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’re 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

27 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.

Bilbo Baggins

This is exciting, I definitely feel bamboozled by the AquaBag folks. I was thinking about getting one, but I think I’m going to buy a marine buoy instead. If I knew more about boating then their product would be immediately recognizable as fancy looking paint job on a standard buoy.

You’ve saved me a ton of money, and helped me get started for a lot less than I thought I would be.

ScepticalBoxer

That’s great, Bilbo. You really should just buy a marine buoy. There is absolutely no doubt that AquaBags are Taylor Made Tuff End marine buoys. You could spend the money you save on some new gloves.

Hi just checking if you could provide details of the stand you use with your water bag. This article was super helpful thanks!
Sonia

ScepticalBoxer

Hi Sonia, no worries, pleased you got something out of it.

At the moment I’m using the Jim Bradley Home Circuit Stand:

https://jimbradley.com.au/products/home-circuit-stand

You need something pretty heavy duty, especially for the larger water bags. Good luck!

Maaaate, you are a legend, literally came within minutes of getting sucked in, so you saved me over $100, I owe you a beer 🍺!!!

“You’re my buoy blue”

ScepticalBoxer

Hahaha… no worries Nick, I hope enjoy training on your water bag.

Hey mate, thanks so much for writing this post! I’m an Aussie too and have had trouble finding info on bags specific to our region.

I’ve been boxing for a few months and have been dying to install some kind of bag at home. Only problem is that I don’t have the room inside to hang it. I did a ton of research and looked into standing bags and BOB dummies, which I understand aren’t ideal. I was looking at hanging a heavy bag from my pergola but I don’t think it’ll hold. I even considered building a garage just so I had somewhere to train (seriously more expensive than I thought).

Thanks to your post, I’ve decided that a buoy is my best bet. I was planning on hanging one off a branch on the big tree in my backyard but sounds like the weight might be too much.

Do you think buying a proper bracket and drilling it into the bricks at the side of my house would be the way to go? It would have to be exposed to the elements which is why I wanted to go with the buoy. I’m concerned that it may even be too heavy and damage the brickwork, though. The other option would be to buy a second hand stand and not worrying if it is out in the weather.

What option do you think would work best? Also what size buoy should I go for?

Thanks heaps!

ScepticalBoxer

Hi Andy, no worries, I’m glad you found the post useful.

Buoys are probably the best option for outdoor training because they’re designed to withstand the elements.

You’ll need to determine for yourself whether you want to use a wall bracket or a stand. I don’t want to give you bad advice that damages your house!

That said, a wall bracket could certainly work – assuming, firstly, that the brick wall is sufficiently strong, and secondly, that you use a sufficient number of sufficiently sturdy dynabolts. The key word in all that is of course “sufficient”!

As you intimate, water bags can be very heavy. One way to mitigate the stress on the mount (be it a bracket or stand) is to use a heavy bag spring like the one shown in the post. It really helps to prevent the water bag from inflicting hard, jarring jolts on the mount.

Regarding size, it’s really a matter of preference. I like the Polyform A-2 buoy because it’s light enough to move around quite a bit, but not wildly. This makes it good for training footwork and certain evasive techniques. A harder puncher than me, however, might prefer one of the larger buoys. But whatever you do, don’t go any smaller than a Polyform A-2 (unless you want something more like a slip bag than a heavy bag).

Let me know how it goes!

Shayne Herrera

I tried to fill my buoy last night, and it didn’t work! Water sprayed everywhere and I couldn’t get it to fill at all. I used a hose nozzle to concentrate the stream to try and fill the buoy. I used this nozzle:
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Yardsmith-1-Pattern-Nozzle/50328295

What should I try now?

ScepticalBoxer

Hi Shayne, I had the very same experience. You can try doing what I say to do in the post: “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.”

Richard Maait

Hey Mate, just wanted to be another one to express my gratitude. I’m Australian also and I was about to drop $420 on an XL Aquabag and my research lead me here! You just saved me a huge chunk of cash. Much appreciated.

