Shadowboxing Benefits, Tips & Ultimate Guide For Boxers

Shadow Boxing 1

Shadow boxing is one of the most effective workouts available to us for simulating a fight. You will see that all professional fighters use shadow boxing to get them in the zone for their workout, to warm up, improve footwork, head movement and visualise upcoming fights or sparring against different styles of fighter.

It’s also perfect for practicing the combos fighters have been thinking about in the air before trying them out on the bag or pads and just perfecting our best shots and combos, moving our head and working on our foot work. We can also use shadow boxing as an effective workout for arm endurance, weight loss and even hand speed.

Overall shadowboxing can be rewarding mentally as well as physically but it can be difficult to get started with shadow boxing for the first time and that is usually because you aren’t used to shadow boxing and moving around the ring and feel awkward, so, you need to just dive in and get comfortable being uncomfortable.


How Do You Start Shadow Boxing

AJ Shadow Boxing

Shadow boxing can be a bit of a daunting task. If you walk into a boxing gym and everybody starts shadowboxing, you can feel awkward if you haven’t done it before or if you are just starting out as a beginner, you may be wondering how can you get started with shadow boxing as part of or as a full workout in itself.

If you need to learn shadowboxing, you have come to the right place.

You need three things for boxing and that is footwork, Body and head movement and throwing punches , shadow boxing is the perfect place to practice and perfect all three.

Everything in boxing is going to come off the jab so that is the first punch you want to practice.

Stand in your boxing stance and throw the jab 10 times

Do the same with the right hand

Now Throw the 1-2 together for 10 reps.

Try a 1-2 with a left hook for 10 reps as well.

These are the basic Punching combinations and you want to practice these as much as possible whether it’s in shadow boxing or on the bags.

What Muscles Does Shadow Boxing Using

Shadow boxing and boxing in general is a dynamic sport that uses all of our body. Primarily you’re going to be using the shoulder, arms and back to throw punches but you will be using your feet and calves to move around and your legs when throwing body shots.

You are also throwing punches through the hips making it a full body exercise. If you want to make it more difficult you can use light dumbbells and even ankle weights if you want to. Shadow boxing is a great full body exercise but it is also perfect just to warm up and move onto bags, pads, sparring or conditioning.

Benefits Of Shadowboxing

Good Shadow Boxing

Allows Us To Improve Our Footwork

Foot work is probably more important than throwing punches, if you have good footwork you may be able to evade your opponent for the whole round. Pernell Whitaker once won a round without throwing a single punch.

Stand in your boxing stance and get the basic movements right.

If you want to go forward then the front leg (Left for orthodox) steps forward first followed by the back foot.

If we want to move backward the back leg steps first.

If we want to change direction the back foot pivots around the get us pointing in the new direction.

Try to throw the jab while stepping forward and backward and trying adding the right hand into the combo once you are getting better.

With footwork we eventually want to be able to step into our opponents range land the jab and quickly move out and we want to be able to move out and in with ease to counteract our opponents movements and land our shots.


Work On Our Head Movement

Shadow Boxing 4

Shadow boxing is the perfect time to work on our head movement. Head movement is another very important part of being a boxer and it is often an undertrained element of the game by many.

Shadow boxing is your time to implement anything you have been thinking about that needs improvement in your game and head movement is always something we can get better at.

Throw the jab and slip your head to the right and throw the one tow and slip your head to the left.

Throw the 1-2 and slip to the left and roll from left to right

Throw the 1-2-3 and slip to right and then roll from right to left.

Get used to moving your head from side to side and up and down as you are stalking your opponent, a moving target is much more difficult to hit and work on keeping your hands up.



Allows Us To Visualise Ourselves In The Ring

If we have a fight or sparring coming up then we will probably have a game plan of how we would like to fight. Shadow boxing gives us the perfect opportunity to execute on our game plans and see how the movements feel.

Once you practice a particular movement, punch or combo 1000’s of times in the gym shadow boxing, on pads or on the bags, you brain will be able to draw on the muscles that make this move possible and throw the punch much faster than someone who hasn’t put in the hard work in the gym.

