The Freestanding vs. hanging heavy bags debate is as old as the internet. But there’s no clear consensus on which one’s the better pick.
It’s subjective, aint it?
If you own a capacious house where you can make permanent modifications, drill holes in the ceiling studs or install a couple of 2x4s across the joists, then probably, the heavy hanging bag is the thing for you.
But if you are like the vast majority that cannot afford to risk structural problems by mounting a 150 lbs. bag indoors, and don’t have a garage either, then you’ll start to realize how good an invention the freestanding heavy bag is.
I have spent a lot of years trying to pick one of these two. So I have a fair idea of what makes one better than the other in specific scenarios. That’s what I am going to share with you today.
A Quick Glance at the Best Picks;
Cherry-picked options for varying user needs...
- Best Free-standing Punching Bag Overall (My Favorite) - The Wavemaster XXL. You can check out the price & reviews here.
- Best Free-standing Punching Bag for MMA & Kickboxing - The Century Bob. See the price and read reviews here.
- Best Heavy Bag Stand & Heavy Bag Kit Combo - The Everlast Single Station. Check out the price and reviews.
- Best Heavy Bag for Muay Thai - This one here. Check the size, swing, and overall specs here.
My Personal Recommendation – Free Standing Punching Bags are Far Better for Most
To cut the chase short, my personal recommendation is the free standing punching bag. These bags work for most people, regardless of whether they can or cannot hang a heavy bag from the ceiling.
They are portable, they can be moved around without as much effort & they can be placed in any corner of your house. They will save you money, especially if you happen to rent an apartment or don’t want to drill holes in your ceiling.
Free standing punching bags are also more economical than hanging ones. After practicing on the hanging heavy bag for years, I finally bit the bullet and bought the Wavemaster XXL 6-years ago. You too can grab this bad boy on Amazon by clicking here.
I have rained abuse on it day in and out. But it has held up like a champ. In fact, I can’t imagine a better training bag for anyone living in a small apartment.
Main Benefits of Freestanding Bags: Why they are the Better Option for Most
Here is a quick summary of why free standing punching bags work far better than hanging ones.
Portability & Much Easier to Use
A freestanding bag can just be toppled over and rolled into any part of the house. Most of them have cylindrical bases and foam filled cores that are designed for portability. They may as just be called portable bags.
It's also beginner friendly because it doesn't swing around as much as a heavy bag tends to.
Much easier to setup
Freestanding punching bags come almost ready to use out of the box. You just have to inflate the bladder, fill up the base with sand/water mix and that’s it.
Hanging heavy bags on the other hand require a lot of hardware components to set up properly. For example, you have to buy chains, carabiners or rings, ceiling mounts & hooks.
Now picture having to move the heavy bag within the house or when you are moving homes. It's just cumbersome.
You don't need to invest in expensive hardware or a heavy bag stand to use freestanding bags. A good quality stand alone can cost around $150. Even with the stand, a heavy bag will swing a lot, often moving the stand with it as it swings.
In comparison, freestanding bags are a lot more economical.
Best 3 Standing Bags
Here's my pick of the best 3 freestanding bags(also known as floor punching bags).
I have owned the Wavemaster XXL for over 6-years. It is built to outlast the average human. It will take a pounding and keep going.
There is a new kind in town, the Wavemaster 2XL Pro is supposed to be an upgrade to the original XXL. I prefer the original Wavemaster XXL to the 2XL Pro but some people love it so and it's not so different from the original one.
Maybe I should get an upgrade after 6 years?
The Century BOB (Body Opponent Bag) is the best training bag for MMA, Kickboxing as well as target practice in boxing. It has a more realistic striking surface than the Wavemaster.
The Century Versys is a multi-functional heavy bag that features two pairs of handles/grips, which allow MMA fighters and Kickboxers to use it for groundwork and grapples, along with regular practice drills.
Downsides of Free Standing Bags: Main Cons
For a long time, I believed that free standing bags were poor alternatives for a heavy bag. That's because it was what I was told by people around me, what I had heard in gyms, & what I had read generally, on the internet.
