This one's going to be a little different.
I'm not sure I've ever done a "Recommended" post before, but here goes.
People ask me all the time: "What kind of punching bag should I buy for home?? Do I need one??"
My answer: yes. if you're training from home regularly, or exclusively, yes you need one. You can only get so strong by punching the air or, for kids, punching pillows. Proper punching bags are interactive, they make you stronger, and are like training with a real karate partner.
I've had many kinds of punching bags over the years, both in the dojo and for my own use at home, and here's my take on different bags for every need.
Don't: The Blowup Kind
This is the one I see parents buying for their kids all the time. They wobble and bob around and they're so much fun, but don't do it.
Is it cheap? Yes. Do kids love it? Sure. Should you buy one? No way.
I hate these bags. I do. I used to love them, but there are 2 major issues I discovered after owning them and seeing my students own them:
First, they pop. They break and pop and deflate and it's impossible to find the hole to patch it up with tape. Your bag will pop or deflate within the first 3 weeks with daily or even weekly use.
Second, they leak. See that thing at the bottom? That's the water bladder. It holds the bag up. And it will leak at some point.
It's just not worth the $28 you can get it on Amazon for.
Do for Kids: Versys Spar
These things are so cool.
Just look at it. It doesn't take up much space. It wobbles like a reflex bag (this is a good thing) but can also take a hit like a freestanding bag. And the best part: it won't damage your walls or floor.
And at $219 for the kids Versys, it's honestly not too badly priced for how great this bag is. Buy the kids Versys here.
This video will give you an idea of both size and how it operates.
It's got no base, which means you can't possibly hurt your feet with misplaced kicks (like the bag below). It can stand up to a good kick or punch and is even designed that you can put it on the ground to wrestle with. However, this one is going to be better for younger or smaller kids, because it's fairly light.
Versys also comes in Adults size, however, seems unavailable at this time. Check here to see if it's in stock.
Do: Freestanding Bags (kids options too!)
These things come with a bit bigger of a price tag, but you can find used ones on sale ones online for around $200 at Canadian Tire or even on Amazon. The base is sturdy (if a little large, but any adult or even a child aged 7-8 and up) and won't leak, can be filled with water or sand for an even heavier bag, and won't easily move. They also don't require a ton of space, with a base diameter of 26 inches.
Good options include:
Everlast Powercore is a good cheaper option.
Century Wavemaster is great for anyone ages 9 and up.
For younger kids, the Lil Dragons Wavemaster is a great option. But though it goes up to 4 feet tall (ish), it's not very heavy, and if you have a very strong child, they will be able to kick it over. (I had one when I was a kid and I could kick it over by the time I was 9 years old without even trying and couldn't really even use it anymore).
Most of these are also available at your local sporting goods store, too!
These little bags are fun and cheap, with the Everlast (bag only) being only $39 on Amazon, and they're honestly not bad. However, this bag is mostly a bit of fun and ends up being more expensive than it's worth. They attach both at the top and bottom, to the top in the wall with a platform ($159) or a metal loop screwed into the ceiling, and to the floor with an anchor bag ($39). One punch and the bag will go swinging wildly around on elastics (seen to the left), thus making you learn to move faster by forcing you to move your feet and upper body (lest the ball smacks you in the face). I think you can get the same effect for speed training with the bag below, minus the part where you have to drill into your walls.
All in all, if you already have a spot to hang the bag up, go for it. If not, I think it's not worth the time and money spent.
Do: (for small spaces): Strike Bags
Also called a reflex bag, it moves when you strike it, mimicking a real partner or sparring experience. Dodge the bag when it comes back toward you, or it'll hit you in the face. You can see what I mean in this video.
This bag is for speed. It is not for power.
If you're not a super large person with a lot of weight to put behind your strikes, you'll be fine to punch this baby as hard as you like and it won't break. I have one and (though I can punch it over if I really try and the base isn't totally filled) it always stands up to my strikes. Literally.
Also: strike bags can only be hit with strikes (it's right in the name). You can't kick it, since the middle is made up of a flexible metal pole. I personally have one of these in my home dojo, and I did modify mine with a bit of foam on the bottom wrapped around the pole so it can be hit with light kicks. Am I saying you should do the same? Well, I'm not saying you can't. However, you can't kick the foam as hard as possible: it's mostly for gently aimed kicks and proper technique. Full power will probably hurt (you and the bag).
Mine is the Hyperflex by Everlast and I love it. I got mine at Walmart for $99, though it is currently unavailable at that price, you can also find it here. However, they have a similar Gozone brand one, here and though I haven't tried this one specifically I have always had good experiences with any Gozone products I've tried.
This bag also comes in a kid's option here. Unlike the Wavemaster, I've never tried one of these in the kids' size, but so long as your child realizes that this bag cannot be kicked, I think you'll be good to go.
I've never had this one by Everlast, but the striking service is large, which I have to think is a great thing.
My Favourite: Hanging Bags
The classic punching bag.
Pros: they're classic, have a large striking area for both punches and kicks, you can hit it as hard as you like, and it both moves like a reflex bag and can take a hit like a Wavemaster.
1. Putting it Up
There are two ways to put one of these in your home.
First, you can drill into your ceiling or wall to install an anchor, or hang it from a beam in your garage or basement. You can also buy whole kits like this to get all of the right pieces to do this, but the punching bag with comes with a kit is unfilled which I personally would not want (more on that below.
Second, you can get a stand. No holes in the ceiling or wall required, but it will need a bit more space. Something like this will do. Cons of a stand: you have to be aware of your kicks if you have long legs, so you don't accidentally kick the stand instead of the bag.
No matter which way you put it up, you will need one of these to attach it to at the bottom, to stop it from swinging around.
2. The Bag Itself
Tip: always get vinyl. Never buy canvas bags unless you want your skin ripped up.
There are 2 kinds of bags available. One is super cheap: this is because they are unfilled!. I would never buy an unfilled bag. It's too much work, too messy, and filling it is probably going to be expensive to fill it. But if you're so inclined, do not fill it with sand. It settles into a hard lump at the bottom which hurts to kick. Instead, fill it with old clothes (which you can buy in bulk from Value Village) or fill it with Polyfill or something similar.
Personally, I would always buy a pre-filled bag. Depending on your size, there are different weights. I like a heavier bag: mine are the 100 pound Oversize bag. The issue with light bags is that one good kick or punch sends it swinging in every direction, probably hitting walls along the way.
Kids would be good with a smaller, 40 LB bag. If you want something that will work for an average-sized person with a decent punch, this 70 LB bag would be just perfect. This 80 LB bag would also be great for most adults. The heavier the better, especially if you're a strong person with a wicked kick. Anyone stronger should go with a 100+ LB bag like the one above.
They do come in kids size, but for a kid I'd recommend getting a regular-sized one and just filling it with a softer material (more on that below).
Always get a heavy bag if you can.
If not, get a freestanding bag.
If you have a kid, get them a Versys or a Kids Wavemaster.
If you don't have much space, get a Strike Bag.