T Nation

Knee Work on the Heavy Bag

So I’m gradually stepping up my heavy bag work and after a 20 min HIIT session on the treadmill, I decided to give it three 2 min rounds on zee bag.

Was really getting into the knee work; I think I didn’t land one properly, and the inner lower quad muscle right around the kneecap got a bit bruised. There isn’t much pain but I feel it stiffen up and there’s mild discomfort as I kneel down and sit with my hammies tucked under.

I’m sure it’s a result of bad form, plus it doesn’t help that our gym heavy bag hovers around waist level. It doesn’t hang down all the way to your shin level.

Also, I worked on arms and forearms the previous day. Now they feel funny too. As in, overworked and slightly numb.

This is all part of conditioning isn’t it? Your body takes a while to adapt. And something that concerns me is weight training and heavy bag work. Should I take a day off after weight training to do heavy bag work, should I work it before, or on the same day?

As always, I would love to hear what you seasoned martial artists and heavy bag enthusiasts have to say about this.

For the knee I’m just going to take a day off and ice it. Good enough?

So what’s the usual response time in these threads???

Much faster if people have something to say, which, apparently, they don’t.

bruised thighs from kicking are no big deal. I don’t even ice them; I deal with the discomfort and go squat the next day. A few pointers for the future, though…

  • hanging the bag lower might be useful.
  • don’t hit with the inside, hit with the middle
  • make sure your knee travels forward rather than up; also, really bend your knee and point your toes back. By doing so, you retract the patella into the knee and improve the rigidity of the area.
  • Recovery is a very individual issue. Generally, I’ve found that bruises only cause discomfort but they don’t mean you can’t get out of bed; muscles can take quite a beating and come out on top. Remember, your muscles are usually the last thing to give out - your connective tissue, joints and CNS are vulnerable and even those can take a lot if you ease into it. Concerning ‘CNS fatigue’ - test your grip on a daily basis (easiest way is to hang from a pullup bar, ideally with one hand). If it gets worse for days in a row, it’s time to take a break.
  • Lastly… Some things like rope skipping, sprinting, punching, kicking, have to be treated as skill work for a while before you can use them for conditioning. If you don’t, you’re making the same mistake as a crossfitter sloppily cleaning 110 for sets of 40. Just something to think about. Nail the technique before you go full throttle.

Those are excellent suggestions. Just what I need.

Thanks nighthawkz.

Yeah, sorry, I saw your thread but didn’t have time to respond and figured that someone else would answer.

As NightHawkz mentioned, some degree of bruising is fairly common when first starting body conditioning (which I would consider kneeing/kicking the heavy bag to be). That said I also agree that you should focus on correct technique/mechanics before you go all out with the conditioning.

So, in regards to knees, there are actually several different correct ways to throw knees:
-upwards knees (which would be targeted at the groin, the head if you had them bent over, their leg if you caught a kick, etc…)
-spearing knees (like what NightHawkz described, usually targeted to the body or legs or sometimes to the head again if you have them bent over)
-circular knees (which come in on a horizontal angle or downward horizontal angle and the surface used us the inside of the knee not the top or point)
-downward knees/dropping knees (not really relevant to throwing on a heavy bag unless you are doing RMA ground and pound drills)

You of course don’t have to learn all of these types of knees, but understanding how each should be thrown should help you to refine your technique and mixing them up can help to break up the monotony your conditioning and allow you to work your muscles from different angles.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for that! Great pointers, this helps for sure. Appreciate it.

The bag hovers too high in my gym… I think my knee caught the base, which is probably why it didn’t land properly and caused bruising on top and inside surface of the kneecap (inside thigh/long quad head, right leg).

It’s better now… i jogged a little yesterday and did some HIIT on the elliptical to see how it feels. It’s feels okay. There is still minor swelling in the area as both kneecaps don’t look the same size! Icing and compression helped. That’s done with as it’s been 72 hours. I had taken some Iboprufen and Paracetamol as well, but I do not like those - they make my digestive system all funny.

Lesson learned; need to work on technique more and probably stretch more too. Plus, it doesn’t help I’ve to be in a seated position at least 6-8 hours a day. Not good for the knees I imagine.

Sitting isn’t bad for the knees at all, at least not directly. It tends to shorten the hip flexors over time which handicaps the hip ROM which can then lead to faulty movement patterns which damage the knee… But that’s a fairly long causal chain.

-use a medium-heavy bag, the heaviest ones might indeed bruise your knee and I see no point when one is running and kicking and fighting and whatnot all the while your cartilage is not getting fresher
-also, some gyms have really old bags with nearly rockhard filling on the bottom; avoid those when practising knees
-do some knee-skipping drills beforehand, first without the bag, then with the bag
something like this, with rhythm:


  1. Stand in front of the bag, be on guard, do some light shadowboxing/defensive movements then clinch up and do a hard knee or two or three. Keep your arms/defense/awareness up.

  2. Single full power knees.
    Do both the one where you land more or less sideways (the arm on the kneeing side is up and can touch the bag) and the one where you are more squared up (thrust the arm on the kneeing side back hard; the other arm goes across the body and also helps generate power). You should feel your legs and core with those. Particularly the hip flexers you should feel. Triple extension ftw!
    Explosiveness is more important than textbook defensive form. Throw everything into that knee!

  3. finally, do combinations where the knee is the first or last thing you throw, or both.
    Use all the space around the bag for set up footwork