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Striking Martial Arts have been around for thousands of years, and combat sports like Boxing, is one of the most prolific in the world. Boxing is especially popular in the United States of America, and many athletes are training hard for fights in the Boxing ring, and the Mixed Martial Arts cage.

What this article covers:

Having natural skills in striking will only take an athlete so far, they will need a comprehensive training program that incorporates learning techniques, hitting focus mitts, power punching into the heavy bag, sparring with training partners, strength and conditioning, cardio based drills, mobility exercises, and shadow boxing workouts.

Coach Barry Robinson has joined forces with DynamicStriking.com and now you can add A MILLION STYLES BOXING COMBOS to your arsenal!

shadow boxing combinations

Many athletes may wonder why do boxers shadow box, and there is a good reason for this. Shadow boxing is the best way to work on an athlete's form, while still simulating a real fight experience. The workout commonly incorporates effective striking, combined with evasive maneuvers, and a high level of energy and movement. This type of training can be pivotal in sculpting an athlete into becoming a world class striker. All of the greatest fighters of the past like Mohammed Ali, Rocky Marciano, Sonny Liston, and Joe Frazier, including many of the new aged fighters like Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and Andy Ruiz Jr all embrace the athletic prospects of fluent shadow boxing.


Shadow boxing is the single most important aspect of the fight game, it has more functionality then pad work, bag work, and to some degree sparring. Learning how to properly use shadow boxing will fine tune any athlete's striking ability. The training system sharpens an athlete's punches, and helps to develop them into a flow, while integrating them with footwork and other body movements. Shadow boxing can be used as a warm up drill, a strength and conditioning drill, or a fluency drill, and either way they are all extremely important aspects. The simple mechanics involve an athlete to move around the mat with purpose, while throwing punches into the air. The exercise incorporates different kinds of punches like jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts, overhands and even kicks, knees, and elbows if the athlete is utilising muay thai shadow boxing techniques. The athlete will also combine evasive maneuvers like slipping, ducking, circling, feinting, and blocking. The combination of these movements are highly systematic, and are thoroughly worked on during shadow boxing exercises.


There are some important tips to know when an athlete is looking at effective ways to shadow box. Visualisation is a key component, and athletes must use their imagination, and pretend they have an opponent in front of them. This means to visualise an opponent's attack, anticipate whether they will use an evasive move, and use strategy to counteract the move. This is how the athlete will start to develop their shadow boxing game, and using their instincts to land effective punches is crucial. Shadow boxing is all about fluency, and timing, and this type of training will develop excellent coordination within an athlete's movements. 

Utilising range is the most important factor within a fight, and this is so an athlete can keep a safe distance from their opponent, but still be close enough to attack. Staying at least one metre away is a good distance, and this will ensure the athlete can assert their will. In a shadow boxing workout athletes will need to visualise the range of their opponent, and apply their form of punching. A good idea can be to use an object as the opponent, and this will enable the athlete to know exactly where to move to. Hanging a boxing bag is a good plan, and even though it doesn't move, it can be a good gauge to where the athlete needs to throw their punches. The worst mistake an athlete can do is stand still and throw punches, in shadow boxing it is all about movement, and imagining an opponent is moving, will help them to circle in for an attack, and out to avoid danger.

Another concept that carries an extreme amount of importance is how an athlete can exit into a safe position. In a fight an athlete will use footwork and head movement to close the distance, and then throw combinations. Commonly the opponent will be evading, blocking or countering with their own strikes, and this means an athlete must exit out of range so they do not get caught with a stray punch. Exiting out of range consists of stepping backwards, or circling to the right, or to the left, and this is a very important concept. Athletes must always be ready to defend, and this is because no matter how much advantage they have, an opponent can always turn the tables, and counter attack. 


There are a multitude of different Boxing combinations that can be highly effective in professional or amateur competition. The most iconic combination is the simple jab, cross, which is known as the one two. This can be highly effective because of the speed in which an athlete can deliver their jab, and this momentary shock from the opponent can open up the cross to land significant damage. The jab, jab, cross is another effective combination, and using this can trick an opponent after delivering a jab, cross. After landing the first jab the opponent may expect a cross, and after the shock of the second jab, the cross will catch them off guard again. This can be an extremely effective method of striking, that is really simplistic in essence. 

Combinations can get a lot more complex, as athletes can incorporate systems like jab, cross, hook, cross, or jab, cross, uppercut, cross, and this becomes harder to practise due to the higher complexity of the combinations. Adding in slips, parrys, and duck unders into these combinations is extremely effective, but involves a higher aptitude for training. This is why shadow boxing is crucial to an athlete, so they can use constant repetition, and begin to ingrain these movements into their muscle memory. Athletes can also add in body shots during their combinations, and these are very effective off the back of a slip, or a duck under. Integrating different foot movements, head movements, pivots, and various punches can take a long time to become proficient, and athletes will need to train consistently if they want to build up this skill set.


There are different ways that athletes can break down their shadow boxing workouts. Utilising specific targets in separate rounds can give athletes the ultimate benefits of shadow boxing. Focusing on the entire system can be extremely pain staking, and can obviously force an athlete into making critical errors. This is why breaking the system down into specific rounds can be a really effective method. The first round would be purely a warm up round, and this is where an athlete can focus on targeted footwork. This means that punches do not have to be thrown, instead the athlete will work on stepping in and out, circling from left to right, and back the other way. Changing angles by tilting their shoulders, and moving their head, changing levels, and even moving into a sprawl, especially if the athlete is training for MMA. 

