A few weeks ago, I was visiting my buddy to check out his swanky new basement gym. I was mighty impressed with the way he’d used the small space to accommodate almost every piece of equipment that one finds in large commercial gyms.
But something caught my eye.
Just next to a ceiling-mounted speed bag, there was another teardrop-shaped bag, hanging from a similar platform. It was much bigger than the speed bag though and I had no clue what that contraption was.
He told me to go ahead and throw a few punches at it. The moment I landed the first punch, I was amazed at the feel of contact. It was almost like I was hitting a real person, as opposed to a bag.
That triggered my curiosity about Aqua bags and I decided to dig deeper into it.
You can see what the aqua bag looks like by checking it out on amazon by clicking here.
Overview of the Aqua Bag
An Aqua Bag is essentially a miniature, portable version of a heavy bag. At least that’s what it’s intended to be. It has a teardrop-shaped design and is typically made of tough vinyl or rubber. As implied by the name, you fill it with tap water and hang it from a wall-mounted or ceiling-mounted platform.
When you are done practicing, you can empty the bag and tuck it away. It’s like a portable heavy bag.
Let’s say you are traveling for a month or so, and do not want to miss your punching bag workouts. You grab an Aqua bag and carry it with you. When unfilled, it’s like a deflated balloon and you can toss it into your backpack.
At the hotel, you fill it with tap water, and presto! You have a heavy bag. That’s not all though.
Benefits of having Aqua Bag
The Aqua bag offers a lot more advantages than I can think of. Here are some of them.
Great for People Who Like Throwing Hooks and Uppercuts
The Aqua bag is available in different sizes, starting from a compact 12” to a sizable 21”. The design remains the same though, which is the teardrop shape. The broader base makes it a great bag for throwing hooks and uppercut combos.
It does not mean that you cannot throw jabs or straight punches at it. You most certainly can. Why you can even use it for speed and agility drills if you get a little creative with the amount of water you fill in it.
But it’s most effective for hook, uppercut, and the occasional high knee kick (for MMA fighters).
Great for Joints and Bones
When I started off with heavy bag training, it took me a long time to get used to the feel of punching at it. In my early days, I felt like I was hitting a concrete wall.
After a while, I switched to amateur boxing gloves which offered more padding, so that I could continue bag practice, without getting my knuckles all sore. Even then, I could feel the jarring in my knuckles and wrists whenever I made a mishit.
It was only after I gained a fair amount of strength in my bones that I got used to the surface. If you are a beginner or an amateur, the Aqua bag provides you with a more forgiving surface. The punches are gentler on your joints and sink in a tad, exactly like they do when you hit a real person.
It’s not soft at all, mind you. But it’s not like hitting a wall either.
The Punching Feel Is Great and The Sound It makes is amazing
As I said, it feels like you are practicing with a real opponent. Excellent force absorption and even distribution of impact forces allow you to practice for hours without worrying about joint soreness.
Oh, did I mention that I love the sound it makes upon contact? Lol!
I mean, having practiced on both, speed bags and heavy bags, which tend to create a ruckus at times, the Aqua bag is very quiet in comparison. It’s like the water-filled surface smothers the sound.
So, if you want to throw some punches late at night, this baby has you covered.
My first impression was that I’d have to hang it from a ceiling-mounted apparatus, which would take up an unoccupied corner of the basement. But I discovered that all you need is a sturdy wall hanger to hang this from. It’s a space saver as compared to any other type of heavy bag.
It looks great
Bonus points for aesthetics. These things come in a variety of colors and each design has a color swirl, which is what catches your attention.
That was the first thing that I noticed when I saw the bag in my buddy’s basement. It was blood red with a swirl of color. Looked like a bag of real blood. But not in a macabre way. It was gorgeous.
I examined a few of these bags at a retail outlet and I can tell you that these are made to last forever. The bag is made of thick vinyl features and injection-molded ends. Irrespective of how hard you hit it, these bags are not going to rip or tear.
It’s also UV resistant, which means that you can hang this in an outdoor gym as well.
Downsides of Aqua Bags
However, there are a few downsides as well.
The Weather Is Not Your Friend
Come winter, that outer shell will become as hard as a rock, especially if you leave it filled with water overnight. If the temperature drops below zero, then you will be throwing punches at a wall of ice.
My buddy did that accidentally and ended up with swollen knuckles.
The takeaway here is that the Aqua bag might not be usable in winters. I don’t know if you can fill it with hot water or warm water. The vinyl is not temperature rated.
Even if you do try that workaround, it would be short-lived I guess. Cause water can freeze in minutes in extremely cold weather.
Can’t Do Body Shots
As effective as it is for throwing hook and uppercut combos, it’s not a great option for body shots. Sometimes, you just miss throwing a brutal body shot combo, don’t you? That’s when you start to crave for a bigger punching surface. In simpler terms, a heavy bag.
Higher Risk of Leaks
I don’t think that you can badger the Aqua bag into springing a leak. The vinyl is quite thick and the edges are equally well molded.
But it can definitely tear while you are traveling or if it gets snagged on a sharp edge. Once it starts to leak, I don’t see how you can patch that up. It’s a single piece of vinyl and no amount of patchwork is going to keep the water contained.
Higher Risk for Condensation Build-Up
Any difference in temperature, between the water inside the bag and the room where the bag is mounted, will result in condensation. Condensation creates the perfect atmosphere for bacteria build-up.
You don’t want to deal with a bacteria colony in a damp, humid environment like a basement. The damn things will proliferate like weed on nitrous.
