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Fri Feb 3, 2012, 12:55 PM

Punching Bag Workout

One of my favorite high intensity workouts is using a punching bag. It's an excellent and demanding workout for endurance and power training. If you want to work on your speed, improve your stamina and burn 558 calories per hour* then throw this workout into your mix once or twice a week and enjoy the results. Alternately, if you just want to beat the crap out of an innocent bag after a rough day, you're going to love this.

What you'll need:

- A good, secure punching bag. Many gyms and rec centers have one, and they tend to sit dejectedly in a corner, lonely and unused. Go give it some love. If you want advice for buying your own punching bag, ask me and I'll be happy to impart the same. I've destroyed more than a few of them so I know the good ones from the bad.

- Bag gloves. Your gym may be able to loan you a pair or you can pick up something at a fitness apparel store for $20-$50. The good ones last a long time.

- Timer. They sell round timers at fitness stores (ranging from dirt cheap to really expensive). A boxing gym will have twelve of these lying around, ten of which will work. If you have a smart phone, there's a lot of apps out there that do the same thing. I bought one called "Round Timer" for $2.

- Athletic tape or wrap (optional). Some bag gloves do a good job at protecting the knuckles but most don't. I like to tape up my knuckles before putting the gloves on to prevent scraping all the skin off. I use Johnson & Johnson heavy duty cloth first aid tape.

- Water. Have a container of water nearby that you can sip between rounds. You will want it.

The Workout:

The idea is to hit the bag for a set interval of time, then rest. You do this for a number of rounds and you're done. If you were to hit the bag as hard as you could for 48 continuous minutes, you would either (1) be too tired after 10 minutes to get an effective workout and you would suffer diminishing returns the rest of your workout, or (2) you would be George Foreman who could and did hit the bag at full bore for 48 minutes as part of his workout. Check in the mirror to see if you're George Foreman. If you're not, then you want to use intervals.

What intervals you use depend on your current conditioning. There's no wrong answer. A good beginner interval would be 2 minutes hitting the bag, 1 minute rest, repeat for 10 rounds. I currently do 3 minutes on / 1 minute off for 12 rounds, which is the official boxing interval. MMA intervals are 5 minutes on and 1 minute off. Your round timer can be set for any interval your little heart desires. It can also give you a warning ding before the round ends; I set it at 30 seconds for my workouts. When your intervals seem too easy, you can either hit the bag harder and faster each round, or you can increase the duration / decrease the rest period. I'd try to keep the rest periods at least 30 seconds.

How to hit the bag:

If you've never hit a bag before, it's worth it to find someone to show you a few punches. If this is out of your price range, a bit of research on the internet will help considerably. The below two articles will get you started, but by no means will they (nor will this post) teach you everything you need to know.


Punch with your wrist straight. It should be in a straight line with your forearm. Only bend it back or forth if you want to sprain or break your wrist.

Tuck your thumb under your fist. Do not tuck it inside the curl of your index finger. You will injure your thumb if you do, 100% chance. Google any picture of Bruce Lee to see a proper fist form.

What to do each round:

This is the fun part. You can go freestyle every round if you want, but I tend to like a little more variety (or structure maybe) so I try to do something different each round.

- Warmup round: Your first round is light and easy (unless you're George Foreman; see above to determine if you are). It's a warmup. If you wish, do some shadow boxing or mirror boxing before you even do your warmup. Hit with about half force. Go easy. Get your body ready for it. When I do 12 rounds, my warmup round is Round Zero. That way, Rounds 1-12 are full force.

- Jabs: The jab is a straight punch. Think of punching through a hole. Keep your elbows tucked in close and your fists close to your head. They're not a very powerful punch but they're important for coordination and as part of boxing. At least one round should be devoted to nothing but jabs.

- Combinations: Work on a set combo (left - left - RIGHT, something like that) for a while. Work on your cadence. Try to notice anything in your movement that would make your next strike predictable, and try to eliminate it.

- Freestyle: Hit, jab, pummel, elbow, backhand, cross punch, hook, uppercut, kick, knee, headbutt, whatever you want.

- All Kicks: Arms getting tired? Practice kicking. You kick a bag for three minutes straight, and you will get tired.

- Southpaw: Reverse your orientation. Most right-handed people put their left side forward when facing the bag. Put your right side forward and practice this way for a round.

- Set Number of Strikes: If you don't have a round timer and don't like watching the clock, you can pace your rounds at a set number of strikes. 100 is a pretty good number. Keep your cadence high and unpredictable.

- Double Rounds: It's been three minutes and your round timer dinged, indicating you should rest a minute. Ignore this. Keep hitting the bag through your rest period, and through the next round. You don't want to do these more than once or twice in your workout, if at all. They tend to defeat the purpose of HIIT training but can be thrown in once in a while if you really want to dig deep.

- The last 30 seconds: My round timer gives me a 30 second warning ding before the rest period begins. In the last 30 seconds, I renew my assault and hit it with everything I have, to squeeze out the last bit of juice left in the battery before I recharge. The last 30 seconds of the last round should be everything you got. Leave nothing on the mat.

Punching Bags Workouts Are Not For Women

One of the toughest women I know is 5'1", weighs 121 pounds soaking wet, and can make a Muay Thai bag beg for mercy. When she hits the bag it sounds like a gunshot.

Have fun with it. This is a demanding workout and a good augment to any strength training or aerobic conditioning. Consistent practice will give you stronger endurance, improved coordination, self defense skills and stress relief. There are some up-front cost considerations with this training, but for what you can get out of this workout it's an absolute bargain.

*This caloric figure depends on your body weight, gender, age, how hard you hit the bag, how fast you hit the bag, your favorite color, whether you own dogs, and the current phase of the moon. I found it on the internet so it must be true. It may also vary widely depending on other factors not listed. Some restrictions apply. Void where prohibited.

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Reply Punching Bag Workout (Original post)
ZenLefty Feb 2012 OP
tuvor Feb 2012 #1
femalepowerlifter Mar 2014 #2

Response to ZenLefty (Original post)

Fri Feb 3, 2012, 06:28 PM

1. Bookmarked, thank you. n/t

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Response to ZenLefty (Original post)

Sat Mar 1, 2014, 07:50 PM

2. Why not women

Exactly why shouldn't women do punch bag workouts? For starters, the anecdote you accompany this lovely misogynist statement with conflicts with it. It sounds like she could get a lot out of using it because it can improve her accuracy with punches and such, which would be entirely necessary thanks to the rape culture that we are still suffering in. Punch bag workouts are excellent for both aerobic and muscle workout, why wouldn't a woman want to do this? I personally have dodgy knees, so I can't run and live in a very hilly area so cycling absolutely sucks. Punch bag workouts are one of my best options...

Just a reasonable explanation as to why women can't do this would be really fab, thanks.

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