In this guide we’re diving into the lesser known world of the water punch bag. These age-old boxing trainers are an alternative to the free standing or leather and cloth bags and have a number of useful benefits to them.
But are they any good for home use? And should you splash out on one today? This guide covers everything about these aqua boxing bags, and is aimed at people training in boxing, or anyone looking into working a punch bag into their home gym.
What exactly is a water punch bag?
Boxing bags are typically made from leather or leather substitute, or occasionally canvas and rag-filled, or sand. A water-filled bag is a heavy duty buoy that’s made from extremely tough rubber. You fill it yourself with water and hang it from either a stand or ceiling fitting.
Benefits to training on an water filled punch bag
One of the best things about these water filled boxing bags is that they have a much more natural ‘fluid’ feel to them. Water shifts around your strike and takes away a lot of the impact that would normally go into your hand, wrist and up your arm into your body.
5 Things we love about water punch bags
Here’s the main benefits to owning a water-filled punch bag.
- They never need re-stuffing! One problem with punch bags is after use their filling can settle to the bottom of the bag and you’ll have to take them down and re-fill them. It’s not the easiest job to do and getting the new filling just right is not a lot of fun, in my experience. With water bags, the filling is always consistent.
- They’re really heavy – Another huge problem with conventional punching bags is they often look fantastic on the pictures – large, strong and like they’re up to the task. But when you hang them up and take a few shots, they fly around like there’s no tomorrow. Even if you’re new to boxing, some punch bags absolutely won’t be enough for you. Water ones do not have this problem.
- Less impact on your joints (especially your wrist!) – I’ve trained on bags that were like hitting a wall. Ouch! By it’s nature, water has some shock absorption built in, making it way kinder to your joints and body. Even if you hit it hard, which will give the toughest feedback, there’ll be some give and cushion when the blow makes contact.
- Practice all your punches easily – You can practice any punch on a water bag extremely well. Including jab, cross, hook and even the uppercut – a punch that’s not really possible on a regular straight bag.
- You get a lot of resistance for the size – For a small punch bag, you get a lot of weight and resistance on your shots. You can practice both accuracy and also get that feedback that will build up your power too. Sand filled bags would be the next closest thing but a small water filled bag will can compete with a far larger conventional bag. Not much space? Try a water bag.
What’s a good water bag to buy?
If you like the sounds of water bags, and have checked out some of the videos showing off what they’ve got to offer, here’s some we think are really good choices for home users that will last a long time.
Find out more
Paffen Sport All-Round Waterbag
This water bag is pretty much the industry standard. It's a simple pear-shaped bouy that comes in 3 sizes annd weights. It's ideal for home gym users. Think carefully on the size, as the largest one is a huge 85kg.
Cimac Aqua Punch Bag Boxing Bag
Another good choice is the Cimac Aqua Punch bag. This bag comes in a range of sizes. Take care as the 15" might be too small, unless you're looking to practice accuracy.
Polyform US A Series Buoy
For anyone on a super-tight budget, you can buy this US buoy's pretty cheaply and with a bit of inginuity can fill them with water. Once filled, they're around 45kg and work just like a punch bag.
Boxing pro Israel Cortes working on the aqua bag
This video is an inspiring look into some of the awesome drills you can do with a water bag:
What you’ll get from working on a water bag at home
There’s a number of uses for a water-filled punch bag in your home gym, whether you’re a boxer or not.
- Build muscle tone
- Work on your cardio
- Lose weight
- Build up endurance
- Increase punching power
Don’t want to get a bag for your gym, or don’t have space? We’ve got you covered. See our guide to HIIT boxing at home for more info.
What they feel like – not what you’d expect!
If you’ve not used these things before, they’ve got a unique feel to them that differs from any of the other bags on the market, and that includes the free-standing bags too. One thing you’ll notice first is how tough the rubber bag is.
It’s a lot harder than it looks in pics. You’ll definitely need gloves (heavy or bag mitts) unless you’re Muhamed-I’m-Hard-Bruce-Lee – and maybe still even then.
Making contact with the bag offers substantial resistance and feedback to your strike. But the water bag also yields and feels softer than a heavy bag at the point of impact. The bag itself does move around but will swing a lot less than an average mid-sized bag. And you’ll need less room for a water bag generally than you would a regular punch bag.
What about kicks and knee strikes?
Water bags are not ideal of knee strikes because they’ll normally be hung too high for this.
