Similarities & Differences Between Heavy Bag, Pad Work and Shadowboxing

Heavy bag, pad work and shadowboxing are all great options to develop cardio, rhythm, flow, technique, muscle memory, build muscle and lose weight. Although they have many similarities, they also differ in many ways and that's why it is important to incorporate all three training methods into your routine.

Why Use The Heavy Bag?

Heavy bag work is primarily used for developing power and conditioning. It also strengthens your bone ligaments and hardens your shins. When using the heavy bag, you should still focus on maintaining the best form possible, but you should primarily focus on blasting the heavy bag as hard as you can! Your muscles will grow when they meet resistance and you can bet a heavy bag will give you a lot of resistance! The resistance a heavy bag provides when you hit it will give your muscles microscopic tears, and those tears will heal thicker and stronger allowing you to strike with even more power next time. These are just a couple of my favourite heavy bag combinations to throw if you need a bit of inspiration!

My Favourite Heavy Bag Combinations

Why Pad Work is Necessary For Training?

Pad work is primarily used for developing accuracy, timing, distance management and actually simulates a real match. Pads are definitely smaller targets than a heavy bag, which will help you develop your accuracy in your strikes. Your pad holder will not always be holding the target up for you to hit, they will move around mimicking an opponent and flash the pads up meaning your opponent is open for you to strike at the right moment, in which you will try to accurately hit as fast as you can, developing your timing.

Pad work allows you to be interactive with your partner, working on offensive and defensive movement. Your pad holder can attack back at you in which you can defend, and they can play defence in which you work your offence. Similarly, hitting pads with your partner allows you to gain a better sense of whether you are in or out of range to strike.

You may figure out whether you are an outside fighter (fighting at an arm’s length where you are at a distance to throwing long straight punches, roundhouse and push kicks) or an inside fighter (fighting in the pocket where you are at a distance to throw short circular punches, knees or elbows).

Lastly, hitting pads is a stepping stone to sparring as it helps simulate a match as much as possible, by drilling common situations occurred in a match. Your pad holder will throw strikes at you in which you can defend, but it also allows you to counter. By drilling counters like this on the pads over and over again, you will start to develop your fight IQ and the muscle memory to react this way in sparring.

What Is Shadowboxing Good For?

Shadowboxing is primarily used for developing technique, footwork, spatial awareness and visualizing different opponents. Unlike hitting the heavy bag or smashing pads, if you have access, it's best to shadowbox in front of a mirror so you can see exactly what you are doing and make the necessary adjustments to correct your form!

Shadowboxing is also a great way to train your footwork by moving forward, backwards, side to side and circling. While you move around you should also be visualizing your potential opponent. You may want to back up quickly and circle out as if you are against an aggressive opponent, or march forward and cut your opponent off against an opponent who is very defensive. But whether you are up against a defensive opponent or not, you can bet that you will not land every strike you throw in a fight!

It is important to shadowbox to get used to the feeling of missing and striking the air. It is very different hitting and making contact with a target, then it is to miss and swing through - it is actually much more tiring to miss! This shadowboxing routine will help you get more comfortable before your training session, and keep things fun.

Shadowboxing Routine Tutorial

Now whether you are using the heavy bag, hitting pads or shadowboxing, the one advice I tell people is to figure out what you’ll be working on in your session ahead of time. If you are like me or most people, shadowboxing, heavy bag work and even pad work can get boring and extremely fast if you are training on your own with no plan! On the other hand, if you are following a workout or being instructed by someone, time flies!

If you are interested in 12 complete follow along workouts with over 100 combinations, I highly recommend you check out The Solo Heavy Bag Training Program:

MMA Shredded Solo Heavy Bag Training by Jeff Chan

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