The second round can involve adding in a single punching technique like a jab. This is where the athlete can explore different variations of the jab, and how to integrate them with all of their round one movements. Using a single jab, a double jab, a slip and jab, and a jab to the body can all become highly effective, and integrating these together are essential, especially for beginners of the art. The third round should include more comprehensive combinations like jab, cross, straight, hook, or jab, jab, slip, body hook. There are an infinite amount of combinations that athletes can utilise, and designing their own style is highly creative, and can be explored during shadow boxing exercises. 

The fourth round will start to pick up the pace by utilising a lot of stepping in, head faking, slipping punches, and circling while they throw combinations. This round is used for mastering range, and closing the distance on an opponent. This is pivotal for an athlete, so they can build this movement into their muscle memory, and be highly effective in a real fight. The next round can incorporate working combinations from the outside. This means to use footwork to keep distance, and always move to safe spots, while utilising the jab, and then combos from the jab. Using fend offs to keep the opponent away, as the athlete jabs and moves into safety, is a good way of conserving energy, or weathering an opponent's momentum.

The next round is where things can get complicated, and athletes must use their visualisation skills to imagine their opponent is coming at them with strikes. The athlete will continue to use their footwork, and practise blocking, and evading, while they throw out counter strikes. Round seven can be all about power, because an athlete shouldn't just think about using a heavy bag for power conditioning, and incorporating power into shadow boxing can be highly beneficial. Athletes should visualise their opponent, and continue to use footwork, as they throw in more powerful combinations. It is still extremely important to stay focused, and remember all of the technical components from every round they have endured. Using power can get an athlete into trouble, as they may commonly over commit, which can expose them to counter strikes. 

There are no real right or wrong ways to train in shadow boxing, and athletes can basically design their rounds however they see fit. They can set the rounds for any amount of time, and use any technical components they feel they need to work on. If the athlete desires, then they can use the workout purely for strength and conditioning, by shadow boxing with weights, or adding in high intensity exercise like sprinting, burpees, squat jumps, or sprawling. The athlete can use shadow boxing as a pure cardio session and focus on improving their cardiovascular fitness. The athlete could also use the session to get extremely creative with their Boxing combinations, and utilse highly advanced systems. However the workout is designed, the athlete will improve significantly, and this is true to the nature of Boxing. 


There are many common mistakes that are made in shadow boxing drills, especially from beginners. One of the biggest mistakes an athlete can make is not keeping their hands up, and their chin tucked. Just because there is no opponent in shadow boxing doesn't mean anything, athletes must remember everything they do in training will transform into their game style on fight night. Poor guarding of their chin, and their ribs will result in holes in their armour, and this will cause their opponents to exploit the mistake. Athletes must make sure that their elbows are always tucked into their ribs, if the athlete flares out their elbows too much they will be telegraphing their punches, while exposing themself to body shots. 

Another common mistake which is predominantly made by beginners is using lazy footwork. This can be a real problem when an athlete is on the offensive. Experienced fighters will often step in when they jab, and then bring their rear foot forward, as they execute the cross. With a beginner they will often fail to step their rear leg in for their cross, which means they are over extending, and trying to reach for their opponent. This can leave the athlete considerably unbalanced, and exposed to counter striking. To have any kind of effective punching power, an athlete needs to use good footwork, and stepping into punches is crucial. 

Another mistake is all about predictability, and using energy. An athlete may have little habits that an opponent can identify, and these can be a dominant factor in predictability in the fight. Telegraphing punches can be problematic, and will make it easy for an opponent to pick off the athlete. There are different ways that an athlete can practice being unpredictable in their shadow boxing techniques, like faking with head movement, going to the body first, and slipping while they punch. Staying active and always moving is crucial during a shadow boxing drill. In a real fight an athlete will be punished for a lack of rhythm, so making sure to move constantly in shadow boxing will ensure their muscle memory is ingrained the right way. A good way to practise is to try different things like making movements with their hands, or slipping their head to the side, or even fake stepping, and then moving in the opposite direction. Keeping their rhythm fresh, and fluent will make life difficult for an opponent in a real fight. 


Shadow boxing is one of the oldest traditions associated with the art of striking. Athletes that put a lot of time into strength and conditioning, pad work, sparring, and heavy bad work can still become proficient in Boxing, but without the freedom of creativity that shadow boxing can offer, they can end up missing some of the most vital components. Shadow boxing can help an athlete achieve more fluency within their strikes, and this means they will learn how to integrate all of their striking ability with their footwork, and evasion maneuvers. Shadow boxing drills are also highly cardio based, which means an athlete has a better lung capacity, which can help them achieve a higher level of striking.

Coach Barry Robinson has joined forces with DynamicStriking.com and now you can add A MILLION STYLES BOXING COMBOS to your arsenal!

combos in shadow boxing

If an athlete spends too much time sparring with their training partners, they will often wind up suffering from injuries, or spending too much time getting punched in the face. Although this may be good conditioning for a real fight, this can also set back the technical components of their training. This is why shadow boxing is one of the most underrated forms of training, because any athlete can practice their form, their speed and their strategy, all without fear of being brutalised by a training partner. It might seem strange to punch into thin air, but once an athlete understands the key components of Boxing movement, it becomes easier to maneuver around the mats throwing combinations. Shadow boxing is like a dance, and it becomes ingrained into an athlete's muscle memory, so that when they are faced by a real opponent they are primed and ready to throw down. 

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