The say you need 10,000 hours to become an expert at something and shadowboxing allows you to try to reach this number.

If you think your opponent may be open to a left hook and a right hand, you can also throw this combo in the air before trying it out on a sparring partner.

If something worked last time in our sparring, we can try it out again and get it etched into our muscle memory.

One of the key things that all great fighters have done over the years is visualise victory at every opportunity. Moving around the ring and throwing the exact shots you will be throwing in the fight and visualise them landing on your opponent and winning the fight.


Allows Us To Get More Comfortable And Relax

Roy Jones Shadow Boxing

There is no pressure with shadowboxing, you can hop in the ring and move around simulating a fight and trying out all of your combos and movements to try to win the fight while also imagining that there are blows coming back.

Shadow boxing is the place where we take the new things we have learned and add them to solid base that we have already built up.


Builds Muscle Memory

Muscle Memory is a very important concept. Bruce Lee once said, “I don’t fear the man who has practice 10,000 different kicks, I fear the man who has practiced 1 kick, 10,000 times. That is why drilling our combos and movements into our heads and muscle memory can help us to let those punches go that split second quicker and feel natural adding a left hook to a 1-2 combo when the timing is right.


The Perfect Warm Up

Starting your workout off with shadow boxing allows you to warm up with no resistance and get the blood flowing while warming up the muscles.

Many people will skip first to get the blood and arms flowing and then shadow box to get their focus, increase their sharpness, get the positive visualisations going and practice new techniques before moving onto bag work, pad work or sparring.


Shadow Boxing Is Perfect For Cooling Down

If we finish a tough session with some tough punch outs, drills or sparring, it can be a great idea just warm down and get in our zone at the end of training and do a round or two of shadow boxing.

Letting the muscles cool down with dynamic exercises or stretches can prevent injury and it also allows us to work the combos we drill through the night into our muscle memory.



Perfect For Isolating Parts Of Your Game And Improving Them

Shadow boxing provides the perfect breeding ground for picking one part of your game and focusing exclusively on that. You can use only footwork for this round, moving around the ring and practice moving your feet to get angles where you would let you punches go.

In the second round you can go on and work on just your jab or jabs and right crosses. Working on your footwork and head movement as well.

In the third round you can throw certain combos you have been working on and so on and so on.


Shadow Boxing Combos To Work On

For Orthodox Stance – If you are a south paw, switch the lefts to rights and rights to lefts




Jab – Cross


Jab – Cross – Left Hook


Jab – Jab – Cross


Jab – Left Hook – Right Cross


Jab – Cross – Left Hook – Cross


Jab – Cross – Left Uppercut – Cross


Jab – Cross – Left Hook To The Body And Pivot Away


Left Hook to the body, left hook to the head.


Shadow Boxing With Weights

Light Dumbbells For Boxing

Shadow with weights is an effective way to increase the endurance in our arms. Boxers should only shadow box with light dumbbells, 1kg or 2lbs maximum. The theory is that our arms get used to punching with the heavier load and we can punch fast and stronger than before.

Remember if you are doing a 3 minute round of shadow boxing and you arms are fatigued after a minute with the weights, just drop them and complete the round without them and pick them up for the next round.


Does Shadow Boxing With Weights Make Your Hands Faster?

I would say shadow boxing with weights good make your hands a little bit quicker but it’s not going to turn someone that is a slow puncher into a fast puncher, so you might make some slight improvement in your hand speed but it will probably not be that noticeable.


Will Shadow Boxing Increase The Endurance In My Arms?

Shadow Boxing Arm Endurance

Shadow boxing with weights definitely increase the endurance in your arms if you put the work in with them in training. Many boxers will start their training with 3 rounds of shadow boxing so you could use weights for the first 2 and use only your hands for the last set.

You can freestyle with the weights or you can do drills

Try throwing fast straight punches with the light dumbbells for a minute straight and aim your shots upwards or towards the ceiling to engage your shoulders more.

You can do 10 punches with weight – 10 push ups then 9, 8, 7 ,6 down to 1.