When I finally bought one, I found out that most of the arguments that are usually made against free standing bags are half-baked, or not entirely true.
Not Ideal for experienced MMA Fighters
This is probably the commonest complaint that you've heard. Freestanding bags are too flimsy for real MMA practice. Well, it's not entirely untrue. A lot of the freestanding bags are not designed for heavy bag training by professional athletes.
That said, some of the most experienced professional MMA fighters use the Wavemaster XXL and the Century BOB. Both these bags are as steady as a rock when you're striking them. They have heavy duty bases & thicker construction than the standard ones.So this problem is largely dependent on what product you buy.
Tend to move around a lot
Again, this is more product-specific than a general design flaw. For instance, there are bags with bases that weigh 270 lbs. when filled with sand. These weigh around 130 lbs. when filled with water.
If you are going to go hard at the bag, ensure that you fill the base with the right material and also that the bag is made of decent material that will take the beating, for example canvas bags are known to be of lower quality and will tear more often than other materials that's why they are cheaper.
Another overlooked factor is flooring. Some wooden panels are slippery as an eel. You've got to stick some foam or at least use a heavy bag floor mat to keep the bags from sliding around.
Tips to know for standing bags
Make no mistake, a freestanding punching bag is a terrific option. But you've got to know how to make the most of it, and find workarounds for common problems.
Get a floor Mat
This is a no-brainer. A simple floor mat will keep the bag from slipping around, even if you pound hard. An added bonus is that it will keep your floor from getting scratched up.
I personally use the BalanceFromGoFit High Density Treadmill Mat. It is made from composite PVC and has a textured surface which keeps my wavemaster XXL in place.
Its 3-Feet x 6.5-feet. So you can also use it as a Yoga Mat if need be. Has never bled on to the floor and has held up well during the hot summer months. Check its price and reviews on Amazon by clicking here.
Fill with sand
Do yourself a favor and fill the base with good old fashioned sand. Using water is only half as effective, since it might stick to the sides of your bag, making it heavier in certain areas, resulting in lopsided & awkward swings.
Plus, water can spill or leak during transport if you're moving around a lot. Not ideal for everybody. If you have read that sand is messy, then it's because of poor technique.
Main Benefits of Traditional Hanging Punching Bags
Having trained extensively on the heavy bag and later having transitioned successfully to the freestanding bag, here are some of the advantages that are unique to the hanging heavy bag.
The Heavy bag has a very unique swing that's impossible to replicate with free standing bags. This is due to the center of gravity of the bag as well as the design. It's something that you've got to experience in the flesh before making a judgement call.
That said, it's not a deal breaker for me anymore considering that I can get a great workout with my freestanding bag. Besides, it's this very swing that makes it impossible to hang these bags indoors in an apartment like mine.
Maybe better suited for endurance drills
The hanging heavy bag is perfect for endurance drills. The idea is to stay on the bag for longer periods of time and train yourself to build muscle strength and endurance.
This does not mean that you cannot train on the freestanding bag for muscle endurance mind you. It's just that a hanging heavy bag has a slight advantage over the freestanding one.
Best Two Hanging Bags
If you have your mind set on a hanging bag, then here are the top two options that I recommend based on more than a decade of training experience.
#1 - Everlast Single Station Heavy Bag Stand with a 70-lb. Heavy Bag Kit
The Everlast Single Station is a combination of a heavy bag stand and a hanging heavy bag. So you can rest aside your worries of making permanent modifications in your walls and ceilings.
It comes with a medium-sized 70 lbs. heavy bag with a thick PE foam core. It is 12" in diameter and about 36" in length, which is pretty good for home use.
But you can also swap this with a heavier bag if need be. It can accommodate bags that weigh up to 100 lbs. easily.
The Single Station is made from heavy duty stainless steel tubing and comes powder coated for weather resistance. While it's very sturdy and impossible to move or topple, Everlast gives you three weight pegs that allow you to stake the stand to the floor.
- Great price point. Won't break the bank and will provide a great workout.
- Can be staked down to prevent movement
- You can use hang any heavy bag from it. This is my most favorite feature of this stand.
