enthusiasts alike.
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Hitting a punching bag not only helps you get out frustration but also conditions the muscles of your arms, shoulders, chest and core — your abs, obliques and lower back — and burns plenty of calories as well.

But at $150 or more, a punching bag isn't the cheapest piece of equipment on the market. Luckily, you can spruce up your personal boxing gym with a cheaper alternative or try a DIY version.

Tip

Whether you decide to do some online shopping or go homemade, always wear hand wraps and/or bag gloves when working out to minimize your risk injury. And treat your home like your usual gym, taking the time to warm up and cool down.

Try One of These 4 Alternatives to a Heavy Bag

Although professional punching bags are definitely a more functional option, they're not always available or affordable. Before you try making your own bag, consider some cheaper professional options, says Kevan Watson, co-owner and founder of Box 'N Burn.

1. Aqua Bags

Aqua bags are a great alternative to standard punching bags. Usually under $100 on Amazon, these bags come to you deflated, Watson says. All you do is fill the bag with water and secure it from your ceiling.

2. Shadow Boxing

Or stick with shadow boxing with an imaginary opponent. You may love the feel and feedback of a bag but shadow boxing is a great way to practice your form and agility without the impact of a punching bag, Watson says.

3. Dumbbells

Plus, you can work on your upper body endurance by adding a pair of light dumbbells or hand weights to your shadow boxing session, Watson recommends. No weights? No worries. Instead, use a household dumbbell alternative, like soup cans or water bottles.

4. Homemade Punching Bag

You can make your punching bag with a duffel bag, clothes, rope and duct tape. Although Watson hasn't tried his own DIY punching bag, he thinks this could be a realistic option, as long as you secure your bag properly from a load-bearing beam on your ceiling.

  1. Turn the duffel bag inside out and check all of the seams for weak spots. Reinforce any seams that need strengthening using sail maker's thread and needle.
  2. Turn the duffel bag right side out and begin to stuff it with clothes or rags. Alternate a 4-inch layer of clothes with a 1-inch layer of sawdust.
  3. Compress the filling by putting your foot inside the bag and stamping down the stuffing to pack it as densely as possible. Continue filling the bag until you are 12 inches from the top.
  4. Shake the filled bag from side to side and then compress the contents one more time by stamping down on the filling.
  5. Close the bag and tie the rope around the neck.
  6. Take the middle of your rope and loop it around the neck of the bag. Wrap the rope ends as tightly as you can around the bag, making two or three turns and securing with a knot. Make sure that you leave sufficient rope to hang your bag up.
  7. Stand the bag on its base and wrap the duct tape horizontally around the bag. Work your way up from base to just below the top in one continuous strip. Make sure that each loop of tape slightly overlaps the previous one so that no duffel bag material is visible.
  8. Repeat this process until you have two to three layers of duct tape on your punching bag.
  9. Use the loose ends of rope to secure your punch bag to a suitable overhead anchor.

Workout Tips for Punching Bags

Punching bag workouts quickly get your heart pounding and blast calories. But whether you opt for a water bag, hand weights or a DIY punching bag, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind.

As with any workout, always start your boxing session with a warm-up routine, Watson says. Also, wrap your hands and use a pair of boxing gloves to protect your fists and provide stability to your joints.

When your boxing workout is complete, take the time to cool down, stretch and foam roll as needed. Although jumping in the shower may be your first instinct, setting aside 15 minutes post-workout to recover will help keep you injury-free.

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