An intense session on a heavy bag provides an excellent work out. It burns calories, develops strength and coordination, as well being a superb stress reliever.
I know that after a training session on a heavy bag, I’m usually breathing heavily and dripping in sweat. Whilst I’m tired from exercising intensely, I actually feel really good, no doubt from the release of endorphins that are released during any strenuous activity.
Over the years I’ve installed a large number of heavy bags for friends and family. As a result, I’ve also used and tested a fair number of different makes and models.
I’ve come to appreciate the amazing benefit that can come from using human shaped punch bags.
The problem with conventional punch bags
Your standard heavy bag consists of a long cylinder that is suspended by chains or rope. When you train with this design of heavy bag, you’re effectively striking a vertical flat surface.
This can cause a number of issues:
A mishit can strain your wrist. If you strike the vertical surface of the heavy bag at anything other than a right angle then the chances are that your wrist will bend on impact. This is particularly the case for any very high or very low punches.
On each strike, the flat surface of the front of your fist will align with the vertical surface of the heavy bag. This can only be achieved by bending the wrist. If this happens for an extended duration or at a high level of intensity then the tendons in your wrist can become injured.
The accuracy of your punches isn’t necessarily improved. The large cylinder shape of a heavy bag isn’t particularly difficult to miss. You can end up just swinging your arms and making contact with the bag without really thinking about where your shots are being aimed. This can give you a good workout – you’ll still burn calories – but you won’t necessarily develop your striking skill.
Becoming a skilled striker is also about the accuracy of your punches as well as their power.
You may only be using the heavy bag as a means to work out. However, with a slight tweak to the training tools you use, you could also become more skilled in your striking technique. You never know when this might come in useful – I’m thinking about a self-defense scenario here.
Because the heavy bag is hanging, it’s likely to swing after each solid hit. Unless you’ve got someone to hold the bag whilst you train, the bag will move away from you after each punch. This can be frustrating if you’re trying to develop a combination of punches/kicks or just want to let off some steam with an uninterrupted sequence of strikes.
You’ll have to wait a short while while the punching bag stops swinging and returns to its original position.
These issues can be resolved using a different training tool – a human shaped punch bag.
These are anatomically correct human torso shaped dummies that are made from a tough, durable rubber-like material. They are incredibly hard wearing and will easily stand up to all manner of strikes, punches and kicks that you throw at it.
Perhaps the best known of these is the Century BOB, which can be seen here on Amazon.
As you can see it has detailing of the muscles of the torso, as well as realistic facial features.
It’s made from a tough, durable foam material which has a little bit of spring to it but is really solid. Once filled with water or sand it weighs 270lbs. This means you can hit it as hard as you like and it’s not going to go anywhere.
Why I like the Century BOB
It’s a safer form of training. Rather than strike a smooth vertical surface, such as a heavy bag, you’re hitting a human shaped opponent. You can now tailor your strikes to match different parts of the torso: upper cuts to the chin, hooks to the side of the head, body shots to the solar plexus and floating ribs.
Because you’re using specific punches to target different areas of the body, you’re far less likely to sprain your wrists. You’re now striking a contoured surface, using the right punch for each area. This ensures your forearm, wrist and fist remain in the same straight line. This is a safer way to train.
The accuracy of your punches is improved. As a martial arts practitioner, I’m used to targeting vulnerable areas on the body: the floating ribs, solar plexus, side of the neck, Adam’s Apple, bridge of nose etc. Now I can focus on my techniques to target these areas.
During each training session, I tend to work on a particular technique focussing on a particular target area. For instance, I may practise the knife hand strike (your typical karate chop) to the side of the neck in one training session
The dummy’s height is adjustable. The dummy can be raised or lowered from 60 to 78 inches. This means you can practise on “opponents” of different heights. This is great for further improving the accuracy of your strikes. Eventually, regardless the height of your opponent, you’ll be able to land your punches, strikes and kicks directly on the area you’re aiming for.
It’s easier to practise combinations. The Century BOB is such a solid punch dummy when it’s filled it’s not going to move anywhere when you punch or kick it. Unlike a hanging punch bag, which swings after each punch, you can immediately follow up with another strike or combination of strikes.
I find this takes away much of the frustration that comes with training alone with a regular heavy bag. Just as you’re getting in a good punching rhythm, one solid punch will start the bag swinging wildly. You’ll then have to physically grab the bag and reset it in a neutral hanging position before starting again.
It’s easier to use it outside. I’ve spoken before about using a heavy bag outside in my article here. The main issue is how you handle the bags exposure to the elements such as the UV radiation and rain. With heavy bags, you also have to worry about the metal chains rusting (unless you purchase rust proof versions). Unless you buy specific bags (that I mention in my article), the surface of the bag isn’t necessarily that waterproof.
