Sorry to burst your AquaBag, but…

Water punching bags seem to have become very popular in both commercial gyms and home set-ups over recent years. In contrast to traditional heavy bags, which are typically filled with either sand or shredded fabric, water bags are – believe it or not – filled with water.

Aqua Training Bag, or AquaBag as it is more popularly known, is the most famous brand of water bag currently available on the market. Several high-profile pros, like Canelo and Golovkin, make use of AquaBags in their training, or at least they’ve occasionally been photographed and videoed doing so. You too might have trained on an AquaBag. You might even own one yourself.

Although “AquaBag” is on the way to becoming synonymous with “water bag” in the world of boxing (like “Hoover” is synonymous with “vacuum cleaner” in the UK), other companies have released their own models, including Everlast, Title, and Ringside in the United States and GameBred Sports in Australia. The aesthetics may differ, but functionally they’re very similar.

The companies all market these products with the same message: traditional heavy bags are hard, dangerous, and unhealthy, whereas water bags are soft(er), safe(r), and healthy(-ier). According to the enthusiastic marketers at AquaBag, for example:

Traditional heavy bags can put a lot of pressure and strain on the body. Training with a traditional heavy bag regularly can cause some serious damage to the hands, wrists, elbows, back and neck due to the repeated impact and subsequent compression that is put on the body due to the bag’s poor shock absorption.

By utilizing water, in place of sand or other materials commonly used to fill heavy bags, we were able to create the ideal training tool. The commercial grade outer skin, is tough enough to withstand professional-level strikes and kicks, while the flexible water filled center absorbs your exerted kinetic energy, resulting in less pain, fewer injuries, increased endurance, and more efficient training.

I have no idea whether there is any scientific evidence or theoretical basis for the claims made on behalf of water bags. AquaBag itself certainly doesn’t provide any such justification, and neither do any of the other companies. The appeal of the marketing is intuitive: surely punching water is gentler on the body than punching compressed sand or fabric?

In general, my personal experience with water bags has been that they are indeed gentler on the body. But this is so only as long as your punches land properly. If you land a punch improperly, there’s a non-negligible risk of your fist catching and rolling on the surface of the bag, thereby putting severe pressure on your wrist. I’ve never felt this phenomenon to the same degree on traditional heavy bags.

Another downside of water bags is that many of them are not ideal for training your bodywork. Traditional heavy bags (even most of the shorter ones) are long enough for you to practise working on the middle and lower torso. This is not so with many water bags. If training on a water bag is not supplemented with training on a traditional heavy bag, it may encourage excessive head-hunting in the ring.

But I genuinely enjoy training on my water bag. My intention here is not to dissuade you from training on one. Indeed, I’m sympathetic to the hyperbole of the AquaBag marketers:

You’ll be amazed when you feel the difference after throwing that first punch on your water-filled bag and wonder why you were ever using a hard, outdated, traditional bag in the first place.

It’s true that punching a water bag can feel really great – almost revelatory – especially if you’ve spent years and years punching a highly-compressed sand-filled bag your great great grandfather purchased in 1918 for relieving his shell shock.

The problem is not water bags per se, but rather the fact that AquaBags and all of the other water bags currently available on the market are rip-offs. And by that, I really do mean rip-offs.

Water bags are simply marine buoys marketed for a purpose other than their originally intended one. AquaBag and the other companies are vendors of ordinary marine buoys at extraordinary prices. The water bag industry is basically a marketing fraud perpetrated upon the community of boxers.

It’s not only possible, but very easy, to get a perfectly good water bag for a fraction of the cost of the brand-name ones. I will now demonstrate this possibility with regard to AquaBag in the United States and Gamebred in Australia. But the point holds for every brand of water bag. If, after reading this post, you go and buy a brand-name water bag, then you’re either rich or a fool or both.

United States: AquaBag vs Taylor Made Tuff End

Aqua Training Bag tell us that its bags “are created by one of the oldest and most respected manufacturing companies in the USA and crafted in Gloversville, NY.” The Taylor Made Group, a leading marine equipment manufacturer, happens to be headquartered Gloversville, NY. And, in fact, AquaBags are nothing but Taylor Made Tuff End marine buoys.

The only difference between an AquaBag and a Taylor Made buoy is aesthetic. AquaBags come in a range of ostentatious designs intended to bamboozle and override your rational faculties, whereas standard Taylor Made buoys are plain and simple. Functionally, they are equivalent. AquaBags will protect your boat just as well as Taylor Made buoys, while Taylor Made buoys will take your punches just as well as AquaBags. The reason is that they are one and the same thing.

I don’t live in the United States, but I know that Taylor Made Tuff End buoys are readily available on Amazon US. From what I can gather, you should also be able to find them at most marine supply stores around the country. All prices in the below table are taken from Amazon (shipping is free).

Bag SizeAquaBagTaylor MadeSaving
9″US$49.99US$28US$22
12″US$69.99US$37US$33
15″US$99.99US$43US$57
18″US$149.99US$60US$90
21″US$179.99US$100US$80

The price of an AquaBag includes a nozzle for filling it with water and a D-shackle for attaching it to a chain. Taylor Made buoys do not come with those accessories. But you can purchase them yourself for hardly anything on Amazon or at your local hardware store. You’ll still save a lot of money.

