Does Punching a Bag Build Muscle? (No, Here’s Why)

Are you wondering if punching a bag builds muscle?

In this article, we’ll look at whether punching a bag builds muscle, the several benefits of punching a bag, the muscles punching bag sessions work, and various related questions.

Does Punching a Bag Build Muscle? (Misconception Explained)

No, punching a bag doesn’t build muscle because the movement doesn’t tear muscle fibers and progressive overload can’t be achieved.

Most people mistakenly believe punching a bag builds muscle because boxers are in great shape with decent muscle mass and low body fat. 

Punching a bag offers a great calorie-burning cardiovascular workout that over time can help reduce body fat and make a martial artist look more muscular because there’s less body fat covering the muscle they already have. 

Also, muscles will appear larger after finishing a punching bag session because they’re full of blood.

What does cause muscle growth is lifting weights (strength training), breaking down muscle fibers with progressive overload (increasing weight), eating in a calorie surplus with sufficient protein, sleeping 8 hours a night, and giving the targeted muscle 48 to 72 hours of rest before repeating the process.

Punching a bag is a technique-based cardiovascular workout, not a muscle-building exercise. This is why many of those who punch a bag also mix in push-ups, pull-ups, or squats as a way to break down muscle fiber and build muscle.

Most boxers and martial artists who incorporate punching bag workouts and have a lot of muscle mass build their muscles by weightlifting and not by punching a bag.

What Are the Benefits of a Punching Bag Workout?

So, while punching a bag doesn’t build muscle, it does offer a variety of benefits which are as follows.

1. Cardiovascular Endurance

Punching a bag is a great cardiovascular exercise that allows you to train intensely, break a sweat, and get the heart pumping.

The longer and more intense sessions are, the more improved cardiovascular endurance is.

As boxers fight for 12 three-minute rounds for a total of 36 minutes with a one-minute break between rounds, boxers need exceptional cardiovascular endurance and this can be improved by a punching bag workout.

Also, punching a bag for 3 minutes, having a 1-minute break, and repeating this up to 12 times can build and condition the cardiovascular endurance required for boxing and all martial arts.

2. Fat Burning

Punching a bag burns 400 to 700 calories an hour depending on the weight of the person and the intensity of their training.

A heavier person punching a bag will burn more calories than a lighter person, as will training more intensely.

As punching a bag is a great fat-burning exercise because of the calories expended, over time it can make a martial artist look more muscular because there’s less fat covering the muscle they already have.

Punching a bag will also make muscles appear larger as blood flow is increased to them.

3. Technique Practice

Punching a bag is an excellent way to improve the punching technique as it gives a real physical feel when striking.

Improved technique means more power in punches through speed and force and this can be seen by how the bag moves and how it sounds when landing.

A punching bag workout can also be used to learn and improve correct breathing techniques, as would be required in an actual fight.

Correct breathing increases the ability to punch with more speed and force and it also improves energy efficiency.

4. Increased Resistance and Muscular Endurance

Punching a bag, especially a heavy bag, offers resistance that sparring and shadowboxing don’t offer.

In sparring, you’re not throwing full power into punches, and with shadowboxing there isn’t any resistance.

The increased resistance from punching a bag builds high levels of muscular endurance; which is the ability of muscles to withstand repeated contractions for longer without fatiguing or injuring.

Punching a bag builds muscular endurance in the whole body, but mostly in the back, obliques, shoulders, arms, and calves, in that order.

Increased muscular endurance is evident in the ability to punch at the same intensity for longer periods of time.

5. Conditions Knuckles, Wrists, and Elbows

Breaks, bruising, and soreness in the knuckles, wrists, and elbows are common injuries in boxing. 

Punching a heavy bag helps condition a boxer to withstand impact and prevent injuries from happening.

This is done by starting with bigger gloves, such as 16 oz, and working down until you feel comfortable without gloves.

Punching bag sessions without gloves should only be done when the punching technique is perfect and the knuckles and wrists have been properly conditioned by working down glove size.

6. Coordination, Footwork, and Balance

Punching a bag can mimic a real fight because the bag moves and allows for footwork, balance, and coordination to be improved.