These kind of drills really work the shoulders and lead to increase endurance.


Is Shadow Boxing Good Cardio

Shadow boxing is good cardio but it is generally used as a warm up and visualisation tool. You might shadow box for 10 minutes before moving onto more difficult work. If you wanted a good cardio workout for shadow boxing, you would need to shadow box for 30 minutes without taking many breaks which will probably get boring unless you bring some conditioning drills into the mix.

Shadow boxing is good cardio but not as good as jogging, cycling, jumping rope or swimming which are solid forms of cardio for boxing/

How Many Calories Do You Burn Shadow Boxing With Weights

Shadow Boxing on its own will burn around 4-500 calories per hour for the average 160 lb man and it will deviate slightly from this the more you move up and down in weight. When we add weights to the shadow boxing we can manage to burn 6-700 calories.

This is really going to depend on how intensely you train and how many punches a round you are averaging.


Shadow Boxing With Resistance Bands

Shadow boxing with resistance bands is a great way to build up our arm endurance and work on our punching speed. You want to get the bands with handles to give you resistance on the way out and remind you to bring your hands back to your head when you are done.

Resistance bands with handles usually come in sets and we want to start out with the lowest resistance and work our way up. We don’t need to go too strong with the resistance, fast movements will be better for improving your punching speed and power and the extra resistance will increase your endurance and build the shoulder muscles.


Shadow Boxing With Weighted Gloves

I would prefer the dumbbells or the resistance bands over the weighted gloves. The weighted gloves are perfectly mimicking the movement of throwing the punch and we don’t wan to get that skewed by throwing punches with a much heavier glove. Weighted gloves are not necessarily that bad but I would favour the dumbbells or resistance band.


If you are talking about 20oz gloves then yes you should shadowbox with them but I wouldn’t go with anything much higher.


Egg Weights For Shadow Boxing

Egg Weights are cool ergonomically designed weights that fit in your palms perfectly allowing you to add some weight to your shadow boxing and we think that they work very well to allow to you to develop speed in your punches and overall endurance. Egg weights can stay in your hands if you are doing a circuit as well and these are a great training add and a way to burn those extra few calories in the gym.


Dumbbell Punch Outs

Dumbbell punches are a great way to finish off a workout. This involves holding light dumbbells and doing straight punches for a 2 or 3 1 minute rounds. These are perfect for building up your arm endurance especially when you are already tired and just to burn those last few calories at the end of your workout.


You could also try 20 straight punches, 20 hooks and 20 uppercuts to get a real good burn in all of your arms and this will really condition and work on your endurance


Do Air Punches Build Muscle?

Air punches on their own well not really build muscle as there is no resistance to punch against. While it is using your shoulders and arms, it will only help you to tone and condition as it is too light to build any really muscle. By the time it becomes anaerobic, you really won’t see any strength or muscle gains but it is a great aerobic exercise for cardio and practicing your moves in the ring.


Is Shadow Boxing Better Than Punching Bag?

It’s very hard to say whether shadow boxing is better than hitting the bags, they are both different exercises with their own benefits and you should be doing both if you want to get better at boxing.

Shadow boxing is excellent for visualising yourself in the ring, moving around, throwing fast punches and working on what you have been learning in your classes or as you get better.

Shadow boxing is ideal for building up technique and imagining yourself winning, especially as you move around the ring and we can introduce weights to add endurance to the exercise.

The heavy bag offers good resistance at the moment of impact so it is perfect for perfecting you punching power, endurance and working on different combos and techniques. There are tons of drills you can do with the heavy bag and it is great way to improve endurance and overall boxing ability.

Try warming up with 3 rounds of shadow boxing and then move onto 3 rounds of hitting the bags when your arms are warmed up already.



Should I Shadow Box With Gloves On?

Shadow Boxing Lay With Gloves

Absolutely, shadow boxing with gloves on mimics throwing a punch exactly in sparring or a fight and it also helps you to visualise yourself more fully in the ring.

Whether you are wearing your 10 ounce training gloves or 16oz sparring gloves, it allows us to add endurance to the exercise with the extra weight and we can see our hands slowing down so we can become more conscious of our defence.

