Shadowboxing – A Closer Look
It can be difficult to stay motivated for workouts when your local gym has so many restrictions on access. You’d be forgiven for thinking – why bother? But have you ever tried shadowboxing? This might be the best time to try this easy boxing workout that you can do at home.
What Shadowboxing Is and What it Isn’t
Shadowboxing isn’t just pretending to box. It’s not something that tough guy bros do to show off. It’s not something that only expert boxers can do, either.
Shadowboxing is like a physical meditation that simulates boxing against a real opponent. You shuffle your feet, bob and weave, and throw punches at the air. It can really burn calories when done properly.
Shadowboxing isn’t the same as boxing a real opponent though. It’s not realistic from a fighting standpoint. Nearly all martial arts practitioners use some form of shadowboxing, but it can become a crutch.
That’s because the fighter that you imagine isn’t unpredictable. You’re always the champion when you’re shadowboxing. So, don’t get disillusioned into thinking you’re a bad ass because you can shadowbox.
Shadowboxing is very versatile though. You don’t need any equipment. You don’t need a heavy bag. You don’t even need to wear gloves. You can track your movements in the mirror or with a camera and essentially coach yourself to achieve better levels of fighter fitness.
From my own personal experiences, I can say that shadowboxing has helped me to visualize and enter a flow state while exercising. Sure, I enjoy the cardio workout, but I also enjoy the mental aspect of shadowboxing, as well. It boosts my confidence and helps me to “dial in” so that I can get the most out of my workouts.
What Are the Benefits of Shadowboxing?
Shadowboxing can be a great way to warmup for all sorts of workout routines. It gets your heart rate up and helps you focus. You can incorporate shadowboxing into a more serious boxing routine that uses a heavy bag, speed bag, and sparring. You can also use shadowboxing as a way to warm-up for resistance training.
One of the main purposes for shadowboxing is to improve your fighting technique. When you simulate the motions of throwing punches, moving your head and feet, you work these movements into your muscle memory through repetition. You can work out any problem areas you might have and develop new skills.
Improve Coordination and Rhythm
Shadowboxing requires the coordinated movement of all parts of your body and strenuous breath work. When you’re shadowboxing, you tend to notice misalignments in your form. Sometimes, it’s a move or combination that you thought you were really good at. So, shadowboxing helps to make boxing motions more natural.
Get a Cardio Workout
A man weighing 140 pounds can burn more than 300 calories an hour with a shadowboxing workout. You can even customize the workout to highlight target areas by incorporating twists of the abdomen, knee strikes, or sustained dips. Take it a bit further by using a jump rope in between sets.
Related: The Core Workout for Men Made Easy
Work on Fighter Strategy
Shadowboxing is a thinking man’s exercise. If you tend to drop your hands after a right hook, then you can work on improving that movement. If you think you could incorporate knee strikes or elbows after your opponent is hurt, then you can work on a sharp delivery. Shadowboxing helps you visualize situations in fighting and train your body to respond quicker to opportunities.
Shadowboxing can be a useful tool when you’re rehabbing an injury or coming out of a workout routine. You can set the pace yourself and just move your body. It gives you time to reflect on your exercise routine and just breathe. You can also focus on how your body feels and pinpoint any problems you might have such as an over-worked muscle group.
A Shadowboxing Workout Walkthrough
You’ll need about 3 to 5 meters of space for this shadowboxing workout. So, you might want to try this outdoors or in an indoor space that has a straight line of uninterrupted floor about the same length of a boxing ring.
Start your shadowboxing routine with some deep breathing. Take a deep breath in. Hold it for a few seconds and then slowly breathe out. After four or five breath cycles, incorporate some dynamic stretches into your breathing.
Breathe in with big arms reaching up and breathe out with your arms sweeping down. Rotate your neck and twist your upper torso. As you breathe, begin to bounce on the balls of your feet and shake out your arms.
Rotate your wrists and elbows. Limber all your joints by gently rotating them in a natural, unrushed fashion, all while you breathe deeply.
