Rhythm Research and Rehabilitation

Man has always been fascinated with Rhythm and it’s affects on behavior. It has been the subject of research from many specialties of science. There are many facets to music and rhythm, including Beat, meter, pitch, Pulse, Tempo, melody, timbre that can be studied, but for the purposes of speed bag we will focus strictly on “Rhythm”, specifically the perception and reaction to “the beat”.

The speed bag, due to it’s unique auditory sound and “beat”, is very much like a drum. You cannot separate the act of “Punching” the bag from it’s sound, and that repetitive beat is one of it’s most captivating features. Many speed baggers rate the sound as one of their favorite experiences, and how they “get lost in the bag beat.” In fact, it is one of the only physical fitness activities to offer this unique auditory experience, along with long distance running and skipping rope.

But for deeper rehabilitation purposes, we must examine how the brain and the body both perceive and move to rhythm, or specifically – BEAT perception and reaction, for this is exactly how we hit the speed bag, and portions of the brain that “perceive” a repetitive beat, and also “react” or initiate movement to the repetitive beat are also important for speed bag punching, as well as it’s possible use in serious rehabilitation for movement disorders that involve problems in this important area of the brain, called
The Basal Ganglia and supplementary motor area (SMA), which have been identified as Key areas for Rhythm and Beat Perception. Uniquely, the areas of the Basal Ganglia are also directly affected by certain movement disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease. There is a lot of incredibly detailed science in this area, but general it seems that the area of the brain that is most critical for Interpreting a “Beat” or “Rhythm (sensory) and reacting or moving to that beat or rhythm (Motor) is the Basal Ganglia, and research has show that utilizing a “repetitive beat”, or “External Auditory Cue” or “Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation (RAS)” can help restore more normal function, at least as long as the Auditory Cue is offered, but there has also been some general improvement over time. Specifically, When people with Gait (walking) problems due to Parkinson’s disease use an external Rhythmic Auditory Cue, such as a Metronome, or beat specific music, such as March Music, Their walking seems to improve. That is not so unusual, for the human brain loves to “entrain”, or sync to a beat. This often happens spontaneously as we listen to music and start swaying to it, or dance to it, but it can also be used as a purposeful guide for movement. Throughout all of the research in this area we find the terms of Beat perception, External Auditory cues or (RAS), Rhythmic entrainment while using repetitive sound of a metronome.

Now to the point directly implementing that speed bag punching as a very useful and unique activity for movement disorders that have shown positive responses to External Auditory Stimulation, or repetitive beat.

THE SPEED BAG IS IT’S OWN METRONOME! Specifically, punching in the normal Basic Rhythm pattern, with one heavily accented beat and two unpunched rebounds… The “Punched” Rebound is loudly accented and hearing this over and over IS in fact a metronome. It is precisely the external auditory stimulation that guides the flowing repetitive and bilateral motions of the arms, using targeting point point precision to put the fist on the bag at the right position at the right time. So a repetitive beat helps smooth out walking (with the legs), it also helps smooth out punching (with the arms). Of course, “Rhythm” is not just interpreting with legs or arms, it is a total body experience. It seems to me that the unique repetitive auditory stimulation of the speed bag would be a perfectly logical activity to use as a rehabilitation activity for movement disorders that have been help by External Auditory Stimulation.

I can personally attest to the experience of “entrainment” to the repetitive bag beat. To many baggers it becomes like a shamans drum, giving us short periods of a trance like “flow”, similar to the “runners high” where you just become the activity, like a state of “no mind” and for long moments you forget about the mechanics or physical skills of “Punching the Bag”. Sometimes 5-10 minutes can fly by without knowing it. This happens specifically BECAUSE of the unique and repetitive sound. The speed bag is a pure auditory experience, and all movement is controlled by the sound. The eyes are way to slow in tracking the moving back to offer and specifics as far a speed of punching or moving. Of course they help for “targeting the punch to the bag” but in truth many accomplished speed baggers can punch for long periods of time blind folded or eyes closed. I have personally used the speed bag with veterans that were blind, and in time they could learn to hit very well. That is the power of it’s repetitive sound.

Speedbagcentral would welcome the opportunity to help or in anyway assist any researcher in this area to construct a legitimate research study to test the usefulness of the speed bag as a useful repetitive auditory cue activity for any movement disorder.

Suggested Reading on External Auditory Cueing and Basal Ganglia.

The Role of the Basal Ganglia in Beat Perception

Brain Rhythms – How Do We Feel The Beat?
YouTube Video

Into the groove: Can rhythm influence Parkinson’s disease?

Auditory Rhythmic Stimulation for Gait Training


Repetitive bilateral arm training with rhythmic auditory cueing improves motor function in chronic hemiparetic stroke

Neurobiological foundations of neurologic music therapy: rhythmic entrainment and the motor system

Patterns of enhancement in paretic shoulder kinematics after stroke with musical cueing

Your Brain’s Got Rhythm, And Syncs When You Think

Effect of Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation on Hemiplegic Gait Patterns

Effect of rhythmic auditory stimulation on gait kinematic parameters of patients with multiple sclerosis

Dr Jessica Grahn Rhythm in the Brain: How Music Can Affect Movement 2012 Fall Parkinson’s Conference in Kitchener YOUTUBE VIDEO

the Work of Dr. Jessica Grahn