There's no denying that speed bags have cemented their place in the boxing scene. Many people swear by them, whilst others see them as a monotonous repetition of a useless work out.
I personally see their value, love using them and think that they should definitely be incorporated into a work out. That being said, speed bags shouldn't be seen as a 'rest round' and should be used with maximum focus and intensity.
Similarly, speed bags should be implemented alongside other types of work outs and equipment and not solely relied upon.
With all this in mind, I want to take a step back and evaluate both the pros and cons of using a speed bag.
Pros’ Of Speed Bag Work Outs
Work Out From Home
One of the main reasons people love using a speed bag is that you can very easily set your own up at home. All you need is a swivel, speed bag platform, a speed bag and somewhere suitable to mount the platform.
Once you have all of these components you can easily squeeze in a work out here and there from the comfort of your own home. Although it's ideal to get down the gym as often as possible, this isn't always possible, therefore having your own at home is a great choice.
I'm not saying it's the easiest thing in the world to set up, in fact it can be a bit tricky. However, once it's set up, you'll have access to a speed bag when ever you want.
Practice Keeping Your Hands Up
Rule 101 of boxing, and most other combat sports to think of it, is keeping your hands up. Now for newcomers this can feel slightly awkward, as it is not yet engrained in their muscle memory.
When working out on a speed bag, both hands need to be raised at all times in order to be ready to strike the bag once it's rebounded back. If you're to work out on a speed bag once or twice a day, every day for a couple of weeks, keeping your hands up will come second nature to you,
This can directly translate in your performance, as you'll be used to keeping your hands up, allowing you to maintain a solid guard position, without consciously thinking about it. This way, you'll stand a far lower risk of getting clipped with your hands down, which trust me, no body wants.
Arm & Shoulder Endurance
This kind of ties in with my previous point, as although keeping your hands up is important, it's also incredibly tiresome. This is extremely true in boxing, where a fight can go on for 15+ and you're wearing 10oz or more gloves.
Working out on a speed bag will help improve your muscular endurance in your arms and shoulders, allowing you easily maintain a guard position in a fight, as well as throwing your own strikes without gasing out.
If you want to gain the most out of your speed bag work outs, it's important that you treat a speed bag as you would any other part of training. A lot of people can use a speed bag very casually, even using it as a minute to get your breath back in the gym.
As I mentioned earlier, make sure you're using maximum focus and intensity when working the bag.
Improved Reaction Time & Co-Ordination
As the name suggests, a speed bag is pretty damn fast, plus you've got to strike the back at exactly the right place, at the right time. This is why a lot of people struggle to work the bag when they first start using it, this timing isn't very easy.
Again, this can translate to real right situations, where you may only have a split second opening. By working out on a speed bag, you'll stand a better chance of utilising this moment, placing a strike at the right place at the right time on your opponent.
There's no denying that speed bags are a great way to hone in your reflexes and get your co-ordination spot on for sparring and competing.
Get Comfortable Having an Object Flying at Your Face
Look, if you're going to be sparring or competing, you're going to have to get used to an object flying towards your face pretty fast.
And, that's exactly what a speed bag does. You'll get comfortable finding the precise spot to hit, even though it's just a blurry shape moving towards you. Plus, you'll be far less likely to flinch and lock up, if you've been in a similar situation before.
Cons’ of Speed Bag Work Outs
Doesn’t Simulate Real Fight Situations
A lot of people claim that speed bags are one of the worst pieces of equipment for simulating a real fight. Whilst this may be a true, a lot of the points that I've just made previously translate in ones ability to perform.
However, for this reason it is important to integrate speed bag work outs alongside other equipment and exercises. Plus, simulating an actual fight experience is what sparring is for. Working out on a speed bag just helps to improve certain areas of a fighters arsenal, better preparing them for sparring or competing.
If you're solely relying on a speed bag, or even prioritising it over other equipment and bags, you'll be missing out on an opportunity to become a more well rounded fighter.
Ok I'll admit it, this isn't exactly the most fun bag to work out on in the world. This is especially true if you've been using it for a while, progressed down to a tiny bag and are comfortable using it. The repeated rhythm of the speed bag rebounding can become a bit boring, however: no pain no gain right?
Just Another Boxing Ritual
Another slam against speed bags is that they're "just another boxing ritual", which can be understandable considering they've been used for so many years. Just check out this thread on Sherdog, a lot of people claim that they're just a thing of the past.
In my opinion, don't fix what isn't broken. The reason these have been used for years on end is because they work. There isn't one sole reason to use a speed bag, there a number of benefits to be gained that when put together, make the bag an effective method of training.
Whether they're amazing, or just a boxing ritual, the only way to find out is to have a go. You don't even have to buy one straight off the bat, head down to your local gym and give it ago.
If you're looking to take boxing or something similar seriously, make sure you mix it up and don't spend all of your time on the speed bag.
All in all, whether you like it or not, speed bags are here to stay, and if you don't like it, don't use it.