For example, practice keeping your distance from the bag as if it were an opponent, using the jab and evading by stepping or sliding backward out of range.

Lateral movement and head movement can also be trained at the same time as bobbing and weaving to evade punches.

7. Stress Relief

Punching a bag leads to the brain releasing neurotransmitters such as endorphins, norepinephrine, and dopamine. This helps relieve stress, improve mood, and fight depression.

Punching bag workouts can calm people as they release anger through this intense exercise.

Lastly, punching a bag can be a form of meditation for many. Clear the mind, notice passing thoughts, and feel especially present when punching.

Benefits of a Punching Bag – Related Questions

Here are some related questions about the benefits of a punching bag workout.

What Muscles Do Punching Bags Work?

Punching bag workouts work all muscles in the body.

Mostly though, punching a bag works the back, obliques, shoulders, arms, and calves, in that order.

The core stability, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and chest are also engaged and worked throughout.

How worked the legs and glutes get depends on how much bobbing and weaving and footwork training are included in the workout, whereas the upper body is always worked when punching.

So, while punching bag sessions work all of the muscles in the body, it’s mainly for cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and technique training – punching a bag doesn’t build muscle. 

However, inactive people who haven’t lifted weights for many months may see tiny increases in muscle for the first month or so while the body adapts.

Does Punching a Bag Burn Fat?

Yes, punching a bag can help burn fat as it’s a great cardiovascular workout that burns a lot of calories.

Punching a bag burns between 400 to 700 calories an hour, depending on the weight of the person and the intensity of their training.

Punching harder and faster for longer periods of time is going to burn more calories than slowly punching and breaking for long periods.

Also, mixing in a lot of movement and footwork between intense punching combinations can increase calories burned.

Overall, punching a bag burns fat and can get most people ripped as they’re using all of the muscles in their body while dropping body fat; granted that they’re also in a calorie deficit, sleeping 8 hours per night, and eating enough protein (0.8 to 1 gram of protein per lb of bodyweight).

Is It Ok To Hit the Punching Bag Every Day?

It isn’t ok to hit the punching bag every day because the hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulder joints need rest just as muscles need rest after a hard-punching bag workout.

People new to the punching bag should start with one time per week and gradually add an extra day when their muscular endurance has increased and they’re no longer aching for days after a punching bag workout.

The maximum amount of punching bag sessions in a week should be 4 or 5.

This is because, while punching a bag conditions the knuckles, wrists, and elbows, without adequate rest days these joints will start to suffer from an overuse injury or repetitive strain injury – even with proper punching technique.

People vary on the strength of joints and the volume each can handle, so it’s important to listen to the body and rest when signs of injury are showing.

One day on and one day off is a very good routine for most people experienced in punching bag workouts.

Any aches or soreness means an extra day may be required to fully heal and avoid the same pain happening after the next punching bag workout.

However, it’s important not to mistake muscle aches after a workout, which are healthy, for joint aches, which are unhealthy.

It’s also important to punch with proper technique and cycle the intensity of punching bag workouts – some workouts can be less punch-intense and more footwork and movement-focused.

Does Punching a Bag Build Biceps?

A punching bag workout doesn’t build biceps. In order to tear the muscle fibers in the bicep, it requires progressive overload with weights.

Instead, punching a bag builds muscular endurance of the biceps so that the pattern of punching becomes easier and less fatiguing on the bicep, arms, and body overall.

Does Punching a Bag Increase Strength?

A punching bag workout doesn’t increase strength. It builds muscular endurance which can make people feel stronger because their muscles can perform a repeated pattern of punching for longer periods of time without fatiguing.

Punching a bag also leads to improved punching technique which results in the delivery of more powerful strikes through increased speed and force. Further increasing more power in punches is correct breathing technique and the ability to transfer body weight into a punch.

The Bottom Line

So, does punching a bag build muscle?

No, punching a bag doesn’t build muscle because the movement doesn’t tear muscle fibers.

Instead, punching a bag offers various benefits such as a great cardiovascular workout, increased muscular endurance, fat burning, technique, footwork, balance improvement, and conditioning of the knuckles.

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