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The best punching bag workout

Beth Bischoff

Boxers, kickboxers, and mixed martial arts fighters don't use treadmills to get ripped. Their shredded physiques come from fight training, of which pounding a heavy bag is a major component. Dust off the one in your basement, lace up the gloves, and beat your gut once and for all.


How it Works

Hitting a bag builds punching power, stamina, and can increase your metabolic rate for days afterward. This workout involves your legs as well as your arms to train the whole body, activating as much muscle as possible to burn the most calories.


Perform the exercises as a circuit, completing one after the other without rest. Afterward, rest 30 seconds. That's one round. Repeat for five total rounds. To avoid injury, wear hand wraps and bag gloves.


The Workout

1. Low Kick-Right Leg
Reps: 5 Rest: 0 sec.
Kick the lower half of the bag, as if aiming for an opponent's leg. Pivot on your support foot and turn your hip over as you deliver the kick, to maximize power. Complete five low kicks.

2. High Kick-Right Leg
Reps: 5 Rest: 0 sec.
Kick the upper half of the bag, as if aiming for an opponent's head. Keep your hands raised as if guarding your chin. Throw five kicks.

3. Low Kick-Left Leg
Reps: 5 Rest: 0 sec.
Repeat the low kicks on the left leg.

4. High Kick-Left Leg
Reps: 5 Rest: 0 sec.
Repeat the high kicks on the left leg.


5. Punches
Reps: 20 Rest: 0 sec.
Perform 20 straight punches on the bag, alternating hands. Keep your guard up and turn your hips into each punch.

6. Left Hook
Reps: 5 Rest: 0 sec.
Perform five left hooks—swing your arm in an arc to hit the side of the bag.

7. Right Hook
Reps: 5 Rest: 0 sec.
Perform five on the right side.

8. Knee Strike
Reps: 5 Rest: 30 sec.
Drive one knee up into the bag. Repeat on the other leg.

Men's Fitness training director Sean Hyson, C.S.C.S., assembled a team of the best trainers in the world to create boredom-beating, plateau-busting routines that cover any amount of time you have to exercise and whatever tools you have available to do it. Programs cover every body part, every implement (barbells, dumbbells, bands, etc.), and cardio. There's a nutrition plan, too.

Pick up what Arnold Schwarzenegger called "a fantastic collection of workouts" at 101bestworkouts.com.




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For more energy, take the stairs instead of drinking your daily cup of coffee

Boost your metabolism

Workers around the world run on the early morning jolt they get from various caffeinated beverages, from iced tea and energy drinks to coffee and chai tea. But what if there were a way to get your morning energy infusion that provides a bigger boost, plus helps keep you healthy?

Researchers from the University of Georgia may have found the perfect solution, but don't get too excited—it's not some magic herb you can eat before work, or a pill to pop when you need some extra energy—it requires you to walk some stairs and work up a sweat. Though not the ideal solution for office drones, the study re-enforces the notion that exercise can actually help increase your energy, instead of sap it like some people contend.


In the small study, which was conducted on 18 college students, the scientists found that 10 minutes of walking up and down stairs at a moderate pace was more effective at energizing the participants than taking 50mg of caffeine, about what you'd get in half a cup of coffee or 12oz of soda.

"We found, in both the caffeine and the placebo conditions, that there was not much change in how they felt," said study co-author Patrick J. O'Connor, Ph.D, a professor in the department of kinesiology at UGA. "But with exercise they did feel more energetic and vigorous. It was a temporary feeling, felt immediately after the exercise, but with the 50 milligrams of caffeine, we didn't get as big an effect."

So for you office workers stuck in a building, try taking to the stairs for a few minutes each day when you start to feel sluggish around mid-afternoon. It could be a great way to get some exercise, clear your head, and boost energy.


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13 ways to fire up your cardio workouts

Running Man

Cardio work may not always be the most fun training to do, but the benefits, like improved endurance, can help you big time down the line.

The importance of aerobic exercise on health and weight management has been found numerous times in academic studies. But sometimes, spending 60 minutes on the elliptical can be worse than going to the in-laws' for dinner.


Long Slow Distance (LSD) training, otherwise known as low-intensity aerobic exercise, is important to include into your workout regimen, but sometimes our time is cut short and we want the most bang for our buck when it comes to calories burned. This is where interval training steps in…and forget about the "fat-burning" zone—that was like, so 1980's.

Other studies have found that shorter, high-intensity workouts can have similar physiological changes compared to longer low-intense workouts. This serves great for you because your workouts can be shorter and less boring. But we'll warn you now—they're not going to be easier!

