Intensifying The Heavy Bag

By Ross Enamait - Published in 2004

The video below includes two conditioning drills intended to teach the athlete to fight through fatigue. Skill should never be intentionally abandoned, but during periods of extreme fatigue, the athlete must be prepared to continue fighting despite skill deprivation (which can occur when all three energy systems are drained). By training to fight through extreme levels of fatigue, you will be more prepared (physically and mentally) to deal with such feelings during live situations. This article and video are NOT skill based however (strictly conditioning based).

The heavy bag is one of the oldest, most recognizable pieces of training equipment. Unfortunately, due to its commonality, the bag is often overlooked when searching for speed, power, and endurance. Fitness manufacturers continually develop and market new products catered towards today’s combat athlete. As new products are developed, old training tools such as the heavy bag are often forgotten.

This is unfortunate, as the heavy bag is perhaps the most sport-specific and effective training tool available.

Consider a typist who wishes to type more words per minute. To increase her typing speed, she types away at the keyboard. To type fast, one must type.

This logic also applies to the act of punching. To punch with speed and power, one must punch. What better way to enforce this simple analogy than hitting the heavy bag?

To increase speed and power, one must hit the bag hard. Regular practice is required to develop efficiency of movement when punching. Unfortunately, it is common for fighters to coast through a heavy bag session. These individuals stick with a few basic combinations, flicking out an occasional jab while grunting and groaning to impress onlookers.

A common heavy bag workout consists of three or four rounds on the bag. Amateur boxers compete with 2-minute rounds while professionals compete with 3-minute rounds. These work-to-rest ratios are often followed when hitting the bag. Certain trainers intensify bag sessions by reducing rest between rounds to 30-seconds. Another common means of progression involves increasing the length of the round. For example, certain professionals hit the bag for 4-minute rounds. The reason for the increased round length is to “over-condition” the fighter for a traditional round. If a fighter can hit the bag for 4-minutes, a 3-minute round should be easy.

Unfortunately, this theory rarely works in the real world. As round length increases, many fighters learn to pace themselves throughout the longer round. Rather than maintaining an intense pace, these fighters conserve energy for the longer round. This style of training is detrimental to a competitive fighter. During competition, these fighters will be unprepared for an opponent who maintains an aggressive, furious pace.

Rather than increasing round length, I recommend increasing intensity through short, yet highly intense punch-out drills. A punch-out drill simply consists of a string of all out punches thrown in rapid succession without rest. Common punch-out intervals range from 15 to 60 seconds. During these drills, the fighter will throw non-stop punches. I recommend straight punches during this drill to reduce bag movement. For example, you will throw a non-stop 1-2-1-2 (1 = jab, 2 = cross).

These drills are extremely intense. You will essentially be performing high intensity interval training on the heavy bag. This style of training will prepare you to throw explosive combinations with maximum speed and power.

Punch-out drills are commonly referred to as the Olympic Drill. These drills have been used at several Olympic boxing camps. You will not find many drills that can match the intensity and effectiveness of these brief punch intervals.

Not A Replacement, An Addition

These drills should not replace traditional heavy bag work. The heavy bag is ideal for drilling and reinforcing new combinations. Skill training and conditioning are not the same. You can however supplement a traditional heavy bag routine with a brief punch-out sequence.

Sample Workout

  • 4 x 3-minute rounds – Skill emphasis
  • 4 x 30-second punch-out drills
  • Finish with 1 x 3-minute round

This routine will begin with four traditional rounds of bag work. Your focus should be on skill development. Throw combinations, moving left to right, and right to left. Integrate head movement, feints, and combination punching. Rest one-minute between rounds.

After four rounds are complete, proceed with four punch-out drills. Each drill will consist of one non-stop combination, thrown with maximum speed and power. Allow one-minute of rest between drills.

Finish with one round of traditional bag work. At this point, you will be forced to fight through fatigue, as if you were in an actual competition.


I recommend variety when performing punch-out drills. In the preceding example, the routine called for 30-second intervals. You can also perform a punch-out sequence with shorter, more intense intervals. For example, perform 10 x 15-second punch out drills. Allow 45 seconds of rest between drills. This brief 10-minute sequence is much more challenging than it appears. By reducing the length of the drill, you are able to maintain a true max effort from start to finish. These drills are excellent when training to improve speed, power, and anaerobic capacity.

Power Boxing

Another option to traditional heavy bag work involves brief full-speed, power boxing rounds. Each round will last 60 to 90 seconds. You will throw combinations with an emphasis on maximum power. This is no time to be practicing your jab. You will work solely on power punching. Each round should involve a max effort. Each punch will be thrown with bad intentions.

Integrate a variety of punches (ex. hook, uppercut, cross). As you can see in the sample video clip below, I throw multiple punch combinations, all with maximum power.

Sample Workout

  • 3 x 3-minute rounds – Skill emphasis
  • 4 x 1-minute power boxing
  • 5 x 30-second punch out drills

This routine will begin with three traditional rounds of bag work. Your focus should be on skill development. Throw multiple combinations, moving left to right, and right to left. Integrate head movement, feints, and combination punching. Rest one-minute between rounds.

After three rounds are complete, proceed with four power-boxing rounds. Each round will be “fought” at full throttle with an emphasis on maximum power punches. Allow one-minute of rest between drills.

Finish with five punch-out drills. Each drill will consist of one non-stop combination, thrown with maximum speed and power.

This brief bag workout integrates skill work, power boxing, and punch-out drills. You will start with a skill emphasis while the body is fresh. You will proceed to power boxing, and finish with a brief conditioning sequence via punch-out drills.

Another Sample

  • 10 x 1-minute power boxing

Once again, you can incorporate variety into a power boxing routine. This workout will equate to 10-minutes of max-effort punching. These workouts provide obvious benefits when training to increase power and anaerobic endurance. You will train the body to throw power punches round after round. Increased punching power plus increased punch output is a dangerous combination.


These sample routines will greatly intensify a heavy bag workout. Do not limit yourself to “traditional” heavy bag training. You can achieve numerous benefits with short, intense drills on the bag.

Balance intensity throughout the week. One session can be geared more towards skill development (ex. combination punching) while another can emphasize power and anaerobic endurance. Do not be so quick to overlook the heavy bag. The heavy bag is perhaps the most effective, sport-specific conditioner of all.

Hit the heavy bag hard and often.

About the Author - Ross Enamait is an innovative athlete and trainer, whose training style is among the most intense that you will find. Ross is committed to excellence and advancements in high performance conditioning and functional strength development. He has a sincere interest in helping today's athlete in their quest for greatness.

Ross has authored several comprehensive training manuals, designed for athletes participating in combat sports such as boxing, wrestling, and MMA.

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