Now, at this point, I incorporate a jump rope into my shadowboxing workout. I do a 30 second burst of sustained jumps with the rope at a slow to moderate pace. This really gets my heart rate up and prepares my body for exercise.
I take a 30 second pause and then I do another 30 seconds with the jump rope at a more moderate pace. I repeat the 30 second pause and then I do another 30 seconds with the jump rope at a moderate to fast pace. Now, I’m ready to begin working with some shadowboxing techniques.
First, I start with a left jab and a straight right, your #1 and #2 punches if you follow boxing numbers. Do your 1…2…and then shuffle your feet forward with a slight hop step. 1…2…shuffle your feet forward. Do this all the way across the room.
Once you get to the other side, turn around. Now, do a left jab, straight right, shuffle step, left upper cut, right uppercut. Do this sequence all the way back to the other side of the room. So, it’s 1…2…shuffle step…5…6…repeat.
Once you get to the other side of the room, turn around. Now, do a left jab, straight right, shuffle step, left upper cut, right upper cut, add a shuffle step, two quick left jabs and a mean straight right. Each pass adds more to the sequence.
So now, it’s 1…2…shuffle step…5…6…shuffle step…1…1…2. Do this all the way to the opposite side of the room. As you can see, you’re now putting together a string of punches into a nice little combo.
You can add punches and movements from here. Incorporate head movement and changes of direction. You can even put in knees, kicks and elbows if you practice Muay Thai kickboxing or MMA. The point is to work your shadowboxing combination into a flow state of continuous motion.
Try to sustain this shadowboxing routine for about 7 to 10 minutes. Then, take a small break to drink water. After a pause like this, I tend to go back to the jump rope and start that sequence again. This keeps my heart rate up. My goal is to do 3 circuits of the shadowboxing routine for a total time of about 30 minutes.
What You Should Be Thinking About During a Session
Shadowboxing is a very introspective exercise. You should be thinking in between movements, not just switching off. Think about your last combination and visualize ways your next sequence can be better.
That’s why I do repetitive sequences – so that I can work the movements into my muscle memory and make slight adjustments each time. I’m not necessarily visualizing an opponent, but some people do. You can use whatever mental tool that helps you perform better.
Check out this shadowboxing workout from Vasyl Lomachenko. Take notice of the relaxed, almost meditative quality to his technique.
Using Weights with Shadowboxing
There’s a huge debate among the boxing world about whether you should use weights when you’re shadowboxing. On one side, some boxing experts think that using weights transforms shadowboxing into something different – resistance training.
Other fighters and trainers believe that using weights strengthens your core and arm muscles while you’re working on your shadowboxing. So, there is a two-birds-one-stone argument there. Here are my personal thoughts on the matter, but I’m not a boxing expert.
If you want to incorporate weights into shadowboxing for the purpose of resistance training, then you should shadowbox at half speed so that you don’t damage your joints and ligaments. You don’t want to throw yourself off balance and cause an injury when there are other, safer forms of resistance training.
Also, you could try shadowboxing underwater. This helps you focus even more on your form while providing some light resistance. You increase your stamina with underwater shadowboxing, as well.
Wrapping it Up
Shadowboxing is a great way to pinpoint your own weaknesses and visualize your own victories. It helps you to train your body for a quick fighting response. One of the reasons why professional boxers shadowbox is so that they don’t need to be switched on to fight. The movements are already conditioned into their body.
You don’t have to be a professional fighter to appreciate or benefit from shadowboxing. I do it right in the comfort of my own living room and it’s a great workout. On days when I feel like I just can’t stay away from the gym or if I’m nursing an injury, I’ll just shadowbox for half an hour and I feel better.
You can burn over 300 calories an hour shadowboxing and greatly improve your explosiveness, strength, technique, speed, and endurance. So, why not try something new and start shadowboxing.
I hope this post was helpful for you and if you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments or send me a message. I’d be happy to help.