Shadowboxing is when a boxer moves around throwing punches at the air. Shadowboxing is a popular and basic exercise for boxers to hone their fighting techniques, condition their muscles, warm up or mentally condition themselves in the lead up to sparring, a boxing session or a fight.
Done correctly with the right goals in mind, I believe shadow boxing can help improve a boxer’s overall fighting abilities that includes technique, balance, coordination, rhythm, strategy, offence, defence, timing and state of mind.
Shadow boxing is one of the oldest, most pure, and versatile form of exercise for improving many aspects of a boxer’s fighting ability.
1: Warm Up
Shadowboxing can be used to warm up the muscles you are going to use for training. Simply move around freely or in your stance, use your legs, move your head, relax the shoulders, throw some light or snappy punches and just be on the move. Breathe (exhale out when you punch) and put some purpose to your movements. Get your body ready and mind to be in the zone while shadowboxing. Increase your heart rate, let your body sweat a little, stay loose and practice your range of motion (rotation of trunk and extending punches).
Whether you are working on a certain punch or a certain defensive or attacking move, shadowboxing can help you achieve your goal. Don’t rush, take your time, slow it down, check out your form in your mirror or get a coach to watch you. Break down the movement and know what to focus on. Once you get it right, you can go at normal speed. Repetition is important but only after you know for sure that you’re practicing the right thing. If you develop bad habits during the process and keep doing it, it can be hard to change later as it has become muscle memory. This is where having a coach helps.
3: Balance and coordination
Fighting can be chaotic and everything can happen very fast. Many times your body will just react based on your training, sometimes to your advantage, and sometimes not. Shadowboxing can help you train your mind to remind your body to be balanced and be in position while under pressure or in the heat of battle. Shadowboxing allows you to coordinate your upper body and lower body to work together, blending offence and defense and also for your hand to move together with your feet so everything comes naturally and not forced. You should achieve a certain level of calmness when you shadowbox, where everything feels like second nature, even though a movement or technique is complex.
4: Game Plan/ Strategy
The key to this is visualisation. Visualise that you are going against a very capable opponent. Shadowboxing is perfect for working on key strategic moments during a fight. Maybe you are used to out boxing but now you need to pressure your opponent since he or she has a longer reach. Maybe you know that your opponent is a powerful body puncher and you need to work on positioning yourself better to counter the body shot. Or maybe you just got out of a sparring match where your sparring partner kept landing his jab and you want to avoid this from happening again.
Shadowboxing with a strategic mindset and goal is great for developing new strategies to beat opponents and then developing new habits to fulfil these strategies.
5: Cool down/ Stay loose.
Move slowly, relax, chill, breathe. The hard work is done. You are now just trying to reflect and summarise in your mind what you’ve worked on earlier during your session. Sometimes after a hard strength and conditioning session or interval run which usually makes your body tenses up, it will be great to be able to squeeze in few rounds of shadowboxing as it will help the body to stay loose.
Keep your mind active and always be thinking
This should be a rule that you apply to every minute of your training, especially during shadow boxing. It is very easy to just go with the flow and let your brain go dead resulting you in doing things that are comfortable. Growth does not happen here. Always be aware of whatever that is happening, your surrounding, how you move, how you feel, your gut feeling. See if you can notice your mistakes and vulnerabilities before your opponents do.
How I shadowbox, The Chosen Wan style….
A general shadow boxing workout for me will be about 15 minutes. I do it for 15 minutes straight, no rest. I start off with throwing light, short and snappy punches and once I feel warmed up and have sweat a little, I will increase the intensity, extend my punches and rotate my trunk proper when punching. Sometimes I would shadowbox while watching a boxing match on YouTube, and I will focus on one of the boxers like as if I am going against him in a match. I also focus on my breathing, pace and mental state when shadowboxing.
Shadow boxing is the practice of committing repetitive boxing movement to muscle memory. Constant shadowboxing practice will develop this supreme ability to move your body naturally like as a boxer should. When you achieve this ability, you will be able to relax, be efficient, be balanced and feel comfortable in your own body.