Does Hitting the Heavy Bag Build Strength?

Yes. Hitting the heavy bag will increase functional strength and make you more toned. It also works out your arm, back, and shoulder muscles, including the pectoral, serratus anterior, brachialis, deltoids, tricep, and latissimus dorsi.

However, you won’t get buff from hitting the heavy bag, as you need to lift weights to add any significant amount of muscle. 

In this article, I will explain why hitting the heavy bag won’t help you gain weight based on science. You’ll also learn how hitting the heavy bag does all of the following:  

  • Enables you to improve your form
  • Increases functional strength
  • Helps you lose weight
  • Increases endurance

Continue reading to learn more.

Table of Contents:
1. Does Hitting the Heavy Bag Build Strength?
1.1. Why Boxing Doesn’t Build Muscle
1.2. Can Hitting the Heavy Bag Cause You To Lose Muscle?
2. Benefits of Hitting the Heavy Bag
2.1. It Helps You Tone
2.2. It Helps Work Out Specific Muscles
2.3. It’s Critical for Becoming a Good Boxer
2.4. It Helps Increase Stamina
3. Conclusion

1. Does Hitting the Heavy Bag Build Strength? 

Yes. However, it depends on what kind of strength you want. On the one hand, it helps you punch stronger and better. It also makes your body stronger and more fit by increasing endurance and stamina. 

At the same time, it’s a terrible exercise for building muscle. Hitting the heavy bag could cause you to lose muscle, so you must incorporate a weight-lifting regimen if you want to add bulk. 

1.1. Why Boxing Doesn’t Build Muscle

Hitting the heavy bag has a lot of benefits, and all boxers should do it in addition to training with mitts and shadowboxing. 

However, while boxing in general and hitting the heavy bag, in particular, does work your muscles to an extent and help build functional strength, it does not help you add muscle mass like lifting weights. 

The reason is simple. When you hit the heavy bag, you don’t put as much strain on your muscles as you do when lifting weight. Muscle stress is critical for inducing hypertrophy

Hypertrophy occurs when you create tiny tears in your muscle tissue while lifting weights. As your muscle repairs itself, the number of muscle fibers and overall size increases. 

However, you need to put a consistent strain on the muscle for it to experience that stress, break down, and heal itself. Resistance training – lifting weights – does that. As the muscle size increases and you get stronger, you need to start lifting heavier weights to continue stressing the muscles significantly. 

However, putting stress on the muscles isn’t enough. You must also have mechanical tension, which you achieve by maintaining that resistance and pressure while moving the muscle through a full range of motion (such as a full bicep curl). Doing quarter bicep curls won’t give you the same results. 

Hitting the heavy bag has none of that. It simply does not provide enough resistance to put significant stress on the muscles to induce hypertrophy. Furthermore, throughout most of the range of motion, there is no resistance whatsoever. The only resistance you get is when your hand hits the bag, but that’s at the end of the motion. 

However, that’s not to say that hitting the heavy bag doesn’t work out your muscles. It does work them to some extent, and you may gain some muscle mass, especially if you are incredibly skinny when starting. For most people, though, the results will be minimal, if at all noticeable. 

Hitting the heavy bag is vital for other reasons, though. We’ll get to them soon enough. 

1.2. Can Hitting the Heavy Bag Cause You To Lose Muscle?

Not directly. When your body is in a caloric deficit, it will burn fat and, eventually, muscle. A caloric deficit can occur either when you decrease the number of calories you consume or increase the number of calories you burn through exercise. Thus, there is both diet-induced and exercise-induced weight loss. 

A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that while diet-induced weight loss decreased muscle mass, it did not decrease strength. Furthermore, endurance training, like boxing or running, caused weight loss while preserving muscle mass. 

However, while boxing won’t directly affect muscle mass, you may notice a decrease in bulk if you shift your attention from weight lifting to boxing. You can only do as much as your time and energy allow. 

Hitting the heavy bag requires not only time but also demands a lot of energy. You may not be able to lift as often or the same amount of weight as before, which may lead to a decrease in size over the long run. 

However, incorporating some weight training into your week as well will help you keep as much muscle mass as possible and look great. Besides, as we will see, hitting the bag can also help you tone down, which can look even better than simply having big muscles. 

2. Benefits of Hitting the Heavy Bag

Let’s examine the top benefits of hitting the heavy bag. Not only does it improve your boxing technique, but it does improve functional strength and helps you get a better beach body. 

2.1. It Helps Tone Your Muscles

If you want to look good, having big muscles isn’t enough. Muscle tone and definition due to low body fat give people that “beach body” look. 

