Shadow boxing. What is it?
Shadow boxing is typically done by boxers, grapplers and wrestlers to visualize and emulate perfect form. Traditionally in boxing, it is done when you move around and execute punches and boxing moves in the air.
It can also be done as an exercise before workouts to help warm up muscles, stretch out joints and improve overall speed and hand-eye coordination.
If you are looking to improve your self-defense, burn calories or even strengthen your cardio without a weight room or gym membership then read on:
Expect your first shadow boxing workout to feel awkward and tiring. However, overtime, the movements will become natural. You will also see your coordination and breathing improve.
1. Define a goal
A great shadow boxing workout incorporates a handful of benefits. If you mentally highlight specific goals you want to improve on you will see faster results. For example:
- Improve basic techniques
- Try new styles or variations
- Muscle warm up
- Work on speed and footwork
- Simulate defensive or offense movements
- Enhance your conditioning and endurance
- Incorporate head movement, slips and fakes
- Mental preparation
2. Find a space
Shadow boxing will never require anything but yourself and some space. This can be done in your living room, gym, backyard, park, open area or even your grandma’s house.
More space will give you more opportunity to move around, allowing flexibility with your footwork. Tighter spaces will have you using more compact movements while covering shorter distances when executing moves.
Make sure to have proper footwear as you want to avoid any potential for injury. Bring the following:
- Water bottle for in between rounds
- Appropriate athletic clothing
You will NOT need boxing gloves, hand wraps or a mirror.
3. Decide on duration
Amateur boxing lasts 3 rounds. These last 2-3 minutes include interval breaks of 1 minute in between. These are uninterrupted.
Timers can include basic stopwatches, cell phone timers, youtube videos or even a trainer to help shout out time.
Before starting your timer for 3 minutes, begin visualizing the upcoming rounds. This not only will help with execution, but prepare your body for what upcoming movements and techniques you want to improve on.
Lastly, think about your energy output. If you are just beginning, don’t worry about speed or volume. These things are built on a solid foundation of fundamentals that start with honing the basics of technique and visualization.
4. Have a reference point
Shadow boxing is as much a mental exercise as a physical one. There are many ways to visualize your rounds during shadow boxing.
- Imagine a fighter in front of you
- Picture a physical confrontation with another person
- Mentally draw an octagon in front of your feet. You will use the octagon to step in, out and around during your combinations
If you are struggling to picture imaginary shapes or opponents then there are a number or auditory aids available online to help you shadowbox. Such as:
Killer Shadow boxing workout
Beginner Shadow boxing Trial
Begin round 1 by focusing on rhythm and movement with your legs.
Pay attention to your footwork and your imaginary target. You should keep the following in mind:
Simulating an actual boxing bout will incorporate using your breath efficiently and effectively. Use slow breathing as you utilize slower movements, and quick breathing as you use more rapid movements.
As you throw your punches, learn to exhale.
Create angles during footwork. These angles create opportunities for both long and short range attacks while making it harder for your opponent to land punches cleanly.
Get in your boxing stance, and visualize your opponent in front of your lead foot. With your front foot planted, push off your back leg
and move to either direction while maintaining your planted front foot.
Remember to maintain your weight distribution and never lean to far forward when you pivot.
A complete guide on pivoting can be found here.
Keep your hands up
Failing to keep your hands up during shadow boxing develops bad habits. When sparring any opponent, defense is just as crucial as offence.
As you throw punch combinations, the hand that is opposite to the one punching must always be touching the side of your jaw to protect from counters.
Keep your chin tucked and look straight ahead at your opponent at all times.
While shadow boxing, think about distances between your combinations during attack and defense. For beginners:
Closing the distance involves getting closer to your opponent as you attack.
Getting out of range encompasses being far enough from your opponent’s immediate range of damage.
A great video guide for range and visualizing for beginners can be found here.
After the round is finished, rest for 60 seconds and hydrate. Visualize your next round and what you would like to incorporate, what combinations do you want to improve or build on?
6. Simple combinations
Your second round of shadow boxing will involve basic hand combinations. The technique is the focus here and should not be substituted for speed.
This will create good habits and you will see improvement in speed and volume become your major focus. For now, concentrate on simple, technique-oriented combinations.
Combinations can include:
• 1 jab
• 1-2 or jab cross
• 1-1-2 or jab, jab, cross
During your rest, think about what you would like to accomplish during your final round. What mistakes did you catch yourself doing or what feels awkward?
7. Final round
Incorporate proper footwork and punching combinations from your previous rounds. Again, pay attention to your technique and form until the round is over.
Include some variations to your combinations while maintaining cadence.
How many calories does Shadow boxing burn?
Shadow boxing Tips
Regular shadow boxing has been reported to burn 300+ calories in an hour depending on resistance and intensity and will increase if mixed with kicks, longer rounds or plyometrics.
1. Add weight
Use light dumbbells (1-3 lbs) to add strength training to your routine. The dumbbells will force you to punch straight and slow your punches down.
The dumbbells will keep your punches straight and by the time you wear boxing gloves, your hands will feel much lighter.
Note that your arms will struggle with the drag given by the dumbbells. Constantly forcing you to keep your hands up.
2. Include a mirror
Mirrors will help maintain proper stance and movement. Your attention will be on: HOW you are throwing your punches while moving your body.
While shadow boxing, occasional glances at the mirror to check your techniques are suggested.
3. Theme your rounds
Add a theme to every round to help diversify and add to your shadow boxing workout.
Things like defensive rounds, counterpunching and offensive rounds can be included as you improve.
4. Emulate realistic circumstances
During your shadow boxing workout, it is easy to fall into habits of punching through the air without much thought of impact distribution.
To combat this, imagine your fist stopping at a surface as you land a combination. Transferring the energy generated into your opponent, then bringing your fist back to protect yourself.
Additionally, not all your punches will land in a fight. Include instances where you miss your target. This will buff your endurance and reset your stance.
Moreover, get used to never loading up every single punch, as you will exhaust your arms and eventually fatigue your entire body.
5. Add a mouthpiece
Breathing is essential to boxing and adding a mouthpiece during training is a great addition.
You’ll get used to your own habits and notice different breathing speeds depending on what your goals are during the round.
6. Add extra rounds
Mainly done for endurance, adding longer or more rounds will enhance cardio, give you more time for technique and allow for more time to work on new skills.
Shadow boxing is the most simple and effective way to promote endurance, technique and speed. Yet, it is usually overlooked and underestimated.
It will not just benefit boxing practitioners and athletes either. If you are looking for a cardio routine, muscle cool down or even just to burn calories; shadow boxing can be interesting, effective and rewarding.
Shadow boxing videos from the pros:
Manny Pacquiao’s Lighting Fast Shadow Boxing –
Floyd Mayweather Shadow Boxing at the Peacock Gym –
Danny Garcia –
Comment below on what kind of fight you are training for!