Nice Arms: Can Punching a Bag Offer the Same Benefit as Extensive Weight Training?

I have written on a few blogs in the past about the holistic benefit of boxing training for building your body and losing weight, but I suspect that many, especially men seeking to build strength and definition in their arms, are doubtful that just punching a bag and doing body weight exercises can yield the same results as spending hours in front of the mirror pumping iron.

Well, I took this suspicion to heart and I decided that I would silence these doubts once and for all, laying out a clear case for the benefits and sufficiency of the boxing regimen as it relates to muscle strength and tone.

Boxing Bag Workout vs. Weight Training?

First of all, strength is not necessarily related to size. Weightlifting may make your arms bigger in circumference than a punching bag, but it will not burn the arm fat that covers your prized hammers. You can actually develop more muscular and stronger arms through boxing than by weightlifting alone.

Case in point: a humiliating wrestling match I was part of a few years ago. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I (a 6’4”, 225 lb. former football player) was bested by a 5’11”, 165 lb. rock climber. What happened? My “weight-lifting” muscles were no match for his “climber” muscles. Even though he was smaller, he was better equipped to handle pressure, and make non-linear moves and holds that my Smith-machine body just couldn’t match. I could have out-bench-pressed him by 200 lbs. but unless we were in a bench-press contest (something most people don’t do…at least not people I know) it didn’t matter.

The boxing regimen, like other circuit training routines, emphasizes bodyweight resistance movements, is heavy on aerobics, and centers on bag drills, where the trainee shuffles around the bag and barrages it with punches. This sort of training teaches the arm to operate as a unit instead of isolating its parts by doing arm curls or tricep extensions. This contributes to general joint strength and power in a way that heavy lifting cannot. The swift swings and percussive motions of the arms on the bag force the joints (especially the shoulders) to develop quality flexibility and tendon strength, as well as developing killer deltoids along with the full family of rotator cuff muscles. On top of that, punching is whole body movement that hits the chest, abs, and back in a powerful way.

But does the arm experience the same kind of resistance that it would by lifting weights? Actually, it depends. The unique thing about exercises like bag punching is that they function as both an isometric exercise (where you essentially strain against an unmovable object) and a type of explosive lifting (where the emphasis is on power and speed).

This “explosive isometric” training will offer benefit relative to how hard you hit the bag. If Rocky IV can be trusted, the average boxer strikes the bag with a force of 750 lbs per square inch. This force is directed at a movable object that is essentially “lifted” by the force of the blow (albeit in a different way than simply picking the bag up). I cannot affirm, however, that every muscle group would receive the same amount and quality of attention as a weight lifting routine could offer. Nonetheless, I can assert with confidence that the strength and definition benefits compare to traditional lifted very favorably.

If I’m not mistaken, most people are more interested in burning fat and looking muscular than necessarily having larger muscles regardless of body fat or fitness level. It is in light of this that I wholeheartedly affirm the boxing fitness regimen over simple weight lifting. Ideally, you would do both, but if you had to choose one type of fitness routine to enhance all areas of your physical wellbeing, you would be hard pressed to find a program that beats boxing. Nuff said!

Author Bio: Ethan S. writes on behalf of BoxFit, a UK-based boxing gear supply, and home of Rival Boxing Equipment.


I write on behalf of BoxFit, a UK-based boxing equipment supply.

3 thoughts on “Nice Arms: Can Punching a Bag Offer the Same Benefit as Extensive Weight Training?

  • August 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    I can confirm this through experience. I used to spar with this guy who was smaller than me in size and height. He used to kick my ass because while i was weight training he was boxing and doing martial arts.But i did beat him in the weight room.

  • July 31, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    nice functional “special” exercises for strength,power,isometric and if done in circuit style-metabolic power endurance. Excellent for combat conditioning enthusiast.

  • July 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    I have long thought that hitting a bag works your body a lot more and in different ways then most people gave credit. It is not a steady state cardio type movement, but rapid and repeated explosions. You build power/strength in the punches by recruiting all the muscle fibers you can, but more importantly you also build in rapid recovery much like HIIT.

    Also don’t forget you need a strong core to deliver strong punches, and your legs are not idle either if your doing it right and trying to incorporate the entire body in the strikes (and also especially if your a martial artist that throws kicks). Overall for me, besides pure sparring or grappling, its the greatest way to workout the entire body in a short period of time.


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