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Most combat sports incorporate striking elements, and Martial Arts like Boxing, Muay Thai, and Kickboxing all utilise a variety of different training methods. Athletes will commonly hit the punching bag, hit the focus mitts, include sparring sessions, and incorporate different forms of strength and conditioning practises. One of the most common practises in Boxing sessions is shadow boxing, and this can be done as a warmup movement, or as a high repetition workout. The popularity of combat sports has begun to increase, and platforms like the UFC, Bellator, and One Fighting Championship are leading the way for the combative art. 

What this article covers:

Training for professional combat sports can be a grueling process, as high calibre athletes can still buckle under the pressure of intense workout routines. The nature of shadow boxing routines are less impactful of the muscles, and the joints, and will create an avenue where athletes can use technique in a more creative, and less harmful way.

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whats shadow boxing

Any high quality striking art has a reputation for brutality, and being repeatedly punched in the face won't help the athlete from a long term standpoint. Diversity in training is vital to longevity in combat sports, and shadow boxing is one of those ways that an athlete can train without the constant grind of hardcore impacts to the head.


In Boxing, an athlete must use their intelligence, and their agility to glide their way into dominant punching positions. Learning this artform can be tricky, while under constant assault from a training partner. Shadow boxing is a great way to negate the hardcore elements, and just use speed, and skill. There is an artform to shadow boxing, and athletes will need to be creative, and dedicated to see the benefits of shadow boxing. An athlete will use a constant barrage of different punches, combined with impeccable footwork, and a series of evasive maneuvers. Throwing jabs, crosses, hooks, overhands, and uppercuts, while incorporating ducks, feints, slips, and rolls will help an athlete to discover the full force of their form. This type of training is used to improve an athlete's punching accuracy, their attacking and defensive footwork, their balance, and their cardiovascular ability, all while combining these together into a systematic flow of movements. 


Fans of the Boxing game may have always wondered why do boxers shadow box, and watching many of their favourite fighters like Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and Andy Ruiz Jr all dance around the ring punching at the air, answers the question. Shadow boxing is one of the best ways to improve the overall quality of their boxing ability. It is easy to say from the sidelines that a boxer should always be sparring, but with how easy it is to secure injuries from training, it is pivotal that they can train with little impact on their bodies. Shadow boxing can improve an athlete's foot work, as they will gain significant muscle memory from constantly dancing around the ring. Combining punches with proper foot work is the key component to enhancing the right technique in a real fight.

Balance can be a huge factor in a Boxing match, and shadow boxing is the perfect way to train this principle. It is often the unbalanced fighter that loses the exchange, and this can lead to a series of knockout blows. Becoming formidable on the feet is all about balance, and agility, so this is why shadow boxing is a necessary training tool for any serious competitor. All athletes must understand how to fight while staying in base, and this is an important concept in all combat sports. The right balance can determine how much power an athlete can use in their punch, and more importantly it helps them to be light on their feet so they can evade a counter attack. Shadow boxing will also improve an athlete's cardiovascular system, and each athlete can do as little, or as much as they need to improve. Increasing fitness, while working on systematic movements makes shadow boxing an important training tool to help prepare athletes for competition. 

One of the most commonly overlooked aspects in striking is the athlete's ability to evade punches. Every athlete will put in significant time into their attack systems, but defense can be just as important. Knowing how to properly use slips, and parrys is crucial for getting into the right position to execute counter strikes. Head movement is vital, because leaving the head still is simply inviting danger into the frame. Using head movements to fake an opponent, and then slipping back the other way will create a range of technical opportunities to inflict damage on an opponent. All of these aspects can be developed significantly when an athlete shadow boxes, and this is the perfect way for a coach to watch an athlete, and see where they are excelling, or where they might be failing. This makes it easier to know what they need to work on to improve their game style.

Practising shadow boxing techniques is a great way to develop speed, and using this concept becomes instinctive to an athlete. Instincts are extremely important in the Boxing game, and athletes must develop this part of their capabilities. Having good reflexes means they can see punches coming, and know how or when to evade, block, or counter strike. Beginners will commonly make mistakes instinctively, and this is because they are only beginning the learning process, where more seasoned athletes have a higher fight intelligence, and a great knack for instinctive movements. This is why a higher level striker will always be able to outmaneuver a beginner of the art. So beginners will need to shadow box, so they can start to develop that instinctive part of the game they are lacking.


There are many different ways that an athlete can implement shadow boxing techniques. The first step is to warm up diligently, and this means to get the blood flowing first, before stretching out their muscles. Short periods of running, or other exercises like star jumping, and skipping, are great ways to warm up the body. Once the athlete is warm they can start by walking up and down the mats, and throwing simple jabs, straight punches, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts. Once their body has well and truly warmed up they can start to add in foot work, and this can be side to side, as they start to incorporate blocks, and slips. This is a good way for beginners to build up their skillset without being overloaded with information.