There’s a difference between having a lot of muscle and being ripped. If you have a ripped body, your body fat percentage is extremely low – perhaps 8-10% (unless you are a professional bodybuilder, in which case you might go lower). At that body fat percentage, your muscles will show, as there won’t be much fat covering them. 

Of course, you do need some muscle size to look good. If you have no muscle, you will just look skinny and malnourished. However, with a decent amount of muscle and a low body fat percentage, you will look great both in person and in pictures. In photos, you will look bigger than you are in person, as people will see your muscle definition and think you are very buff. 

Hitting the heavy bag is a great cardio workout, and it will help you lower your body fat percentage while not reducing muscle size (as per the study I cited above). That’s why many boxers look great and have amazing bodies, even though they don’t lift as much as bodybuilders. 

2.2. It Helps Work Out Specific Muscles

As a general rule, hitting the heavy bag doesn’t work out your muscles as much as weight lifting. However, it works out specific muscles, including ones many bodybuilders often fail to work out. 

The constant rotation of the hips and body (which is the correct way to box) helps work out your obliques, hamstrings, and glutes. It is similar to twisting ab exercises, which help build ab muscles and help you achieve that six-pack you’ve fantasized about. 

Furthermore, it helps work out your shoulders, back, and arms. Many boxers find their serratus anterior to grow significantly after starting boxing, which is why people call it the “Boxer’s Muscle.” It’s a fan-shaped muscle on your sides, wrapping around your ribs. Many people fail to work out this muscle enough, but boxing can help you do that. 

If you work out the serratus anterior, you can get that coveted v-shaped look. 

Man kicking a heavy bag

2.3. It’s Critical for Becoming a Good Boxer

There are four things you need to do if you want to become better at boxing: 

  • Do mitt work with a coach
  • Hit the heavy bag
  • Practice shadowboxing
  • Engage in light or heavy sparring

Many people start with a coach who holds the mitts and directs them on what to do. That’s important because it will give you a foundation for the proper form and help you learn some crucial combinations. 

On the other hand, your coach might not always be available, and you might not be able to afford to train with them every day. While you can get a friend to hold mitts for you, they won’t be able to direct you on how to improve your form, keep the mitts in the correct position, and counterjab you to help you learn defense. 

A heavy bag is always available, and you can train by yourself or with a coach. You can even hang one in your home. 

Furthermore, a heavy bag gives you something that mitt work doesn’t always: resistance. That’s why we call it the “heavy” bag. The heavier, the better; hitting the bag helps you focus on increasing power while not losing form. 

Shadowboxing is also essential, as it allows you to improve your form without any distractions. However, resistance is missing; if you only train shadowboxing, you will never learn how to hit hard enough to knock someone out or win a fight in the streets. 

Furthermore, a heavy bag can help you improve your footwork, agility, and defensive maneuvers. When the bag swings back to you, you can imagine it is an opponent and move around to evade it while immediately counterattacking. 

A heavy bag also helps you improve your form. It forces you to improve your form, as it provides more resistance than someone holding mitts. That means that hitting the bag the wrong way, with the wrong form, can cause you to hurt yourself. 

You can also concentrate on improving your form without distractions, which might not be possible when you have a coach constantly pushing you to continue striking and moving around. There is a place for that too, but sometimes, you can learn a lot by just going at your own pace. 

Remember, using the correct form is critical if you want to punch hard. Boxing is all about using your entire body and hip power to hit hard, so hitting the heavy bag helps you improve punching strength. 

Finally, there is sparring, but you need to be advanced enough to do it. Light technical sparring can help you learn how to improve your technique and get better at defense, but heavy sparring is also essential from time to time if you plan on being in fights. 

2.4. It Helps Increase Stamina

Stamina is critical if you want to be a good boxer. You must be able to outlast your opponent and maintain the strength and energy to punch hard. 

Hitting the heavy bag can help you improve your stamina. You can set rounds of three, five, or even 10 minutes. Gradually build up the amount of time you can hit the heavy bag without stopping to rest. 

You will notice that, at first, your punches get weaker as you get further into the round. Over time, though, you will build up enough stamina to continue hitting hard for even longer rounds. 

3. Conclusion

Hitting the heavy bag won’t help you build muscle. However, it does increase overall strength, punching power, and stamina. Not only that, but it will help you achieve a great body that you can be proud of. 

So, go ahead and hit the heavy bag, but make sure to lift weights as well if you want to maintain muscle mass. 

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