With a Century BOB, the entire dummy is made from plastic and rubber, making it waterproof. In addition, you can purchase waterproof covers (such as the one here on Amazon) providing further protection.
If you fill Century BOB with water, then you might want to be mindful that it doesn’t freeze in cold weather. If this happens, the ice will expand, potentially cracking the plastic base. It this is a possibility, then you might want to consider adding anti-freeze to the water or use sand instead.
They are easy to relocate. Despite being really solid training dummies, they are relatively easy to move to a different location, unlike a regular hanging punch bag. Their round base means that you can tilt the dummy on it’s side and roll it to its new home. I always get a friend to provide assistance when doing this as it just makes the whole process easier.
It’s made in the USA. During these times, I think it’s important to support products made in our country.
It comes in a range of sizes. This style of striking dummy comes in a range of sizes which means there’s a model that’s suitable for everyone.
The Bobby Bully
I have children who also practise martial arts and I purchased a ‘Bobby Bully’. This is made from a slightly softer rubberised material than the larger versions are made from and it’s soft enough that it can be used without gloves.
It’s significantly smaller than the larger versions and can be adjusted in height from from 50 to 55 inches tall, so it should last quite some time as your children grow.
It’s also extremely solid, weighing around 170 lbs. when the base is filled with water, meaning it’s not going to fall over.
Again, it’s highly durable and I have no worries about my kids damaging it. It provides an excellent way for them to practise what they’ve learned during their training sessions at the dojo. It also gives them the opportunity to let off a little steam if they need to.
You can obtain the latest price on Amazon here.
Q: What age could my child use the Bobby Bully up to?
A: It’s not so much about the child’s age but their height. The Bobby Bully extends up to 4’ 7”, so really if your child is much taller than this, you may want to consider the next model up. I do love the way that it is height adjustable so that it effectively grows with your child.
Q: How big is the base of the Bobby Bully?
A: It’s 22” wide and 12” tall.
The Century B.O.B
This is the standard adult version of this range of human shared punch bags. It can be adjusted to 60 to 78 inches in height (or a max height of 6’6”).
When filled with sand or water, it weighs 270 pounds. Essentially it’s not moving anywhere when you punch or kick it, which is exactly what you want from a training dummy.
The soft, almost flesh like surface of the dummy is soft enough that it can be used without gloves. However, It’s also tough enough to stand the hardest of training assaults.
You can obtain the latest price on Amazon here.
Q: How wide is the base?
A: It measures 24” in width and is 19.5” tall.
Q: Can you kick the lower section of the dummy ie the black column supporting the dummy torso.
A: In the past, what I’ve done is get a number of pool noodles and strap them around the supporting column. The effectively covers the column in a protective, foam layer. I’ve practised kicks in this way without any negative effects.
Q: How do you clean the dummy?
A: I would recommend you use a mild detergent.
Q: If you practice a close quarter martial art, does the base of the dummy get in the way of your feet placement?
A: No, I’ve found you can use the back for striking techniques at close range without the base getting in the way.
Century BOB XL
This is made from the same material as the model above but is slightly longer. The dummy now comes sporting a pair of shorts. This extends the length of the dummy, allowing groin and upper legs strikes to be used.
The XL model can also be raised much higher in height – from 60” to 82” (up to 6’ 10”). These are only the main differences. The base size remains the same as the standard model – 24” wide and 19.5” tall.
You can obtain the latest price on Amazon here.
Q: What is the main difference between the XL and standard model?
A: The XL has an extended torso so you can practise groin and upper thigh shots. If your martial art incorporates these types of strike, then this would be the model to get. If you’re from a boxing background, then the standard model would be fine.
There are a number of accessories you may want to consider investing in when purchasing a Century BOB.
The Century Bob Jacket
This effectively gives the BOB arms. It’s a jacket which securely straps to the torso of the dummy. It fits onto both the standard and XL models.
It’s great for learning to bob and weave under the arms before throwing a strike or for moving the arms out the way before landing a blow.
I actually ‘dress’ my dummy in an old karate Gi so I can practise grabbing hold of it before launching a strike.
You can read more about it here on Amazon.
This a stretchy cover that fits onto both the standard and XL models. It features red striking targets indicating the vulnerable areas of the body so you can really practise the accuracy of your striking techniques.
It’s made from a very durable material that will withstand the abuse the dummy will be subjected to. It’s also machine washable to you can keep it hygienically clean. You can see the latest price on Amazon here.
Whilst the surface of these dummies is soft enough to punch with bare hands, after an extended training session your hands may start to ache, especially if you’re a beginner. You may want to invest in a quality pair of training gloves, such as these on Amazon.
It’s the ability of the Century BOB to help develop your punching accuracy and combinations that makes it such a useful tool.
As you can see it comes in a range of sizes, making it the perfect training tool for all ages.
I hope I’ve gone some way in showing you how useful human shaped punch bags can be.