- Powder coated, heavy duty stainless steel construction
The Ringside 100-pound Muay Thai Punching bag is a full-sized option that's double the striking surface of the Everlast bag.
It's 13" in diameter and 72" in length with a PE core and a powerhide cover. This is perfect for all kinds of drills and combat sport training.
From MMA to boxing to kickboxing, the realistic striking surface is perfect for both kicks and punches. Also, it's reasonably quiet for a bag this size. You won’t create a din that will wake up the neighborhood.
Coming to one of the most important aspects, swing. The Ringside has a very controlled swing even when you go heavy on it. It does not swing around wildly and hence, can be used by beginners too.
- Great for heavy bag drills
- The long length provides a very controlled and realistic striking experience. This is perfect for beginners as well as those who want to use it for MMA training.
- Long lasting powerhide cover means you need not worry about the covering wearing out like most cheap options available online
- This one of the most economical hanging bags that you can find.
Tips for hanging bags
If you plan to get home a hanging heavy bag, here's a couple of tips to make it a hassle free experience.
Get a heavy bag stand and bag kit
It's a lot easier to install a heavy bag when you have a heavy bag stand. No need to drill holes or make changes to the joist.
The ease of installation ensures that you can put up the stand in any room of your apartment with minimal hassle.
This is especially important if you are someone who is short on time or hates spending hours trying to make permanent holes in your walls for nails and hooks.
There are a lot of great outdoor heavy bag stands that you can get that will help you to put your bag outside for a long time, you won't need to move it inside, you can just go out and start punching right away.
The Everlast Single Station is the best bet. It's economical, it's a combo and the customer ratings are top notch.
Cons of Hanging Bags – Why they are not Suited for Most Home Setups
This article would be incomplete if we did not discuss the potential downsides of a hanging heavy bag.
They are heavy
A standard-sized heavy bag weighs anywhere from 100 to 130 lbs. when filled. There are some that weigh as much as 250 lbs. too (some heavy bags are 300 lbs - the likes of this Outslayer Muay Thai Punching Bag.) The first thing that you've got to consider is whether or not your ceiling can sustain that weight, when it's swinging around and you are landing heavy punches and kicks on it. You definitely don't want start to hitting these bags without gloves if you are a beginner to keep your knuckles safe.
They take up a lot of room
Remember what we told about the swing? One downside of the swing is the room that it takes. Most apartments and small homes do not have that kind of room, unless you intend to hang it in a part of the house with ample clearance and no obstacles around it.
This applies even if you hang it with a heavy bag stand mind you.
They require permanent, structural modifications in most cases
Most ceiling joists are not designed to bear that kind of load. If you do not want your bag to crash into the floor when you hit it hard then be prepared for some serious modifications.
Even with the modifications, an indoor ceiling structure may develop cracks after a point of time. The question is, is it really worth it?
Freestanding Bag Vs Hanging Heavy Bag: Which One to Choose?
All things said and done, which one of the two should you choose? Here are some of the potential factors to consider before you make a choice.
Q. What Are You Going to Be Using the Bag for?
A. Are you a recreational martial artist who wants to knock the bag a few times every now and then? Are you a professional who cannot hit the gym a few times a week and hence wants to do some serious training at home?
Your choice should depend on this. If you are a recreational martial artist, a free standing bag is all you need. If you are a professional and do not have the room for a hanging bag, the Century Wavemaster offers the stability and the realistic surface you seek.
Q. Is Portability important to you?
A. Do you want to carry the bag with you when you travel or move it around the house as per space availability? If yes, then a free standing heavy bag is your only option. They are relatively light and easy to carry wherever you want to use it.
Q. How much space do you have?
A. Do you have enough space to install a hanging bag, as per the recommendations of the manufacturer? Don't forget to account for the clearance that you need for the swing.
Q. Will Your Ceiling Bear the Weight?
A. This is one of the most important factors to consider before installation. If you are not sure about what kind of load your ceiling can take, do consult with an expert or a contractor before buying the bag.
Alternatively, go for a bag and stand combo, or a freestanding bag.
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