Hey again,

Thanks so much for the advice. I’ve gone down some deep internet rabbit holes researching things now.

I was wondering if you had an opinion on stationary bags? My research says they aren’t great, but considering my situation, it may have to do.

I was looking at the original BOB dummies and now the Punch brand “urban freestanding bag.

Do you have an opinion on these? I’m guessing they’re not ideal but may be better than nothing.

Thanks and hope you don’t mind the questions. Great website!

ScepticalBoxer

Given you ended up here at ScepticalBoxer, I assumed you must have gone down some deep internet rabbit holes. I don’t mind the questions.

Many people seem to dislike BOBs, but I really enjoy using them.

The form/shape is obviously more realistic than a heavy bag, thereby giving you a better sense of what it’s actually like to punch the head vis-a-vis the body. The rebound can also give you a better sense of trying to hit a (rapidly) slipping opponent.

As for the slick marketing outfit known as Punch Equipment, I’ve generally found that the price-to-quality ratio of their products is not great. But I’ve never used any Punch freestanding bags. I imagine they’d be good enough for the duration of self-isolation.

Glad you like the website!

Thanks so much for the advice. Good to hear that the BOB dummy is an OK choice for practicing at home. It looks like the original BOB is Century brand and it doesn’t seem to be available in Australia anymore. There seems to be a whole range of other options including ‘Shinobi’ and then some all black dummies branded by Morgan and Bodyworx. If you don’t mind one more question, do you have an option on a suitable BOB style dummy that’s available in Oz? Many thanks!

ScepticalBoxer

No worries man. Rebel sells one for A$399. You can also get them on eBay for A$350-$450. The Morgan one costs about $450, I think. Some of the others cost even more, but I doubt whether they’re worth it.

Looks like I’m the first South African here – have some fam in AU an NZ though. What’s up Aussies haha.

Anyway, enough about my tangents, just wanted to do an appreciation post. I’ve been doing martial arts for most of my life, and just recently I’ve been looking for a proper heavy bag that can withstand the abuse a 112KG man can dish out as i am a hard puncher and my previous 2 bags split open after only a few months of use. I’ve always like using the aqua bags at my old gyms as they were always a relief for my joints after slamming my fists into sandbags repeatedly, but buying an Aqua Bag is super expensive as it bleeds your pocket dry. So having found this post, I purchased a marine buoy and im very thankful that you wrote this little bit of info on the buoys. For all the big guys and girls out there with a heavy fist or powerful punches, investing in one of these buoys as a punching bag will not only make your pockets smile but your body will thank you in the long run as well. And some people would say it is not as advantageous as a regular heavy bag because you can’t throw body blows and all, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons for me as the smaller bags work your footwork and range, and the bigger bags absorb and disperse my force than regular heavy bags.

I read every single post on this thread and each one has helped me in a different way, giving me perspective from different people and their problems and solutions to it. A great little sub-community (if that is even a word). Thanks to all of you guys, enjoy releasing your lockdown rage on your buoys😂

Critical B&F

Hi AJ, thanks for your great comment, it’s always good to know when someone finds a post interesting or useful. Best wishes for your training!

Mate, you are a legend. Owe you a beer!

Critical B&F

Thanks mate, enjoy your water bag!

This be alright leaving in sun during the day? Harder to take down than a standard heavy bag.

Critical B&F

I think it’d be ok. After all, these buoys are designed for serious marine applications.

Hey mate,

I see that you’ve said that you used “Polyform A-2 (19.5″) marine buoy”

From looking online it seems to me that A-2 buoys are 395mm (16″)
and that A3 buoys are 475 mm (18.7″).

Do you actually have an A3 buoy?

Critical B&F

Nah, it’s the A-2. I think the 19.5″ is how long/tall it is. If you check out US Polyform specs, you’ll find the A-2 listed as 19.5″ or 14.5″ x 19.5″ or something like that.

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