When our punches go out, they should come back just as quickly to protect our chin and body.


Is Shadow Boxing A HIIT?

Shadow boxing can easily High Intensity Interval training. We can shadowbox normally for 20 seconds and then sprint with straight punches for 10 seconds over a 2 or 3 minute round.


We can also shadow box normally for 20 seconds and then do 10 – Push Ups / Burpees / Squats etc. which will real tone and condition the body.

So we can see that it is easy to use shadowboxing as a full workout, when we couple it with another exercise to add intensity and endurance work.


Does Shadow Boxing Increase Punching Power?

Shadow boxing on its own will not increase punching power. It is an excellent visualisation tool, perfect for warm ups or even full workouts and perfect for perfecting the new techniques we have been picking up in training.

Shadow boxing with weights may help to very slightly increase punching power and speed but it is more useful for building endurance, stamina and conditioning.


How Often Should You Shadow Box?


Shadow boxing is something you can do every day as it isn’t going to cause ripping and tea in your muscle so you don’t need to recover from it. You can start every workout with shadow boxing or use it to cool down at the end of a session.

You can use high or low intensity and you add in other extra exercises or make it HIIT easily.


What Does Shadow Boxing Do For Your Body

Shadow Boxing works your whole body, not just the arms and shoulder. You can punch through the hips bring a wide range of muscles into action and you can dip low to throw shots to the body working the legs more or you can use it to explode with a knockout punch. Shadow boxing is a versatile exercise that can give you a full body workout.



Can You Lose Weight By Shadow Boxing?

Boxing Shadow Boxing Circuits

Incorporating shadow boxing into our fitness work can definitely help us to lose weight, get toned and improve our whole bodies conditioning but it is ultimately going to come down to diet.

Shadow boxing will burn a lot of calories for us but its not going to matter if we go to McDonalds or Dominos pizza afterwards. If you can keep a clean diet or even clean up your diet a little bit and you start incorporating good shadow boxing routines into your workouts, you can gain some weight and tone up considerably


Try some drills In this shadow boxing workout routine


5 * 3 Minute Rounds


Round 1 – Practice the jab. Don’t forget head movement and footwork. Go to the body and head, Throw doubles and triples


Round 2 – Add The Right Cross. Same as round 1 except no we can throw 1-2’s double jab right hand, jab to body and right hand to head. Moving our head and feet at all times.


Round 3 – Conditioning


Throw 1 Punch and pick and exercise From Push Ups, Burpees Or Sit Ups


Throw 1 punch and do 1 push

2 punches and 2 push ups

3 and 3 all the way up to 10.


If you finish in the 3 minutes work down from 10 with a different exercise like


10 Punches – 10 Sit Ups/Burpees


This will give you a good workout


Round 4 – Jabs Crosses and Left Hooks – Work on your punching and movement.


Round 5 – Freestyle shadow boxing – throw all different punches, get inventive with combos, move your head, dance around and have fun. Try to keep a good intensity in the final round to really get a good conditioning, weight loss and endurance workout


Round 6 – Bonus Conditioning Round

10 Fast Straight Punches

10 Push Ups


10 Fast Punches

10 Burpees


10 Fast Punches

10 Crunches


10 Fast Punches

10 Squats


Repeat until the round is over

Floyd Mayweather Shadow Boxing Workout

Mayweather Shadow Boxing

Floyd Mayweather is the greatest fighter of our era and if he is doing it, you better believe it works.`

Floyd likes to shadow box quite calmly with weights and without weights

He jabs, throws right hands and left hooks, as well as uppercuts on the inside.

He likes the right uppercut followed by the left hook in his shadow boxing which he keep calm and controlled.

Floyd uses shadow boxing to warm up for his rounds on the pads with Uncle Roger Mayweather and this can be a very good strategy to use.


Aidan Lehane has been involved in the fight game for well over 10 and has trained in some of the leading boxing gyms around the world including Sinbi Muay Thai and MTK Global Marbella. He wants to offer as much advice to beginners and pros as possible.

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