Speed Bag Training for MMA
As you step into a gym, a unique noise rings clearly throughout the room. You can hear the “tat-tat-tat” as fighters pummel the speed bag and hone their punching technique. Even if you’re a newcomer to the gym you will quickly realize that the speed bag is a staple in every fighter’s workout. It may not provide the overall benefits of the heavy bag, but the speed bag can improve certain skills when used effectively.
Speed bag training develops the following skills:
- Hand speed
- Hand-eye coordination
- Shoulder endurance
- Punch power
Focus on controlling the bag when trying to improve any of the above skills. Out-of-control speed bag routines result in sloppy technique. Read this guide and learn how to begin your speed bag training.
Before you start tapping away at the bag, wrap your hands with cotton, Mexican, or gel handwraps. Although speed bag training usually consists of low impact strikes, wrapping your hands compresses the bones and joints in your hands and wrists. As a result, you protect yourself from injury and ready yourself for later drills in your workout that call for powerful blows.
It’s essential that you position the speed bag at the correct height: The fat part of the speed bag should be directly aligned with your nose and mouth. Begin by lifting your elbows up so that they point outward and your forearms are nearly parallel to the ground – this position makes it easier to establish a rhythmic striking motion. In addition, your feet should be square so that both hands are equidistant from the bag.
Circuit training is a good way to get started with the speed bag. Try implementing the following routine into your workout:
- Jump rope for one minute
- Shadowbox for one minute
- Hit the speed bag for one minute
- Take a one minute breather, and repeat for 3-5 sets
Basic Rhythmic Training
Always hit the speed bag with a forward striking motion in basic rhythmic speed bag training. After you hit the bag, wait for it to rebound an odd number of times before you hit it again. The most common rhythm includes three distinct rebounds: The first away from you, the second close to your face, and the third away from you. Begin slowly, and alter the pace if necessary. Use five rebounds as your starting point if three is too difficult.
Before you start wailing away on the bag, keep these tips in mind:
- Start with one hand.
- Hit the bag with the side of your hand, which includes the knuckle of your pinky.
- Hit through the bag, not down into the bag.
- Move your forearm in a circular motion.
- Go slowly, emphasize control, and punch with equal force each time.
When you’re ready to move on, try the following drill:
- Strike the bag with one hand five times, allowing for the designated amount of rebounds to occur between each strike (three or five rebounds).
- Switch to the other hand and strike five times.
- Once you become comfortable throwing five punches in a row with each hand, you can drop it to four, then three, then two, until you are switching hands after each punch.
Hot Tip: Try the Bike
Some fighters like to modify their routine by placing a stationary bike underneath the speed bag. It takes full-body coordination to pedal while successfully hitting the bag.
Remember, this progression requires time and practice! Keep it simple and focus on one motion at a time. As you punch, shift your weight from one foot to the other. It takes coordination to move your hands and your feet simultaneously. Shuffle around the bag while bouncing back and forth between each foot.
Developing Your Skills
Once you can comfortably switch hands and move around the bag, you can begin developing some sport-specific skills.
Don’t sacrifice control when trying to develop your hand speed. Fighters that are able to hit the bag with constant speed are much more adept at controlling the bag. Speed comes with shortened movement, not increased power. If the circles you form with your movement usually cover an eight-inch circumference, then decrease the circumference to six inches and your speed will inevitably increase. Taking smaller swings is an easy way to improve your speed.
Interval workouts work well for measuring increases in punch speed. Give yourself 30 seconds or one minute to hit the bag as many times as possible. Count how many punches you land within the allotted time span, and keep working to beat your personal record. There are other drills that measure your progress as well: Determine a certain amount of punches you want to land, hit the bag, and record how long it took you to reach your goal. You need to stay in control and keep the bag moving. Smaller, well-inflated bags are ideal for speed sessions.
You need to stand in a normal boxing stance during accuracy and power drills. To find this stance, drop one of your feet back and twist your feet and torso slightly inward.
Hit the bag with the side of your hand when practicing rhythmic and speed drills. For accuracy and power drills, though, land punches with the knuckles of your fist.
Pin the Bag
Throw punches – such as jabs and uppercuts – that temporarily pin the bag to the board. Keep your eyes focused on the bag and use basic combinations. Focus on bringing your hands back to your face after each punch. Let the bag move as you quickly pin it with different shots. Your hand-eye coordination will improve as you improve with this drill. Smaller bags call for quicker and more accurate punches.
The speed bag is seldom used for increasing power because there are other tools – such as the heavy bag – that are better suited for power punches. Nevertheless, the speed bag can measure your punch power and hone your accuracy. Larger speed bags are better for punch-power workouts.
Begin the drill by getting in a comfortable boxing stance. Once you’re in a comfortable stance, follow these basic instructions:
- Choose a punch that you want to focus on (the lead hook is a good starting point.)
- Throw the punch with power and precision, and count the amount of rebounds the bag takes. A rebound is counted when the bag taps the board. Use the number of rebounds as a benchmark for the remainder of the drill. Your goal is to achieve your benchmark with each punch you throw.
- Complete three sets of ten punches.
- Measure your power by consistently generating a high number of rebounds.
- Keep your punches tight, while never forgetting to protect yourself.
Do your best to work on each of your power punches individually. You can incorporate some combinations into your routine once you’re comfortable with each individual punch. Here’s an example of a combination drill:
- Choose a combination, like a jab, cross, and hook combo.
- Set a requirement on the number of rebounds after each punch. For example, aim for five rebounds after a jab, six rebounds after a cross, and seven rebounds after a hook.
- One combination counts as a repetition. Do three sets of ten reps.
Wait for the bag to stop hitting the backboard before you throw another punch, but try not to hesitate when throwing your next blow. Punch as soon as the bag touches the board on its last rebound.
Endurance & Cardio
All of the above techniques and exercises can improve your endurance and cardiovascular training if you perform them successively with little rest. For example, train for a total of three to five rounds (lasting two to three minutes per round), and rest for 30 seconds between each round. You can focus on one drill each day, or incorporate all of the drills into your daily routine. If you choose to focus on one drill, though, commit yourself to the drill for several rounds (two to three minutes each).
Circle the bag while using various techniques and tempos. Your deltoid muscles will begin to tire and it will become difficult to keep your hands raised. Strengthening your deltoids improves your natural defense because it helps you keep your hands elevated during a bout.
Advancing Your Technique
Advanced speed bag techniques include reverse punches, side punches, and even elbow strikes. No matter what skill or technique you’re working on, focus on establishing a consistent rhythm. Be patient, and focus on making subtle improvements over time.
Incorporating the speed bag into your workout can improve your overall coordination and skill. The speed bag adds some variety to your routine, and helps you stay focused and motivated.