Australia: GameBred vs Polyform A-series

AquaBags used to be available in the Australian market, but the only retailer I know about which stocked them, Fighter’s Warehouse, seems to have shut down. This is perhaps not surprising given the utterly outrageous prices at which they were trying to flog off their AquaBags: 15 inch AquaBags for A$219.95, 18 inch for A$334.95, and 21 inch for A$399.95!

Another company has sought to fill the void in the Australian market. GameBred Sports sells its own water bags out of Melbourne. GameBred bags are rebranded marine buoys, just like AquaBags, and come in all the same dimensions AquaBags do, with the exception of 9 inch. They only available in black, though.

I haven’t been able to determine what marine buoy Gamebred is rebranding and selling on to its hapless customers. But the question is immaterial. Australia is a land girt by sea and marine buoys produced by leading manufacturers are readily available in marine supply stores all around the country. I personally own a Polyform A-series buoy, since that was what happened to be stocked in the first marine supply store I walked into (in Melbourne, incidentally).

The prices of Polyform A-series buoys in the table below are taken from one of the several online marine supply stores I found by way of a quick internet search. I couldn’t obtain a postage cost, but it seems reasonable to assume it wouldn’t be significantly greater, if at all, than GameBred’s rate of A$14. And of course postage is irrelevant anyway if you go to a marine supply store.

Bag Size
GB/PF
GameBredPolyformSaving
12″/12″A$140A$39A$101
15″/15″A$185A$55A$130
18″/19″ A$230A$84A$146
21″/23″A$325A$97A$228

(Note that GameBred 12″, 15″, and 18″ bags are available on eBay at higher prices than the official GameBred store. Note also that Amazon Australia and eBay Australia do not list Polyform buoys at good prices.)

The price of a GameBred bag includes a nozzle but no D-shackle. Polyform buoys don’t come with either of those accessories, but you can purchase them yourself for hardly anything at Bunnings or your local hardware store. Obviously, the savings will be immense.

An example set-up

I’ve had a water bag set up in my home gym for years now. I use a Polyform A-2 marine buoy purchased from a small marine supplies store in Melbourne. I don’t know if it’s still there. The two old salts who ran the business were very interested in the novel use to which I intended to put the marine buoy. They had a good laugh when I told them about the cost of AquaBags and other brands of water bag.

Check it out:

Polyform A-2 (19.5″) marine buoy

That’s a perfectly functional water bag. It may not sport an ostentatious design a la AquaBag, but it does the same thing. It just works.

You will need a tapered nozzle to fill your marine buoy. I got the nozzle below at Bunnings for AU$5 or thereabouts.

A tapered nozzle from Bunnings

And this is the screw-in valve cap:

Valve cap on Polyform A-2 marine buoy

You obviously need to remove valve cap before filling up your marine buoy through the valve. If the valve itself disrupts the flow of water, push through it with a screwdriver or drill it out. That’s what I did. Make sure you don’t mess up the thread for reinsertion of the screw-in valve cap.

A D-shackle is useful for attaching your marine buoy to a chain or rope. It’s strictly unnecessary, though, because you can loop a chain or rope directly through the eye of the marine buoy if you want.

D-shackle attaching buoy to chain

Marine buoys can be heavy when they’re full of water. The big ones (21-23 inch) are really heavy indeed and you should probably mount them before you fill them up with water. I use a heavy bag spring to minimise the stress on my bag stand during workouts.

Spring minimising weight stress on bag stand

So that’s it. Let me know how you go with your own water bag set-up in the comments below!

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Posted by ScepticalBoxer

4 comments

John Rae Wilson

Thanks for the info. I am in the process of setting up a home gym and as an older man with limited boxing experience, I firmly believe in the cardio and fitness benefits of a heavy bag. I was taken with the idea of an aqua bag being a little more gentle on the body.
I have done some preliminary research when I stumbled on your site and as a fellow Aussie, I couldn’t be happier. I am taking your advice and will be buying a Buoy…my only decision being which size best suits my needs. Since I don’t have the luxury of installing a separate Heavy Bag, I am tending towards this one…
Size: A4
Colour: Red
Diameter: 580mm
Buoyancy: 108kg/62kg
Your thoughts would be appreciated
Again…many thanks for the info…and also…I love the info on the rest of your site… a breath of fresh air to be reading stuff written by someone without an agenda.
Regards
John

ScepticalBoxer

I’m glad you found this post informative, John.

A Polyform A4 buoy would make a really sturdy and stable water bag – BUT it will be extremely heavy when filled with water.

This means, firstly, that the intended support mechanism (bracket or whatever) must be very robust, and secondly, that you only fill the buoy after you’ve hung it on the intended support mechanism.

Best wishes for setting up your home gym! I also train a lot at home, so I’m happy to provide further advice should you need it.

John Rae Wilson

Thanks for your quick reply and your reminder to make certain that my support bracket is strong enough to do the job. Unfortunately, the day after I asked you the question, I tore my bicep muscle rather badly (the good news is that it is still attached to the bone so complete healing is only a matter of time combined with rest) and I have temporarily put the installation of the bag on the backburner. No matter…I will still go ahead and purchase the buoy and just bide my time.
Thanks also for your most welcome offer of further advice, which no doubt will come in really handy.
Cheers
John

ScepticalBoxer

No worries, John. I hope your bicep heals quickly. It’s good it didn’t tear off. I actually completely tore off one of my biceps about 20 years ago and it was not a pleasant experience! Anyway, best wishes for setting up your gym.

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