Does Punching a Bag Build Muscle? (The Answer)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: June 20, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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Most people know that boxing is high-intensity cardio work that boosts speed, agility, coordination, power, upper body strength and brings many health benefits.

So, a punching bag is a valuable piece of equipment.

But, the question many clients have asked me is:

“Can hitting a punching bag build muscles at all?”

This article gives the answer and shares tips on balancing the critical factors to maximize your muscle mass gains as a boxer.

Quick Summary

  • Hitting a punching bag effectively works almost all lower and upper body muscles, particularly with a heavy bag, enhancing muscle mass in areas like shoulders, arms, chest, back, core, glutes, and legs.
  • Maximizing muscle gains from punching bag workouts involves incorporating boxing HIIT sessions, mixing routines with weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, and mastering the correct technique and form.
  • Research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research indicates that heavy-bag workouts engage a wide range of muscle groups.
  • In my opinion, punching bag workouts are an excellent way to not only improve boxing technique but also significantly boost overall physical fitness and mental well-being.

What Muscles Does Punch Bag Work?

shirtless man boxing with a punching bag

Punch bag movements work almost all your lower and upper body muscles, especially if you punch a heavy bag instead of a speed bag, as per research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research [1].

The most engaged muscles are:

  • Shoulders (deltoids)
  • Arms (biceps, triceps)
  • Chest  (pectorals)
  • Back (trapezius, latissimus dorsi)
  • Core (abdominals)
  • Glutes
  • Legs (quadriceps, hamstrings)

How to Maximize Your Gains When Doing a Punching Bag Workout

Here are some tips to help you get the most muscle-building gains from punching bags.

1. Include Boxing HIIT Sessions in Your Training Routine

man using ropes for cardio

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, by incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your punching bag training, you can get a more challenging and effective cross-functional training program [2].

Mix those boxing combos with other sweat-breaking activities like jumping jacks, push-ups, or jumping rope.

I found these sessions crucial in my training, mixing intense bursts with recovery to build strength and endurance.

youtube

2. Add Variety

man using dumbbells in one arm

Mix up your routine with weightlifting or bodyweight exercises—a strategy I used for a comprehensive muscle build. I'd start with precise punches and shoulder presses with lighter weights, gradually cranking up the intensity to challenge my muscles.

Boost your game by gradually upping the duration and intensity, or try on some weighted gloves for size. This'll keep your muscles guessing and growing.

And don't forget: nailing the right technique is a game-changer. Get your stance, punch form, and moves spot-on for max muscle work.

For a fresh twist, dive into some YouTube workouts. They're gold mines for new ideas!

3. Adopt a Healthy Muscle-Building Diet

a bowl filled with healthy food

Ditch the junk food and fuel up with lean proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats.

Veggies and fruits are your friends here. Keep hydrated and steer clear of booze and caffeine, especially before hitting the sack.

Tracking your calories and weight can help you keep your goals in sight.

4. Know When to Stop

woman resting in her bedroom with lights off

Don’t skimp on those breaks and aim for 8–9 hours of sleep. Muscles grow when you're chilling, so take it easy.

Overdoing it can backfire, leaving you more prone to injuries and a tad demotivated.

5. Choose the Right Punching Bag

a hanging red punching bag

When kitting out your home gym, choose the right punching bag for your goals.

Speed bags are my choice for agility, while heavier bags are key for developing power and muscle definition due to the forceful contractions of most muscle fibers.

Related: What To Put in a Punching Bag?

More Benefits of Punching Bag Workouts

person with boxing gloves working out using a punching bag

Punching bag drills are real game-changers. They not only fine-tune your boxing skills and body movements but also ramp up your strength, cardio, and endurance.

“The full body benefits of a bag workout are endless. Your cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance and muscular strength will all benefit greatly from using a punch bag.”

- Jay Revan, Personal Trainer

Think improved power, stamina, coordination, and balance. They’re also ace at boosting mood, sharpening the mind, easing stress, and curbing anger and cravings.

And hey, as you shape up your defense moves, you’ll also be shaping up your self-confidence.

Martial Arts Related Articles:

FAQs

Does Punching Bag Build Abs?

Yes, punching a heavy bag builds functional and aesthetic abs.

Does Punching Bag Burn Calories?

Yes, punching a bag can burn around 490 calories in one hour in a 180-pound person (and shred fat) because it’s an intense, physically demanding sport [2].


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32218063/
  2. https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/high-intensity-interval-training.pdf
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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