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Starting at the bottom is pretty much the only way to go obviously

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Filling a punching bag is not as easy as many believe to be. There are many little secrets and techniques involved that make the end result much better.

Basically there are two options. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on a filling machine (which I do not recommend you doing) or get a nice decent sledgehammer with a long neck and do it manually. The sledgehammer is the right way to go if your goal is a firm and well balanced punching bag.
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You are probably thinking that a sledgehammer is not the appropriate tool use and why in Gods name would you be pounding on a punching bag with it. You aren't hitting it, you are stuffing the inside of it.

Before starting you should consider why you will use the punching bag for. Which martial art or training regime will you use? Obviously the bags cannot be made the same in terms of hardness, size and weight. Martial arts differ in the way that certain arts do not use kicks and concentrate only on punches, therefore the bag doesn't have to be harder on the bottom. Other arts like muay thai and kickboxing focus more on kicks therefore needing a heavier and harder bag in order to keep it from swinging about. All of the above mentioned facts can have an influence in how you fill the bag.
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You have to use layers. Yes, layers on top of layers.

Starting at the bottom is pretty much the only way to go obviously. The bottom will probably be crumpled, because if you have bought an empty bag it will be folded up to save space. The bottom will even out when you start stuffing the filling in. For example let us take a 5 foot long and 15 inches wide standard punching bag. You should take your fill (cotton rags) and stuff about a foot of it in the bag. Take the sledgehammer and pound it about 20-30 times (depending on your wishes of hardness) and repeat the process till you get to the top. The higher you get the less pounding you should consider, due to the fact that the upper part of the bag is usually made for punching and the hands are much more likely to sustain injuries as the legs are. You can however make the bag lighter and just pound it 10-20 times, if let say you are doing it for your children.
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The problem you will run into is the collapsing of the bag. The easiest solution is just to use the hinges of the bag (usually a bag has 4 hinges) and tie each one on some hooks you have in your garage or some wooden beam of some sort. It doesn't have to hold any weight, because its sole purpose is to hold the shell of the bag steady that you can stuff it in without it collapsing.

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