Commando Boxing

How to Shadowbox


The term shadowboxing comes from a training method that boxers use where they pretend to box their shadow on a wall, although more commonly they use a mirror.

Shadowboxing is the most cost effective boxing training method you can use to improve your boxing skills. 

Shadowboxing requires absolutely no equipment, and you can do it anywhere and nearly anytime.  I've routinely worked shadowboxing into my day, throwing punches as I walk up stairs or down a hallway.  (I generally try to make sure no one is watching :)).  Have to say, much to my embarrassment, that I've been caught more than once in my own little boxing world.  Try explaining to a co-worker why you are jumping around like a lunatic in a suit in a board room punching something nobody else can see...

I guarantee you are going to feel awkward at first and feel like you're looking a little silly.  Take a look at Harry Greb shadowboxing (at 3:06) above. Looks like something that should be sent to the insane asylum and you probably won't look much different at least at first.  Don't worry, you get over it, and will see substantial improvements in the ring as well.

What is Shadowboxing?

Shadowboxing is boxing yourself or an imaginary opponent.  I don't think I'd be wrong if I said that every boxer uses shadowboxing as part of their training routine.  The technique is incredibly useful for you to learn techniques and work drills through in your head.  Shadowboxing basically has you punching the air and moving around practicing your drills and pretending to defend against an attacker.

How to Shadowbox?

Believe it or not, when you see someone shadowboxing they usually have an aim to what they are doing.  Or at least they should.  You can use shadowboxing a number of different ways to improve your boxing skills.  It is not necessarily just random punching and moving, although it could be.  Here are nine different shadowboxing drills for you to incorporate into your workouts:

1.  Movement Shadowboxing.  When practicing your movement while shadowboxing, you start out by not throwing any punches.  Your goal here is to concentrate on how you are moving around in your boxing stance.  Move forwards, backwards, side to side, pivot, hop, pendulum step, etc... This is where you develop some agility and light footwork.  Once you get comfortable with the movement, add in some punches, but the focus is still on the movement.  Visualize how your feet are turning, moving in relation to the punches you are throwing.

2.  Pivot and T Frame Shadowboxing.  In this round, while you shadowbox, your focus is on maintaining the T Frame, keeping your shoulders above your knees and pivoting correctly while throwing your punches.  You can move around all you want, throw whatever you want, but at all times, your focus is on the pivot and T-Frame.

3.  Shadowboxing Combinations.  For beginners, I generally have them start out doing a round of movement shadowboxing followed by a couple more rounds of specific combinations.  For instance, one entire round, I'll have them shadowbox jabs only.  They can be single jabs, double jabs, triple jabs, jabs to body then to head, and so on.  But, the focus is the jab.  The next round, the focus may switch to the 1-2 in which case the boxer will spend the entire round throwing technically correct jabs followed by straight rights (or lefts for the southpaws).    The next round they may do 1-2-3 combinations and so on.  The key is to focus on drilling a specific combination for the entire round.

4.  Shadowboxing for Speed.  This is quite fun and introduces a little bit of competition into the mix.  Shadowboxing for speed means the boxer will throw as many punches as he can in the span of the round.  They should still be throwing technically correct punches, but the real aim is to let their hands fly and count how many punches they can throw in three minutes.  It's best to track this so the boxer can attempt to beat whatever he did last time.  Being able to throw 250-300 punches in three minutes is a good goal to work towards.  One can also introduce constraints into this, for instance, throw as many jabs as you can in three minutes, etc... to mix it up and keep pers from getting bored.

5.  Shadowboxing an Opponent.  The opponent is yourself and this is where a mirror is really handy.  Having the boxer box himself will show him where his weaknesses are.  He can see when he leaves his head open or if his punches are off target.  He can see if he is bending his knees fully when going down for a body punch or if his slips are crisp, clean, and fast.  It may seem vain to an outsider, but boxing in a mirror will show you what your opponent sees and therefore what you need to fix before getting in the ring.

6.  Shadowboxing Free For Alls.  Anything goes.  Picture an opponent and move, punch, and defend against what he is doing to you.  Takes an imagination, but if you can picture yourself hitting someone and then reacting to whatever they do, you'll engrain it in your head that much quicker.  This is where the real implantation happens from learning a skill to putting it in your arsenal.  When you can visualize a scenario in vivid detail and respond with zero hesitation, you'll have that skill with you in the ring.  It's kind of like learning a second language.  Experts say that once you begin dreaming in that language, you're well on your way to becoming fluent in it.

7.  Slow Motion Shadowboxing.  Do everything deliberately in slow motion concentrating on perfect technique.  This will show you the mechanics behind a certain combination or punch and allow you to correct the little things - foot off center, not enough pivot, weight distributed slightly wrong, etc...

8.  Shadowboxing with Your Mouthpiece.  Adds a new dynamic into the mix.  Personally, I always train myself and those I train with their mouthpieces at all times.  Train how you fight is the motto.  Some don't though, and if you incorporate the mouthguard into your training, you see how breathing is a big part of the game.  Same goes for handwraps, wear them when you train.

9.  Shadowboxing with Weights.  Start small, holding small dumbells or weights in either hand as you shadowbox.  The added weight will not only aid in simulating a ring situation as you put on 10-16oz gloves, but the increased weight will help strengthen and develop your shoulders and possibly help your speed when you aren't holding the weights.

When to Shadowbox?

This may seem obvious, but shadowbox every chance you get.  You can use it as a warmup, cooldown, skills session, or anything else you can imagine.  For instance, with Commando Boxing's boxing training plans, if you don't have a heavy bag yet, substitute shadowboxing for the heavy bag drills.  You'll miss out on the resistance, but you're still learning the drills. 

The more you shadowbox, the quicker the drills and techniques are going to be implanted in your head and become instinct.  Like I mentioned previously, nothing is stopping you from incorporating it into your daily routine.  Sit at your desk and throw punches, walk down the hallway and throw punches, move like you're in the ring.  You may look like a dork, but who cares.  You're learning something and trying to condition your muscles and brain to react and throw in a certain way.  The more you drill that in, the better. Boxon.

How do you incorporate shadowboxing into your training routine?

About the Author Coach Aaron

Coach Aaron founded Commando Boxing in 2003. When he's not boxing, he's running ultramarathons or using data science/blockchains to create mixed reality HoloLens applications.