Punching Bag Alternatives (9 Practical Substitutes For Home)

A boxing routine can seriously improve your physical and mental health. You might think that you need a specialist punching bag to train properly and that without one, there's no way to box.

That's not the case, though, and in this guide we’ll introduce the best punching bag alternatives so you can complete boxing workouts at home or in the gym.

Boxing isn't just about fitness or strength; it's a whole skill and discipline in itself. To improve your punching and kicking without a punching bag, you need to incorporate some movements that will develop those skills and improve your agility, power, and endurance. Here are 9 effective alternative ways to train: 

1. Shadow Boxing 

Shadow boxing is often part of a warmup in many routines, but it's actually effective training in its own right. It’s been used for thousands of years as a way to practice your movement and improve your stamina.

There’s no impact because you’re punching the air, so there’s no risk of injury and no equipment needed. It’s one of the best ways to box at home or in the gym if you don’t have access to any kind of punching bag.

To shadow box, you need some free space, and you'll ideally face a mirror. Punch and move as if you're facing an opponent, keeping your guard up throughout. There are a lot of different shadow boxing workouts you can do, and it's a good way for beginners to start their boxing training.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

This is one of my favorite forms of post-workout cardio because it doesn't require any equipment. It's also a great finisher and should leave you exhausted.

Shadow Boxing

2. Sparring 

Sparring involves boxing with a partner, but it's not about winning or losing; it's about training and improving your skills. Sparring regularly will improve your cardio and endurance so you can box for longer, make you a more competent boxer, give you a greater awareness of your space, and better prepare you for a proper boxing match.

To spar properly, you'll want a defined space (preferably a ring) and protective gloves, helmet, and mouthguard. You then want to both control your movements, so you're practicing your skills without hurting each other. Sparring isn't a good option for complete beginners, but it's a great way to hone your skills without a punching bag.

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

By sparring with different opponents, you can learn to think quickly and adjust to opponents, giving you valuable experience against real opponents.  

Read More - How To Set Up A Home Boxing Gym

sparring

3. Focus Mitts 

Focus mitts are used with a partner to help improve your accuracy, strength, fitness, and agility. They look like boxing gloves with targets on, which gives you something to aim for.

Your boxing partner will put them on and move positions, giving you targets to aim for so you can practice different punches and kicks. This gives a much more realistic striking feeling than punching or kicking the air and helps better prepare you for a real boxing match.  

When using focus mitts with your partner, you can perform a wide number of routines. If you're a beginner, you may be best starting with basic jabs, but you can quickly start to weave in uppercuts, straight punches, and more complicated movements.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

Start by getting the feel of punching a small, sometimes moving, target. Once you get the rhythm down, try a few different variations of punches, jabs, and hooks.

Learn More - Do Boxers Lift Weights?

Focus Mitts

4. Wrist Weights 

If you want to improve your strength and endurance without a heavy punching bag, then wrist weights are very effective. The weights are either worn as gloves or strapped directly to your wrist, and give extra resistance when you're punching and moving.

Wrist weights are affordable and available online. To use them, you just have to secure them tightly and then perform a shadow boxing routine with them on. You can increase the weights as you become more comfortable, but make sure you aren’t putting too much strain on your wrists too soon.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

Using wrist weights has been shown to significantly increase the power of your punches and increase your heart rate by 10 beats per minute, increasing your stamina.  

Related Article - Dumbbell Cardio Exercises

wrist weights

5. Floor Bag 

Floor bags are basically alternative punching bags for when you can’t get the real thing. These are usually used by military personnel and consist of several floor bags filled with sand. They're often hung on poles or hooks so you can practice your boxing with them.

Floor bags aren’t as strong as punching bags, and you can't use as much power without breaking them. However, they are useful for practicing your technique and movement and work with most regular boxing routines. They're also very affordable and viable alternatives if you're on a tight budget.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

You can actually fill an old knapsack with sand and hang it up like in the image below. This is super easy and won't cost you a dime!

floor bag

6. Used Car Tires 

Old car tires often end up in martial arts centers because they're durable and soft like a regular punching bag. You can attach old car tires to a hook or hang them up on a pole to make your own DIY punching bag at a fraction of the cost.

