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Punching bags and sand bags are valuable training tools for boxers, kickboxers and other martial artists. While the most obvious benefit of using heavy bags such as these is a chance to practice punches and kicks at full force, this isn't the only benefit that these bags offer. Working out with a heavy bag increases your strength and balance, improves your mood and can strengthen your heart as well.
While shadowboxing and drills provide you with basic practice for your boxing or martial arts form, this practice is limited by not allowing you to experience the force of impact when you strike. Punching bags and sand bags allow you to practice at full speed and power, getting used to the impact that you feel when you successfully make contact with an opponent. This impact can be adjusted by training with different bags filled with softer or firmer materials.
Resistance is the key to building strength; the body develops new muscle fibers in an attempt to overcome the resistance that it faces, and the new muscle fiber increases strength and muscle mass. While resistance training often includes equipment such as weights or resistance bands, punching or kicking a heavy bag provides resistance as well. The ongoing training you receive from bag workouts also increases the overall power of your punches and kicks since the muscular development you receive relates directly to the specific muscles you use during strikes.
Training with a heavy bag provides a cardio-intense aerobic workout that strengthens the heart and improves the health of the circulatory system. The intensity of the workout can be varied by incorporating additional movement such as footwork into your routine. According to the American Heart Association, you can experience the benefit of an aerobic exercise such as an intense heavy bag workout with as little as 10 to 15 minutes of sustained aerobic activity at a time.
While it's possible to use a punching bag without incorporating a significant amount of movement into your workout, heavy bag routines are more effective when you move around and incorporate your entire body into the routine. This helps to develop coordination and balance, firming and toning the core muscles so they can better support your body and keep you from losing your balance as a result of sudden movements.
Faster Reaction Time
The weight of the bag you use determines how much it moves each time you punch or kick it; lighter bags move significantly more than heavier bags and you may find yourself having to move out of its way as it starts to swing. By using a bag that swings as you hit it or purposely starting the bag swinging before you begin your workout, you incorporate a random element into your workout that you must react to, allowing you to hone your reaction times as you get out of the bag's way.
Weight Loss and Toning
Sustained aerobic exercise burns calories, helping you to lose weight while working out with the punching bag; according to a publication from the Harvard Medical School, boxing training can burn up to 400 calories in 30 minutes depending on your weight. At the same time, the resistance you encounter from the bag and the activity of your other muscles tones and firms muscles all over the body to improve your overall lean muscle mass.
Aerobic exercise causes the body to release endorphins, natural chemicals that act as painkillers and mood elevators in the brain. These endorphins help the body deal with stress, counteract feelings of depression and ease the aches and pains that may be associated with exercise. A study published in the "Irish Journal of Medical Science" in 2011 found that endorphins released during exercise have a beneficial effect on mental health that rivals the effects of existing antidepressant treatment regimens.