1. Go the distance

We all know that some training days can feel like a million bucks, while others can feel like a slog. Instead of timing your intervals, go by how much distance you cover. This will accommodate for daily fluctuations in energy levels and will give you something different to focus on.

The workout: Set your treadmill to distance mode. Choose a set distance to cover per interval, say ¼ mile, ½ mile or mile. Run that distance as fast as you can. Follow that with an active rest (easy jog) running the same distance as the "hard" interval.

For example, run a ¼ mile and jog a ¼ mile. Repeat for 20 minutes. Boom. Now pick yourself up off the floor and hit the showers.

2. Do the time

Timing your intervals is one of the most common methods of interval training. The "Tabata Protocol" has exploded since its inception in 1996. This form of high-intensity interval training is only 4 minutes long and is broken up into 20- and 10-second intervals. Basically, hammer as much as possible for 20 seconds and rest for 10. Repeat until the 4 minutes is up. There's one stipulation, though: the hard is meant to be at 170% max VO2, basically meaning 100x harder than all-out. This is obviously extraordinarily intense and is quite difficult even for the fittest beast out there. Here's a protocol to help you get to beast mode in 6-weeks.

The workout: On a spin bike, set the resistance to all-out. (In the academic study where the 20-10 protocol was tested, the subjects were seated for the entire protocol. You can either sit or stand or use a treadmill. It doesn't matter, as long as the effort is maxed.)

Perform each workout twice each week. Begin and end each session with 5-minutes at an easy pace.

Week 1-2: Start with the opposite – 10-seconds hard and 20-seconds easy. Repeat for 4-minutes.

Week 3: Progress to 15-seconds hard and 15-seconds easy. Repeat for 4-minutes.

Week 4: Progress to 20-seconds hard and 20-seconds easy. Repeat for 8-rounds. This will be slightly greater than the usual 4-minutes.

Week 5: Drop the break to 15-seconds and stick with the 20-seconds hard. Perform 8-rounds.

Week 6: Here we go! 20-seconds hard and 10-seconds-easy. Perform 8-rounds for four minutes of fat-loss hell.


3. Go to the beat

It wouldn't be a "cardio article" without mentioning your heart rate. Your heart rate responds to the intensity of exercise and has been shown to be related to your subjective perception of how intense or "hard" an exercise bout is. The higher your perception of difficulty, the higher your heart rate. Duh!

Many professional athletes use heart rate monitoring in specific workouts to focus on different physiological acclimations—what's referred to as Energy System Development. Just sets of 5 reps have a different effect on the body compared to sets of 12, running at 90% max heart rate (MHR) has different physiological effects compared to running at 65% MHR.

Let me break this up into 3 categories:

 1. 60-70% MHR – Cardio workouts in this category focus on improving your aerobic capacity and build the foundation for faster workouts. At this intensity, you should be able to carry a conversation. This is the intensity most trainees use when they step onto a treadmill.

 2. 70-80% MHR – Workouts in this category focus on improving your body's ability to manage high concentrations of lactate and other metabolic by-products. The body produces high levels of lactate at this intensity but learns how to utilize and remove it from the muscles, allowing them to sustain a high power output for a greater duration.

 3. 80-90% MHR – Workouts at this intensity focus on improving your VO2-Max, basically, how much oxygen you body can utilize for a given activity (running, cycling, ellipticling, etc.) based on your body weight, age and sex.

The workout: Choose category 2 or 3 and put on your heart rate monitor. Use the 220 minus your age equation to get a rough estimate of your MHR. Perform a 10-minute warm-up at 60% MHR and bang out 5 x 3-minutes intervals with 2-minutes recovery. Keep the recovery active by jogging/cycling at 50% MHR. This will help get the metabolites out of your legs and prepare you for the next interval. Follow up with a 5-10-minute cool down at 60% MHR.

4. Run unstructured

Fartlek (färtlik) is a Swedish term that translates to speedplay or unstructured interval training. This is a common method of training for elite runners and triathletes. Essentially, this type of training incorporates fast and slow efforts, similar to interval training, but differs in that its unstructured and there is no stopping until you've completed the total running time.

The workout: Chose a trail and a time period to run—say, 30 total minutes. Choose landmarks to sprint to and landmarks to jog to. Change the distance between landmarks and go by feel, but don't cut yourself short and jog most of the way. Make it challenging and put in a good effort. Don't worry about time and make sure not to stop until the 30 minutes is up.

