By Alan Kahn - Author of The Speed Bag Bible
Published in 2003
The speed bag can be used creatively to enhance all your punching skills, including:
Rhythm and timing
You'll need both to deliver faster and powerful repetitive punching combinations while moving your fists shorter distances than for "normal" punching. The key to this is understanding how the bag works and how to learn it faster.
First, is bag height. The belly (fattest part) of the bag should be close to your mouth or nose. Many people have it way too high, which leads to bad form or improper and ineffective punching technique.
Next, change the name from "speed" bag to "control" bag. As you gain control of the more efficient, short arm and fist movements necessary, (by starting SLOW), then speed will come automatically with practice. The primary goal is to keep the bag going, no matter how slow that is - Even if you have to count the rebounds at first. (You will quickly hit faster than you can count). CONTROL is the key. In fact, the BAG is never out of control - YOU are. Once you can control the short punching, circling movements needed - - then the bag will simply be in the way of your fists (and elbows) and do whatever your fists tell it to. A tip is to make very small circling movements with the fists, no matter what "punch" you use. Say your repetitive jabbing motion is a 12-inch circle. Keeping power or force the same, if you can shorter that 12-inch movement to 6-in, your fist will arrive at the target site in half the time. Viola! A faster punch by shortening the movement. To get faster, swing smaller. Speed is often a function of distance. With PURPOSEFUL practice (i.e. Not slamming away at the bag) you will increase your punching POWER along with the increased fist speed.
The speed "control" bag is simple to understand. If you hit it only from the FRONT, as most boxers do, the next punch should arrive after an ODD number of rebounds (1, 3, 5 or 7). Most people know the hypnotic "triplet rhythm" of the speed bag being hit. The basis for this cool "beat" is the accents of the sound. The first rebound (off the fist) is the loudest, the second rebound (by your face) is a little softer, and the third (away from you is barely heard, and runs into the returning fist which quickly adds the next accented punch as the fist connects. 1-2-3, 1-2-3... it's the sound we all love. It is the same sound done slower or faster. Try and feel that beat, but if three rebounds is "too fast" for you, (or you refuse to slow down or hit softer...) than use 5 rebounds. The bag will be in the same position after 5 rebounds as it as after 3, in position to be hit from the front again.
Most jab, straight punch and crossing combinations can be practiced with FIVE rebounds as well as THREE rebounds. Hooks are a little different. To practice Repetitive Hooks (i.e. Left Hook, Right hook) combinations, Use an EVEN number of rebounds (two or four). Four is best to start off with. This works because "the next punch is coming from the opposite side from the last punch", and the laws of speed bag rhythm demand it.
To mix hooks with other punches, the number of rebounds needed may vary, depending on the angle of bag rebound and the angle of your fist as it connects. As and example, a "left hook" may follow a "straight right" after 3 or 4 rebounds, depending on the bag angle established by the right fist, and the angle your left hook enters. Practice this slowly and watch how the bag angle changes! Also, after a left hook, the left fist can return for a left jab on either 3 or 4 rebounds, depending on the rebound angle. Either way, the speed bag will force you to keep you hands up for combinations. By the way, the "hands up" ready position is also seen in most other sports.
For conditioning, the speed bag "pumps" your shoulders and arms. You will quickly feel the outer deltoid burn with repetitive punching. Also, if you can do it long enough, you can also get cardiovascular benefits, raising your heart rate and breathing harder. (You need to be able to punch it for several minutes to really get this benefit, but with time you can punch for long periods of time). For a total body workout, join the speed bag with a stationary cycle. Talk about coordination! Punch and ride at the same time!
With a little patience and practice, you will quickly find the speed bag helps you pick off moving targets a foot or less from your face very quickly. But watch out... if you happen to play any other sport that requires fast, efficient hand speed (softball or volleyball anyone?) than it will also help in those areas also.