Once the athlete has grasped the fundamentals of some of these movements, they can start to add in more technical moves like level changing, circling, and feinting, as they incorporate different punches. Now the athlete is moving in all directions, and is simulating a real fight by circling around a pretend opponent, and this is how they can find good form within their striking. The athlete can now pick up the pace, and begin to raise their heart rate, and this is where they must use breathing control. This is important for staying calm, and not tiring out too quickly when they are faced with a real opponent. It is important that an athlete uses pivots, and proper technique with all of their punches, so they can build good habits with their striking processes. The worst thing an athlete can do is be lazy, or sloppy with their striking, because this will create poor muscle memory, and will lead to horrible technique.


Shadow boxing can be more than just a cardio based technical workout, it can also increase an athlete's strength exponentially. Dancing around the canvas, and throwing strikes is highly beneficial to an athlete's training regime, and all athletes can improve their striking movements. A good way to incorporate strength training into a shadow boxing session is by adding in movements like sprawling, burpees, pushups, sprinting, and squats. This can make a significant difference in the explosiveness of an athlete, and even though this type of training can be harrowing, it can also be highly beneficial. Stepping in and throwing shadow boxing combinations, and then adding in a sprawl, or a burpee, then continuing the shadow box is a grueling workout, and one that will build up a huge amount of strength and conditioning within the athlete.

Another way to increase an athlete's strength is to incorporate dumbbells into shadow boxing. This means to pick a certain weight, and throw a series of punches. If holding dumbbells isn't what an athlete wants to do, they can simply strap weighted bags around their wrist, and ankles, or even wear a weighted vest. This is a good method of building up strength, while tiring themselves out shadow boxing. Throwing punches with extra weight attached can make an athlete's arms lighter when they are sparring against a training partner, so this method has viability. The only downside is an athlete could wind up with an injury if they over work themself during the session, but as long as the athlete warms up the right way they should be able to withstand the rigors of this type of strength training workout. 


All athletes must warm up their muscles before they engage in any form of physical exercise. Warming up the body is the best way to prevent injuries from happening, and in a combat sport like Boxing, or Mixed Martial Arts this is imperative. There are different ways an athlete can warm up their bodies, but the most important aspect is to get the blood flowing before any kind of deep stretches. This is known as dynamic stretching, which is getting the system warmed up with jogging, hip rotations, side stepping, or other light exercises, followed by static stretching, which is basically any deep muscle stretching. Once the athlete has initially warmed up they will need to further loosen up their arms, and legs, and this can be done a number of different ways. Utilising circling shoulder rotations, arm raises, light push ups, leg raises, leg rotations, or isometric exercises can be a good way to limber up the body to prepare them for any kind of striking training.

Cooling down can be just as important as warming up, and this is a concept which is commonly overlooked. Because the athlete has already spent a lot of energy training, dynamic stretching is not necessary to cool down. Instead athletes can go straight into cool down stretches, and this can be any sore spots an athlete has, or tight areas that have been thoroughly worked out. In the case of striking training, the arms, and legs will need a significant stretch to cool down. Another good method of cooling down is to simply taper down the shadow boxing, and continue to throw really light movements, and basically just rotate the hip area, with some light foot, and arm movements. Athletes could also just cool down by going for a walk, as this can help to lower the adrenaline, and the lactic acid that has built up during the training session.


Like all cardio workouts, they will help an athlete to lose a significant amount of calories, which translates into weight loss. Shadow boxing is a high energy training program that will specifically target the cardiovascular system. This will result in a heightened ability of fitness, and a significant burn off of calories. All an athlete has to do is make sure they are burning more calories than they are eating, and losing weight from shadow boxing is an easy concept. Shadow boxing can burn anywhere from five hundred to one thousand calories per session, and this can be a fun and fulfilling way to trim down. Learning how to use technical striking at the same time as burning calories is a perfect way to lose kilos. An athlete only needs twenty minutes of shadow boxing to make a dent into their weight loss goals, but a seasoned athlete will spend longer. This means they can potentially burn thousands of calories, so it becomes important to eat enough calories so the athlete doesn't lose muscle tone, and strictly only burns fat.

Fluid Boxing Fundamentals from D'yah Davis is available now at DynamicStriking.com!

what is shadow boxing


Most workout routines have elements of healing power to the human brain. It is a proven fact that exercise will significantly help to reduce anxiety and depression within the mind of a person. When someone engages in exercise, the body will increase its levels of endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoid, and these are all sophisticated brain chemicals that are responsible for someone feeling happy, and confident. This can lead to a greater sense of accomplishment, and will relieve stress, and anxiety. Shadow boxing has that same effect, as it will increase all of those brain chemicals, and improve the person's cardiovascular system. This is a great way to build strength and fitness, reduce stress, and get a much needed distraction from a person's mental anguish, or from their busy lifestyle. Some people will use the wrong methods when they are stressed like emotional eating, gambling, or taking drugs and alcohol, but this can only lead to more pain and bad health, so it is important that people address their mental health status, and keep striving towards a fitter, and healthier lifestyle. 

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