Why Punching Bags Are A Striker’s Best Friend According To Trevor Wittman
If you want to get your striking game better, you have to know how to shake a punching bag. Not only will bag work help the everyday striker develop their skills and build stamina, but it also can help a fighter’s footwork if they’re using it properly. Master MMA trainer Trevor Wittman explains how to get the most out of your punching bag routine.
“Bags are partners when you don’t have partners. Even if you have partners in a class, I think you should be hitting bags,” Wittman said. “This is where you create repetition. This is where you burn your shoulders.”
What Makes A Good Punching Bag Routine
Working with a bag is where a fighter gets their arms strong to consistently throw punches with accuracy while tired, said Wittman. However, the key to a successful punching bag routine is not adjusting to it one spot, but continuously moving around the bag while punching, according to the trainer.
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“When you’re throwing power shots, don’t just adjust to a heavy bag,” Wittman said. “Because a heavy bag is going to make you throw a power shot, but then when you got to throw it on someone and they are not there...you’re going to be throwing everything into your shot and then get off balance.”
While heavy bags help with building up your power shots and shoulder stamina, you should ultimately be working on building up your punching pace, said Wittman. He compares finding your punching pace to finding your running pace when conditioning. You typically wouldn’t sprint for long distances during your morning roadwork but may throw in a few sprints for interval training after you find your pace. Developing a good bag routine uses the same philosophy—find what your punching pace is to last through the routine and then mix it up, according to Wittman.
The trainer does stress the importance of properly wrapping your hands and checking the punching bag for hard spots before firing that right hook.
“Understand what [the heavy bag] is used for. It’s used for power. It’s used for strengthening my shoulders, but it’s getting you into your rhythm,” Wittman said. “During a long-distance run, you’re going to know what pace you can hit. This [hitting a bag] is something that I know when I’m throwing power shots, how long can I be consistent? Bags will teach you your pace. It’s very important to be on heavy bags.”
Getting The Most Out Of Different Types Of Heavy Bags
When most people think of a traditional heavy bag, they are typically thinking of the banana bag. Named after its long, tube-like shape, the banana bag can help fighters learn to develop their headshots, as well as their body shots. Wittman said he likes to angle the bottom of the banana bag behind the top to mimic the way a fighter typically stands.
“I used to hold these bags at an angle for my athletes because you get this awkward angle and that’s usually how people’s bodies are in the inside when you’re fighting,’ Wittman said. “This is very good for working on your shovel-shots to the body and producing that leverage.”
Getting The Angle
If the bag you train with has a base to hold it in place, just move the base straight back, so the top of the heavy bag is angled forward. If you don’t have a base, check the bottom of your bag for a D-ring that you could attach a string and a weight, which could be used as a base.
Wittman said working with a bag at this angle helps the striker develop that fight-ending liver shot that would make boxer Micky Ward proud. Wittman describes the shovel-shot as a cross between an uppercut and a hook. It’s not quite either punch, but utilizes elements of both to create a devastating blow to the liver if performed correctly, said the trainer.
“The most effective shot in boxing I believe is the liver shot. Boxing, MMA, Kickboxing...livers hurt,” Wittman said. “If you’ve ever been touched in the liver, it’s a different thing.”
Named after its shape, the teardrop bag can be used for many things due to being smaller than a banana bag. A smaller bag can help a fighter’s footwork and help them learn how to defend potential attacks while anticipating the opponent’s movement, said Wittman.
“Usually, when I train my guys I’ll have them just start walking with the bag. Just letting their feet [move]. No boxing position. Just trying to walk with the bag” Wittman said. “Then we start getting into our stance and I’ll move the bag and see how close I can stay with it where I’m inside, I’m out and I’m still firing good shots while moving.
The wrecking ball is also another great tool to help develop footwork and defense. In addition, a striker can also develop their uppercut with this bag and be able to throw punches at all sorts of angles due to its shape.
No matter which bag you train on, Wittman said the important thing was to get hours working with it. It’s will help you find your footwork and your own style no matter if you’re training for the squared circle or the octagon.
Who is Trevor Wittman
If you’re unfamiliar with Trevor Wittman, you probably know some of the UFC fighters he’s trained—Kamaru Usman, Rose Namajunas and even featured Dynamic Striking Instructor, Justin Gaethje. Whitman trained and competed for years before moving on to train others in 1998. The trainer founded and currently owns combat sports equipment company, ONX Sports in Colorado.
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