The strength of the rubber will help you to build up your own power, and if you work out using the tires regularly, you'll be able to build your stamina. Make sure you're wearing gloves or pads when you're training because there may be old screws or wires protruding from the types, which could cause an injury.

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

You can call up your local scrapyard and ask them if they would give, or sell, you some used tires. They don't even have to be in good condition.

used car tire

7. Wooden Dummy 

Wooden dummies of different shapes and sizes are used in various martial arts routines. They're not ideal for boxing, but they can help you improve your endurance and make your knuckles, feet, elbows, and other body parts much stronger. If you use them correctly, you can also improve your reflexes and agility.  

You can make your own wooden dummy, but it's often quicker and easier to buy one. You can get them for $40-$80, which is usually less than a standard punching bag.  

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

Wooden dummies can be used for all types of martial arts training. Play with different variations to see what you like best.

Suggested Equipment - Merax Boxing Power Tower

Wooden Dummy

8. Free-standing Bag 

Free-standing punching bags are just like regular punching bags, but they're mounted on a stand. This makes installation much simpler and cheaper and is better for those who can't install a punching bag in the ceiling. It also makes it easier to store the punching bag out of the way when it's not in use which is handy for those training at home.  

One of my favorite models is a free-standing bag from Dripex. It's super durable and moves for more dynamic training.

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Garage Gym Pro Tip!

A free-standing bag should react similarly to a regular punching bag, and you can use it for all your standard training routines.  

free standing bag

9. Kick Shields 

Kick shields look just like a giant shield that might be used by riot police, and they're designed to absorb impact. If you don't have a punching bag, you can get a solid kick shield and ask a partner to hold it up.

You can then practice a variety of different kicks and punches to improve your movement, coordination, and technique. You can also focus your offensive movements on different parts of your opponent's body. Many commercial gyms will have kick shields you can use even if they don’t have a punching bag. 

Garage Gym Pro Tip!

These are a lot cheaper to buy than punching bags, so they're a more affordable option for home gyms.  

Kick Shields

Benefits Of Alternative Exercises Over Using Punching Bags

Punching bags are useful, but these alternatives can actually help you improve your boxing technique and fitness more quickly because they offer a few key advantages: 

Better Development 

Many of the alternative punching bag alternatives involve working with a partner, either by sparring or using different equipment. Working with another human being forces you to react and adapt and gives you a better glimpse into what real boxing is like. Incorporating these alternatives into your regular routine can help you develop much more than training alone.  

Flexibility 

If you’re using a punching bag, then you’re probably very reliant on it for your training. This might mean you can only box in the gym, and if it's in use, you're stuck. These alternative exercises give you other options so you can pick up your training anywhere, at home or in any gym.

More Challenging 

Everyone knows that the best way to grow is to challenge yourself. If you're only using a punching bag, it can be easy to slip into a routine and stop improving. Adding some of these alternatives to your workout schedule will mix it up and can boost your progress.

Learn More - How To Hang A Punching Bag


Common Punching Bag Alternative Questions 

Can you make a homemade punching bag? 

Yes, you can use various homemade options to create a DIY punching bag. Many people use a duffel bag stuffed with clothes and duct-taped shut, but there are a few options out there. Just be careful when you're using it because if you punch and kick too hard, it could fall apart.

Can I use a mattress as a punching bag? 

Mattresses can make good punching bags because they offer some protection to your hands. Just make sure it’s not too old or the fabric could break, and your fist could hit the metal springs inside.

Is there a higher risk of injury when not using a punching bag? 

Punching bags are designed to limit the risk of injury, and some other DIY alternatives can carry a higher risk of injury. However, if you're replacing your punching bag with alternative equipment like kick shields, then the risk of injury is still minimal. Make sure you’re using gloves and padding where needed to protect yourself.


Conclusion

Using a punching bag regularly has a lot of benefits, but if you haven't got one available, it doesn't mean you have to miss out. Alternative punching bag exercises can actually bring a lot of benefits, and by adding in some different moves and equipment, you can see some real improvements compared to using a punching bag alone.

Hopefully, this article has given you some good ideas, and you feel ready to mix it up in your next workout.  

Paul J