Kicks are OK but be warned that water bags are a lot tougher than large hanging bags. Watch your power and if you’re striking bare foot, be prepared for some red feet!
What size should you go for?
One thing to be aware of with these aqua bags is that bigger isn’t necessarily better. The larger 12 gallon heavy bags will be just that: heavy! While it’s not quite like hitting a wall, it will feel extremely hard to hit. If you’re new to boxing then go for a lighter bag like a 12 – 15″ one that will be a bit more forgiving on your body.
How does a water bag compare to a regular punch bag?
The main thing I noticed in my time with water punch bags was two things:
- They feel a lot different to regular bags
- Aqua bags are much harder when you hit them.
- Longer lasting than canvas bags
Where to put them – stands and wall mounts
What to hang it from?
If you’re attaching to a beam…
I’ve hung punch bags quite happily from beams myself. It’s not always an option in every home and garage, but if you’ve got an overhead beam, go for it. One thing I’d say though it definitely get a strong punch bag spring (a really tough one) as it will make the whole thing work a lot better and reduce the shock on the beam.
You have the choice of using a metal eye bolt, or if you have access to the full beam, wrapping rope around it and using a chain on that.
Hanging your bag with a chain
Depending on which brand of bag you get, it’s likely you won’t get anything to hang it with from the offset. You’ll need a chain or rope to suspend your water bag from a stand or beam. You might be tempted to save some money and get a cheap chain at the local DIY store. But be careful and get something that can take the weight and stress the bag will put on it.
That’s not what they’re designed for any it could end with the chain snapping and … well think you’ve been framed. Whatever you go for, pick something that’s heavy duty and up to the job. Water bags are heavy!
You can get the official aqua bag chain fairly cheaply on Amazon and it’s well worth the investment.
Get a swivel joint
A punch bag swivel is a life-saver when you’re hanging a bag from a chain. It means that your chain won’t lock up and twist and get damaged. You’ll get a much smoother workout and they’re ideal for a heavy bag like a water bag. Here’s a really good one on Amazon that’s cheap too.
Problems and downsides
Filling them can be a bit of a pain
One thing that you might not even think of as an issue is getting the water into the bag. They don’t come filled with anything (which is a brilliant idea for shipping) so that means you’ll have to fill it with H2O when it arrives. While this might seem simple enough, it’s not that simple with water bags.
Different brands have their own version of this but the process is normally like this:
- Remove the little screw cap (might require a screwdriver)
- Attach the included plastic nozzle to your hose
- Insert into your water bag
- Fill to the desired level
The problem most people hit is:
- They don’t have a hose
- They need to buy a fitting for their hos that fits the nozzle
- Problems with the nozzle
You might not hit any of these but they’re worth mentioning. And be prepared for it to get messy!
The chain is normally extra
The majority of water-filled bags won’t come with a chain. You can purchase the hanging kits extra on places like Amazon, or try to save some cash and get one from BnQ or other DIY store. You likely will get the metal ‘D’ clip that attaches it to the chain.
Your existing stand might not be strong enough
The water bag is a hefty beast. Check it’s filled weight and, if you’re using a stand, check your stand is up to the job. Otherwise you could be left with a product you can’t use or a stand that needs replacing.
Quick water bag tips
In this section of this review/guide you’ll find some quick ‘n’ dirty tips.
Don’t over-fill your bag
One thing that is easy to do is to fill your punch bag to the brim with water. While this isn’t a problem for the bag, and it’s not going to burst, it’s going to make it very hard to strike, with a lot more recoil.
Review of the Aqua Bag
UK Based Boxing Guru has a fantastic review of the Aqua Bag
What’s a good bag to buy?
Do you need boxing gloves?
I know some people like to practice on bags without gloves and build up the strength and resistance in their hands, but I would be really careful with a water punch bag. These things are extremely solid when you hit them fast. And the plastic/rubber coating is likely to skin your knuckles super-quick. Bag gloves? Definitely.
Can you drain and fill them yourself?
Yes. One of the cool things about water punch bags is you can drain and fill them easily with water at home. So they can be stored if you’re not using them, or transported easily.
Here’s an example of a bag being filled:
Aqua punch bags – reading and resources
- Home fight gym has a really good video on whether or not you should by a water punch bag for your gym
- Made For Fighters homepage has more info about their Aqua Bag range
- There’s a decent-length thread on the wonders of water bags on the Sherdogs martial arts forum
- Why the NHS is getting people into boxing and drumming