Hitting the speed bag is not just for boxers – it’s a fun workout
Looking for a creative way to add some fun to your workout? Consider speed bag punching. Boxers are universally known as the hardest working, leanest, and most well-conditioned athletes on the planet. That’s because facing an opponent in the ring for 12 rounds and dodging and delivering punches is extremely physically taxing. And boxing training prepares them for that.
But boxing training isn’t just for aspiring boxers. The average health and fitness enthusiast can use basic boxing training techniques to add fun, creativity, and intensity to their workout routine.
Today we’re going to discuss one of the boxer’s most important tools for timing and conditioning – the speed bag.
What are the benefits of punching the speed bag?
Firstly, you’ll have your hands up at all times – so get ready for shoulder burn. And you’ll be punching the bag hard and fast, this is a ferocious workout for your arms, shoulders, and upper back. Lastly, you won’t stand rooted in one place – you’ve got to move like a fighter – with foot movement and punching from all angles – you’ll get your heart rate way up.
So in summary – punching the speed bag is a great endurance workout. And it’s fun and addictive – the secret is the rhythm.
Basics of Speed Bag Punching – The Triplet Rhythm
Let’s start simple – punching the speed bag utilizes the triplet rhythm. What’s that mean? It means you punch the bag, it will rebound off the back of the board, again to the front of the board, then again to the back, and you punch again. That’s the triplet rhythm. You can count in your head the rebounds off the board – punch – 1-2-3 – punch.
- Stand in front of the speed bag platform. The bottom of the bag should be at chin height (this is where a height-adjustable platform helps.)
- Make a fist, and punch the bag with the front or side of your fist. It will rebound 3 times, then punch again.
- Repeat. As one arm grows fatigued, switch to the other. Transitioning from one arm to the other will require timing for smoothness.
The secret to success? Keep your elbows up!
Do not drop your hands to waist level, you won’t be able to bring the hand up in time to punch the bag as it rebounds. Take a break as needed, and focus on technique. Do this for about 3 minutes, and you’ll understand why this is an effective fitness method!
Not having much luck? As a beginner, don’t try to punch hard and don’t try to punch fast. Those things will come with technique. You have to start somewhere, and through progression you’ll get farther, faster. So start slow and smooth, and work your way up to fast and complex.
Timekeeping during training
All boxing training is done in the cadence of an actual fight – and that means 2 or 3 minute rounds, followed by 1 minute of rest.
The FitAtMidlife free workout timer is a great choice for boxing workouts. Simply set the round length setting to the desired time limit (typically 3 minutes) and the rest length to 1 minute, then click Start.
This timer is free, and works on Windows, Mac, iPhone, or Android.
Whether you are hitting the speed bag, shadowboxing, or skipping rope- use our timer to keep a fight cadence. Even if you don’t plan to ever step in the ring, working against a timer ensures you keep going as long as you should – and that’s where results come from.
More Complicated – Fist Rolls
There’s a multitude of specialty punches and techniques you can use (including elbows). But for beginner, a good next step in complexity is the fist roll. Instead of the triplet rhythm, you’ll move in close, and roll your right and left fists over each, and hit the bag with each hand in an alternating fashion. Because you’re in close, the bag will rebound off the back of the board only a single time, and you’ll punch again. This is a fast technique and sounds like a machine gun when you are doing it right.
Once you’ve mastered that, try seamlessly mixing the two techniques. Can you flow from one technique to the next without missing a beat?
There’s a ton of fun techniques you can try. For more advanced moves, check out Alan Kahn’s website: Speed Bag Central.
Alan Kahn is known as the King of the Speed Bag – and if you watch a few of his videos you’ll understand why. So pop on over to that site and look around – you’ll be motivated – we guarantee it.
Speed bag training is fun and easy, but it does require specialized equipment. Here are our recommendations, all tested in the FitAtMidlife gym lab. At a minimum, you need a speed bag platform and a speed bag.
For a speed bag platform, we recommend the Balazs Boxing i-Box Speed Bag Platform (Buy on Amazon). This is a height-adjustable, rock-solid platform that will work great in your home or garage gym. This unit can not be compared to the junk platforms that are sold in sporting goods stores. It’s built like a tank and will last a lifetime. One of the typical problems with the sporting good store units – they are simply too cheaply made, flimsy, and rattle and vibrate too much. All of that will throw off the rhythm of the bag. It also comes equipped with a high-quality speed bag swivel (the part that connects the bag to the platform.)
Read our full review of the i-box platform.
Secondly, you’ll need a speed bag. We recommend the Title Boxing Gyro Balanced Speed Bags (Buy on Amazon). There are speed bags that are more expensive – but this is one of the best, despite the price. It bounces quickly and cleanly and is super-durable. We recommend the 9″ x 6″ size for a beginner, and 8″ x 5″ if you have experience with the speed bag.
Tie it all together into a workout
Try 3 minute rounds with the speed bag and alternate with rounds of shadowboxing and skipping rope. Start the timer, and work hard and fast for the full 3 minutes. Rest for 1 minute, then repeat. The jump rope will get your heart rate up and punching the speed bag will give you shoulder conditioning. Altogether it’s a full-body workout. Once you’ve done this a few times, you’ll appreciate the ferocious intensity of boxing training.
In our next installment, we’ll discuss another staple of boxing training – hitting the heavy bag. Check back soon for updates on that.
Equipment photos provided by the manufacturers.
Tim is the founder of FitAtMidlife.com – an avid gym rat for 30+ years, he’s a reviewer of many, many shoes – and founder of the Speed Bag Gathering – the world’s only gathering of speed bag punching enthusiasts. See more gym reviews at Tim’s YouTube channel.