Bag work is an important training tool for fighters and martial artists. Both heavy bags and MMA-style bags allow you to make satisfying contact with a solid surface and provide a ready target when a live opponent isn’t available. But there are differing features between the two types of bags that cater to different focuses in fighting style.
Length is the most obvious difference between a heavy bag and an MMA bag. MMA bags average approximately 6 feet in overall length with a diameter slightly over a foot. An average heavy bag is significantly shorter and a bit wider, measuring 3.5 feet in length and approximately 14 inches in diameter.
Both heavy bags and MMA bags can vary in weight. Heavy bags start as light as 60 pounds and be as heavy as 130 pounds. MMA bags can weigh between 100 and 150 pounds. Custom-made MMA bags can even weigh in at a hefty 500 pounds, but end up being significantly wider than standard MMA bags to accommodate the extra mass. Though there may be a marked difference in the weight of a bag, there may be little or no variation in the overall size. The differences in weight for both types of bags depends largely upon the material used to make the shell and what the guts are made of.
The outer shell of either an MMA bag or a heavy bag can be made from leather, vinyl or canvas. Vinyl bags tend to run cheaper in price but may not have the long-term durability of canvas or leather. Both MMA bags and heavy bags can have a soft-fill or a hard-fill center. Soft-fill bags usually have a poly-foam core surrounded by a rag fill and use a softer lining of foam or gel at the surface of the bag to add extra cushion. Hard-fill bags are constructed with a solid, cardboard core filled with sand and surrounded by densely packed rag. However, some MMA bags can be specially designed for conditioning and are filled entirely with sand. Other custom MMA bag fills include thin shafts of bamboo that make an especially brittle surface used to condition the shins while kicking.
The extra length of an MMA bag allows you to practice low leg kicks and high head kicks. A heavy bag, however, only provides a target that focuses more exclusively on the center mass of the body for punching and striking. Elbow strikes and back fists can be practiced on a heavy bag in addition to punches, but an MMA bag better accommodates leg kicks and knee strikes in addition to punches and elbows.