Needs A Stand or A Place to Hang
Lastly, you do need to figure out a way to hang this. Some of the heavier Aqua bags can be quite challenging to set up. The 21” one for instance, weighs a whopping 190 lbs. when fully filled. The manufacturers clearly state that you need to hang it off something that can take 4-times the weight.
So, the challenge is real folks. You either need a stand or you need to ceiling mount it. An alternative would be to get the smallest size, which weighs much lesser.
This is where freestanding heavy bags work so much better. You don’t have to fuss over the installation. It does take some extra space, but that’s just a tiny quibble.
Professionals Prefer Heavy Bags
I personally feel that the heavy bags have their place in boxing training. But if I ask a professional boxer to choose between the two, they’d pick a heavy bag without batting an eyelid.
Maybe it’s because of the larger surface or because heavy bag training is so deeply ingrained in the fundamentals of boxing. Either way, an Aqua bag is still considered a novelty training aid, rather than a fundamental one.
But How Does Aqua Bags Compare to Heavy Bags?
That’s like an orange and apple comparison, but an unavoidable one. The fact is that heavy bags do offer some great advantages over the Aqua bag. There’s no denying that.
But in some scenarios, they might not be a great fit.
Let me explain. There are two types of heavy bags.
Hanging heavy bags
These are your old school heavy bags that are filled with either sand (older ones) or shredded fabric (newer ones). A lot of boxers still prefer these, for obvious reasons. You get a capacious striking surface, and heavy bag striking is a proven way to increase strength, improve conditioning and work up a sweat. But, these are heavy and often require tedious modifications to your walls or ceilings, which may not be feasible for everybody. An alternative is to buy a heavy bag stand, which is a size-able investment.
Or better known as standing bags, also called floor punching bags, like the XXL and 2XL Pro that i mentioned above. These are a terrific alternative for conventional heavy bags because they do not need to be hung. They are freestanding and come pre-filled with foam or fabric. These have a base that provides the bags with the stability they need as you throw punches and kicks. The base needs to be filled with water or sand. I prefer water because it’s so easily available and easy to empty. Depending on the size and the variety of the freestanding bag you choose, the base when filled can weigh as much as 300 lb. Yeah a 300 lb punching bag, imagine hitting one of those.
Now, Let’s compare it with the Aqua bag
Heavy bags are not portable. Period. They are designed to be used in gyms with ample space. So, if you are looking at portability, then heavy bags are not even an option. The Aqua bag clearly wins here.
Hanging heavy bags have tedious installations but offer unalloyed benefits when permanently installed. Freestanding bags, on the other hand, have minimal installation and offer almost all the benefits of a full-sized hanging bag. A larger striking surface makes it better suited for a variety of drills and martial arts forms. I would say that the heavy bag is a winner here.
Heavy bags can be filled with a variety of materials. The canvas that the heavy bag is made from though is a bit more durable when filled to the brim.
But again, most of the fillings are readily available and cheap. So there’s little difference between the two. It’s even Stevens here.
Drumrolls…we have a tie!
So, Am I Going to Ditch My Heavy Bag for an Aqua Bag?
An Aqua bag is fun for sure. I love how it feels like hitting on flesh as opposed to a bundle of fabric or foam. Besides, it’s a terrific training aid when I want to work on my uppercuts and hooks.
It doesn’t take up too much space, is reasonably easy to install and I can carry it with me whenever I am on a holiday. I think it offers more pros than cons. So, I am going to add it to my gym.
But I am definitely keeping my current bag.
My Current Bag – Wavemaster XXL
I have owned the Century Wavemaster XXL for the past 7 years and it still looks as good as new.
You can see the exact model that I have on amazon by clicking here.
I have subjected it to extreme abuse and it has just absorbed everything like a charm. Every now and then, I meet people who tell me that freestanding bags are flimsy and that they can knock it over.
Try knocking this one. Please.
That base weighs 270 lb. when filled. I am 6’1 and 195 lb. I have thrown my best at it and it has never toppled over. If I throw some superman kicks at it, it does wobble a little. I once managed to get the base to slide over a tad. But I slipped a Yoga mat under it and it hasn’t budged since then.
What I like about it
It’s 69” tall and 18” in diameter. That’s a full-sized punching and kicking surface. I also like the fact that it comes pre-filled with a high-density foam fill. Even after all these years, the foam hasn’t sunken or settled at the bottom like some other fabric does. Lastly, no installation. It sits in a corner of the basement and I didn’t have to drill holes in the joist.
What I don’t like about it
Yet to find a flaw with it. Will update this when I do.
- Size – XXL
- Dimensions – 69” Tall and 18” diameter
- Base Weight – 270 lb. when filled with water
- Ideal for – Boxing, MMA and Muay Thai. It works equally well for high punches and kicks
Most Commonly Asked Questions Beginners Have (FAQ)
If you still have a doubt or two about Aqua bags, then here’s a brief FAQ that aims to answer those.
Are there any other water-filled bags out there?
As a matter of fact, there are. The Everlast HydroStrike Water Bag is another very good option. It’s available in some big sizes and the quality is on par with the Aqua bag. If for some reason, you don’t like the Aqua bag, you can check this out.
Which is better water-filled or air-filled bag?
I’d go with the water bag based purely on the feel of striking. It’s as good as striking an opponent, which is impossible to replicate with an air-filled bag. But if your goals are to develop hand eye coordination or accuracy, I’d go with an air-filled speed bag, as it offers more movement.
Can I Hit the Aqua Bag Without Gloves?
The Aqua bag is not as stiff a striking surface as some heavy bags are. So, you can definitely go bare knuckled at it. But it’s certainly not a soft surface. So, if you are just starting off with bag training, take it slow. Wear your bag gloves. As you develop strength and get used to the surface, you can always remove them.