Not only can jabbing and kicking a punching bag give you an immensely powerful take-no-prisoners feeling, it can also help with weight loss. Working with a punching bag boosts coordination, sharpens reflexes and improves flexibility while strengthening your arm, back, core, shoulder and leg muscles. If you have a health condition or injury, consult your doctor before starting any new workout. Also consider exercising with a certified instructor who can properly demonstrate the boxing moves.
Punching Bag Basics
One American Council on Exercise study involving 15 women, average weight 135 pounds, found each hour-long kickboxing session burned 350 to 450 calories, with upper- and lower-body combos torching the most. Revving heart rates to 85 percent of maximum, punch bag workouts fall well within the aerobic exercise range of 65 to 85. Purchase boxing or mixed martial arts gloves at a sporting goods store along with hand wraps to protect fingers, knuckles and wrists. Schedule up to five 30- to 60-minute sessions weekly. “Instead of counting reps, time each punch bag exercise" says Florida-based ACE-Certified Personal Trainer Franklin Antoian. Do each move 30 seconds initially, increasing to three minutes.
Start each move in a fighting stance: For right-handers, this means left leg out in front, right leg behind, bent knees, with hips and feet shoulder-width apart. Lefties, switch the leg placement. Do five rounds of each exercise, resting one minute after each round. For the left-handed straight punch, send your left fist toward the punching bag, keeping your right elbow pointed downward and your right arm and hand folded into the body, says Antoian. As your fist travels toward the bag, rotate your left hip and shoulder. Also rotate your fist so that your index and middle finger strike the punching bag first.
For the cross, send your right fist toward the punching bag, keeping your left elbow down and left arm and hand folded into the body, says Antoian. As your right fist moves away from the body and approaches the bag, rotate your right hip and shoulder. Also, rotate your fist so that your index and middle finger strike the bag first.
Swing your right leg smack-dab into the punching bag for a round kick. As your right knee rises, and your right hip moves forward, roll your right hip over, says Antoian. Pivot on your left foot as your right leg strikes the punching bag with your shin. After a few right-leg round kicks, reverse and repeat with your left leg kicking the bag. Inject added burn and variety into your workout by sandwiching core-strengthening situps between rounds. "It's amazing to not only see clients' waistlines drop after grunting through punching bag exercises," Antoian says, "but also to see a woman's confidence in self-defense abilities rocket."
Julie D. Andrews is a writer and editor living in New York City. Her articles have appeared in print or on the websites of "Prevention," "Glamour," "Fitness," "Shape," "Cosmopolitan Latina," "Elle" and "New York Magazine."