5. Climb a hill

Hill repeats are crazy cardio-boosters that can improve strength and explosive power. The high-knee lift, pumping arms and powerful toe-off, can spark new levels of aerobic power and some crazy fat loss. Hills are a bit easier on the body compared to sprinting on a flat surface. They force a forefoot landing and require a constant fight.

The workout: Find a semi-steep hill, gravel preferably, and sprint up! It's that easy. Sprint for roughly 15-seconds. Stop. Find your breath and walk down. Walking down will be easier on your legs compared to running because of the reduced eccentric stress. Repeat 8-12 times and call it a day.


6. Create flow

Don't go all-out. "It's one thing to push yourself to extremes, but you can actually get a better workout by tuning into what's happening to your body during the day," says Jenny Hadfield, running coach and author of Running for Mortals: A Commonsense Plan for Changing Your Life with Running. If you're following up a hard day on the trails with a treadmill run, pushing through another hilly workout will cause further fatigue and detriment. Instead, break up high intensity workouts, and ebb and flow between hard and easy to avoid hitting a point of diminishing returns. Follow a hill workout with a cross training day or easy day of flat terrain.

7. Re-work your warmup

Counteract a workday's worth of sitting with a slow-speed, backwards-walk warmup to open up the hips. Then, integrate a slow side shuffle into the routine. "A slow lateral walk at a 3%-5% incline is a great strengthening warmup or cool-down exercise that targets the adductors," says Hadfield. Here's how to weave it into your warmup: follow 30-60 seconds of forward walk with 30-60 seconds of walking backwards at 1.5 miles per hour. "The slower the better," says Hadfield. "If you're just shuffling along, you're not going to get the muscle activation you would if you're deliberately contracting." Next, laterally walk for 30-45 seconds until your hip is fatigued, then switch. Repeat 4-5 times.

8. Don't hang on

Fatigue might tempt you to grab onto the handrails for support, but you're better off coming to a full stop before taking a breather. For safety reasons, always step off. The caveat to the rule: if you're learning how to use a treadmill or you're working on balance issues.

9. Work it out

Full schedule? Work out while working with a little intentional movement. Make your treadmill your workstation and complete simple tasks like answering phone calls or replying to emails while keeping a one mile per hour pace, says Hadfield.  


10. Mimic the race

"Track repeats, tempo runs, and a long run can all be done on the treadmill," says Bill Pierce, Professor and Chair of the Health Sciences department and lead author of Run Less, Run Faster. Whether you're seeking a change of pace or using the treadmill to simulate a race's environmental conditions, take advantage of the treadmill's automatic elevation options. If you live where there's flat terrain but you're planning to tackle Boston, you can simulate the racecourse by adding hills to your training run.

11. Ditch the programmed "fat burn" setting

Don't be fooled by any fat-burn button. The lower intensity just means that a higher percentage of your caloric expenditure is from fat. You're still always going to burn more fat running faster than you are running slower. For example: Pierce says if you run 10mph and 60% of your energy comes from fat calories, you might burn 100 calories per mile. But if you run 6 mph and 40% of your energy comes from fat, you may burn 300 calories per mile. Basically: ramp up your speed, and your fat burn doubles.

12. Skip the weights

Adding in weights might put on muscle; but it could also put you off balance. "Weights can change your biomechanics and the point of impact, which leads to injury," says Pierce. Save your strength training for a later workout.  

13. Mix it up

Take advantage of the stationary benefit: Running on a treadmill puts heart rate and pace stats at your fingertips, giving you ultimate control over effort and speed. Try an anything-goes workout: increase your incline for the first interval, then activate the quads, calves, and hamstrings with a decline descent. Close with a challenging incline run that picks up the pace. "If someone runs at 1% incline and another person mixes it up—and runs on a 1%-3% incline on hilly terrain—the person who's running hills is probably going to have more fun and get in a better workout," says Hadfield. Don't feel like overthinking? Use the treadmill's constant momentum as motivation to run a low-level hill program or an interval workout.


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John Cena celebrates his 40th birthday by deadlifting more than 600 pounds

John Cena

It's been a big month for WWE superstar John Cena, who, at WrestleMania 33 on April 2, popped the question to his longtime girlfriend, Nikki Bella.

On Sunday, April 23, the newly engaged Cena turned 40 years old. Although the WWE superstar-turned-actor entered his 40s, he's showing no signs of slowing down.

On Twitter, Cena made sure the world knew he's still "the face that runs the place," posting a video of himself celebrating his birthday in the only way he knows how: deadlifting an insane 602 lbs with ease.

Yes, John Cena, we see you.

