Muscular man training on a speed bag

What Muscles Does a Speed Bag Work?

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Are you interested in adding the speed bag to your workout regimen? Are you wondering exactly what muscles a speed bag works out?

Speed bags are well-known in boxing as an excellent way to improve hand-eye coordination and upper body stamina.

Lesser known is how they work various muscles in your body that help train boxers and are great workouts for fitness overall. We’ll also dive into some of its interesting side benefits, so let’s get started!

What Muscles Does a Speed Bag Work?

Without a doubt, speed bags optimize shoulder and arm endurance, but they don’t stop there. Looking at it from a broader perspective, here’s how your body operates while training on a speed bag:

  1. You adjust your posture to face the speed bag, with your knees slightly bent.
  2. You keep your arms up, elbows pointing outward, and your side fist hits the speed bag in a circular motion.
  3. While keeping your core tight, you shift weight on both legs depending on which hand you’re striking the ball.

This synchronized flow of motion works several muscles in your upper and lower body and your core. Here’s a breakdown of the major muscles you work during a speed bag exercise:

Upper Body Muscles:

1.    Hand & Wrist Muscles

During a set, you keep your hands rolled in a tight fist until you finish. Over time, this strengthens your fist grip, allowing you to maintain a firm fist for longer.

This is especially beneficial if you play martial arts, as having a tight fist and strong wrists increase your chances of landing faster and more steady hits.

2.    Arm Muscles

The rotation of your fist to throw subsequent punches works your biceps, triceps, and forearm.

To explain, when you punch, your arm goes into two modes: firing and retracting. You use your forearm to fire your fist outward while your biceps and triceps support your circular motion.

Putting both arms through this movement cycle is an ideal way to strengthen and tone them. You gradually build endurance to the point where lifting your arms while working them becomes natural.

Moreover, using a speed bag is an effective exercise for regaining strength in your non-dominant arm.

This is essential in martial arts and sports such as volleyball and basketball, which require alert, sturdy arms at all times.

3.    Shoulder Muscles

Your shoulder and arm muscles work simultaneously to stabilize your fist as it moves in a circular motion.

Almost all of the muscles in our shoulders contribute to this smooth flow, but the four rotator cuff muscles are the most important:

  • Subscapularis
  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres minor

This muscle group joins forces with all other shoulder muscles to rotate punches. This explains why your shoulder will burn after you complete your set. If it doesn’t, you should reassess your technique.

So here’s a quick tip while we’re at it:

The rotation should always come from your forearm and shoulder. One of the most common mistakes is to throw a fist using only your forearm.

To get back on track, relax your shoulders and remember to keep your elbows outward. Then, focus on bringing the movement from your shoulders to your fists while working everything in between.

4.    Lats Muscles

Lats is one of the back muscles involved in punching, so a speed bag is an amazing workout for them.

The latissimus dorsi is the largest pair of muscles in your upper body. They’re located just beneath your shoulder blades, providing shoulder and back support.

They’re considered extremely important muscles for boxers because of how they control and add power to their strikes.

5.    Chest Muscles

Your chest muscles combine the strength of your lats, shoulders, and arms to deliver a powerful punch. The more you train on a speed bag, the more endurance your chest muscles will develop for repetitive movements.

This type of stamina is useful in a variety of sports. For example, it translates into quicker jabs in boxing and speedier strokes in swimming and rowing.

Lower Body Muscles:

1.    Thigh Muscles

You work your quadriceps and hamstrings when you bend your knees to support your upper body movements.

Simply put, our quadriceps are the second largest muscle in our lower body after the glutes. That said, they’re in charge of keeping our balance and posture. As for the hamstrings, they help with the action of bending our knees and moving our pelvis.

Bending your knees, maintaining your posture, and switching weight on your feet all work to improve your body coordination and balance.

2.    Calf Muscles

The calf muscles are the main characters in your lower leg. They help stabilize your foot and ankle and support your leg as it steps in different directions.

In the case of speed bag training, every time you step your leg forward to throw a punch, you work your calf.

However, there are various approaches to working the lower body while training on a speedball. Some will twist their hips while taking a step forward with the same leg as the punching hand. Others will simply shift their weight from one leg to the other while remaining upright.

Then there are examples of great coordination, such as someone moving around while maintaining his punching rhythm. In any case, your lower body will be worked during this training, but to varying degrees.

Core Muscles:

Your core muscles serve as a link between your upper and lower body. Maintaining a tight core while alternating between upper and lower body movements helps form a solid core. The rectus abdominis muscles, aka abs, are the ones that primarily engage during a speed bag set.

Yet, don’t be misled by the concept of core meaning abs. There are many other key muscles in your core. They all need to be worked by different exercises to increase your stability, core strength, and spine support.

4 More “Muscles”

A speed bag works out muscles, but it also works out body skills that make your muscles function better. Here are four bonus “muscles” that benefit from speed bag work.

1.    Strengthen Your Reflexes

This is considered a significant perk for anyone who practices martial arts.

During a set, you stand close to the speed bag, which is moving at a very high speed. Because reflexes are usually involuntary, you may find your eyes closing the first few times.

By regularly testing your reflexes with a speed bag, you’ll be sharpening your defensive skills. Your eyes will become accustomed to having an object close to them and not blinking.

Consequently, you’ll have a sense of influence on your reflexes and keep your eyes open even if your opponent throws a punch at you.

2.    Strengthen Your Stamina, Balance, and Rhythm

The more you practice on a speed bag, the more endurance you’ll develop, particularly in your upper body.

Repetitive changes in muscle conditions, coordinated movements, and the progression of reactive motion all will dramatically improve your balance.

Besides, it provides mental stimulation by creating a rhythm between your body, vision, and hearing. You’ll get to the point where you can close your eyes and continue punching by paying attention to the bag’s sound as it bounces back and forth.

3.    Strengthen Your Cardiovascular System

A speed bag exercise is an aerobic exercise that works wonders for maintaining your heart’s health. It strengthens it by improving blood circulation and boosting your capacity to use oxygen.

It also lowers your blood pressure, which reduces the strain on your blood vessels and lessens your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

4.    Strengthen Your Posture

The standard stance when using a speed bag is to sustain an upright posture. Repeating this posture while performing an upper body strengthening exercise will help you achieve a healthy posture.

5.    Strengthen Your Mind

Similar to boxing, punching a speed bag is a healthy way to let off some steam. Generally speaking, aerobic exercises can help alleviate stress, anxiety, and even depression.

Moreover, when you regularly do any moderate to vigorous exercise, it can help you get a good night’s sleep.

Conclusion & Next Steps

Now that you know how great a workout you can get from speed bags, we hope it has inspired you to take the next steps in your training journey.

If you want to buy a speed bag to add to your gym, we can recommend several models as well as the platforms & swivels required to mount them.

Once you have a bag setup, you’ll want to start with some speed bag-specific workout routines.

Remember that practice makes perfect, and muscle takes time to build. We wrote about It’s only natural that the first few sets will be rough, but it’ll be worthwhile.


Thomas Davies

Thomas has spent over a decade teaching and growing Boxing and MMA through his writing. His goal is to teach and inspire with the unique discipline & health benefits that combat sports can provide. More About Us.

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