Hopping on the treadmill or working out for an hour on the elliptical every morning helps you burn calories and improves your health, but it can get a bit boring. Besides, more efficient ways help liven up the time you spend in the gym. Both sprinting and heavy bag workouts are higher-intensity than steady-state cardio, helping you lose weight as you gain functional strength. In terms of benefits, the exercises are closely matched. You may lose more weight and gain more muscle sprinting, but working out on the heavy bag can be easier on your body.
One of the first things that comes to mind for many women when comparing two exercises is weight loss. A 130-pound woman can burn 220 calories in just 10 minutes of sprinting. An hour spent punching the heavy bag will allow the same woman to burn 354 calories. How many calories you burn depends on your work rate. The harder you work, the more calories you'll burn.
Both sprinting and heavy bag workouts have anaerobic and aerobic components. The actual act of sprinting and punching are anaerobic, while recovery periods between burnout rounds are aerobic. The anaerobic aspects of both exercises trigger metabolic responses for hours or days after you exercise, meaning you can still burn calories when you get home and switch on the television. According to the National Council on Strength and Exercise, this also allows you to keep muscle on as you burn calories.
To reach the anaerobic heart rate zone, you need to push yourself hard, which isn't easy to do. Which is why you don't see many people doing hour-long sprint sessions: It's too difficult for your muscles to keep up with the amount of lactic acid you produce. Heavy bag workouts are a bit easier to scale in terms of effort. You can go as hard or light as you want on the bags, and the constant shift between anaerobic punching movements and aerobic changes in position allows you to work for a longer period of time. In terms of technique, you might think it's harder to punch than to run, but sprinting correctly requires you to observe proper technique as well.
Neither sprinting nor heavy bag workouts seem particularly high-impact, but basic mistakes and breakdowns in technique due to fatigue can cause injury. Hitting the heavy bag is no harder on your body than hitting the track. Sprinting is tough on your muscles, so you shouldn't do it on consecutive days. Pay attention to your mechanics to avoid stress fractures. Punching improperly or when you're tired can cause serious shoulder injuries, from subluxations to dislocations: Keep your punches technical throughout your workout and take a break if your muscles can't keep up.
- HealthStatus.com: Calorie Burn Calculator
- Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services: Calories Burned Per Hour
- National Council on Strength and Fitness: Benefits of Sprint Training vs. Traditional Aerobic Training
- The Telegraph: Sprinting Speeds Up Metabolism and Improves Health
- Rossboxing.com: Heavy Bag Hitting -- The Ultimate De-Stressor
Steven Kelliher is an experienced sports writer, technical writer, proofreader and editor based out of the Greater Boston Area. His main area of expertise is in combat sports, as he is a lifelong competitor and active voice in the industry. His interviews with some of the sport's biggest names have appeared on large industry sites such as ESPN.com, as well as his own personal blog.