Actually, no we don't. #YouCan'tSeeMe


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Watch: Chris Pratt leads his ‘family’ in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' behind-the-scenes featurette

Chris Pratt at the Passengers premiere
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

The Guardians of the Galaxy are back and ready for another adventure—and Chris Pratt is leading the way.

The Men's Fitness cover star and Guardians team leader takes center stage in this new behind-the-scenes featurette of the sequel, showing off the original team of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), plus new members of the 'family,' including Yondu (Michael Rooker), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff).


As director James Gunn puts it: "The first movie was about becoming a family. This movie is about being a family." And if the featurette is any indication, that family sometimes can cause headaches for its members. (Where have we heard that before?)

Part of Pratt's routine for getting in shape for Guardians 2—and other upcoming films on his slate, like Jurassic World 2 and Avengers: Infinity War—has been to crack down on any junk food, ensuring he stays lean with some healthy snacks. Pratt's been detailing that process in an Instagram video series "What's My Snack?", and he has some new entries.


Pratt shows off his latest snack, some green juice, made with "swamp water" and vegetables:


This video doesn't have a snack for Pratt, but he does offer some advice for people who need to concentrate on two things at once as he signs some Guardians posters:


#gotgvol2 #starlord #WHATSMYSNACK

A post shared by chris pratt (@prattprattpratt) on

Pratt gave a look at his Men's Fitness cover, which details his rise to the top of Hollywood and shows off the workout that helped him get shredded for Guardians 2:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters on May 5.


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Watch: LeBron James crushes 2017 NBA Playoffs workout

LeBron James Lifting

LeBron James doesn't seem to believe in rest days, even during the NBA Playoffs.

Digital sports network Uninterrupted released a video of one of James' lifting sessions, and it seems like the Cleveland Cavaliers star is keeping the energy just as high in the gym as he is on the court.

All that work is paying off, evidently: James' Cavaliers defeated the Indiana Pacers 106-102 to sweep the first-round series of the NBA Playoffs on Sunday. James was responsible for 33 of those points, including a three-pointer he hit with just 1:08 left in the game to help Cleveland maintain the lead.


This comes after James and the Cavaliers completed the biggest comeback in NBA playoff history on Thursday, overcoming a 25-point halftime deficit to win the third game of the series. James was on fire in the second half, and finished the game with 41 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists.

Check out how the basketball star stays in top shape during the playoffs in the video:



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Drinking diet (or regular) soda may damage your brain

Soda Pop Cola

With all the recent studies showing that artificial sweeteners in diet soda could potentially derail your weight loss goals, increase your risk of prediabetes, and make you more susceptible to depression, if you haven't dropped the diet soft drink habit yet a new set of studies should help you make that healthy—and long overdue—decision.

Coming out of Boston University, this newest diet soda downer duo of studies found that, not only may the fructose in regular soda harm your brain, if you decide to switch to artificially sweetened soda you may be flirting with a risk potentially three times greater of having a stroke or developing dementia.


In the first study, researchers looked at data on about 4,000 people who were part of the Framingham Heart Study and consumed more than two sugar-loaded drinks per day or more than three per week—this included fruit juice and soft drinks. For those subjects, they found more evidence of brain aging, such as less overall volume, a smaller hippocampus, and problems with memory. That study also noted that diet soda consumption was linked to smaller brain volume.

For the second study, they looked at a smaller subset of data from older people in the Framingham study who had experienced a stroke or were diagnosed with dementia. Here they found that, although there was no correlation between sugary drinks and dementia or stoke, those who had at least one diet soft drink a day had the three-times-higher risk of stroke and dementia.

"These studies are not the be-all and end-all, but it's strong data and a very strong suggestion," said senior author Sudha Seshadri, a professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. "It looks like there is not very much of an upside to having sugary drinks, and substituting the sugar with artificial sweeteners doesn't seem to help. Maybe good, old-fashioned water is something we need to get used to."


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The 9 best fitness trackers and smartwatches of 2017

Garmin Forerunner 935

After having a bit of an identity crisis a few years ago, smartwatches have found their niche as comprehensive (and stylish) fitness companions.

Gone are the days of only two clunky options to wear around your wrist. With more options available than ever, here are nine smartwatches and fitness trackers worth your time.

Note: We eschewed the popular Jawbone UP from this list because of reports that Jawbone is discontinuing the UP line and its oft-criticized customer service. We also omitted Kickstarter-funded Pebble watches, despite their popularity on Amazon, because its products were officially discontinued in late 2016, meaning they will no longer be eligible for customer service.

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