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In the modern day, people will choose between going to the gym, competing in team or individual sports, or training in Martial Arts, as a way of exercising their bodies. There are upsides to all forms of exercise, and it is a proven study that exercise releases chemicals in the brain that makes people feel happy, less stressed, and more motivated to stay healthy.

What this article covers:

Martial Arts is a great way of combining strength and conditioning, and fitness, with a strategical form of self defense. All beginners of the art will be apprehensive about training in combat sports, because of how brutal striking arts can be. 

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beginner shadow boxing workout

There are many ways that a beginner can evolve their mindset to be ready for combat sports. Of course the striking arts will always have its dangers, but if a beginner starts by applying methods of functional fitness, and strength and conditioning, then they are giving themselves a great starting point. Beginners will commonly wonder can shadow boxing teach you how to fight, and the answer is yes. Shadow boxing is one of the most prolific ways to improve in striking skills, all while improving speed, fitness, balance, and strength. All of the world's best strikers train extensively in shadow boxing techniques, and in order to improve in form, and speed, beginners should always be shadow boxing.


Shadow boxing is the art of mimicking a real fight scenario in a solo drill format. An athlete will move around the mats in their fight stance, as they throw strikes into the air, while combining evasive techniques like dodging, ducking, and weaving, in order to improve the functionality of their striking, and the fluency of their combinations. Beginners will often throw basic strikes, and use basic footwork, as they look to progress up to a more detailed version. Higher level strikers will utilise larger combinations, coupled with more intricate blocking, and evasive techniques. To begin a shadow boxing workout, beginners will need to start off slow, and use it as a good way to warm up the muscles. Walking from one end of the mat to the other, while throwing basic strikes can spark the beginning of a much more detailed workout program. As the beginner learns more techniques they can begin to develop them into shadow boxing combinations, and look to build up their speed and form.


All beginners to Martial Arts can benefit from shadow boxing, and this is because it is a solo drill they can utilise at their own pace. A beginner does not have to worry about making mistakes, because at the start it is more about functional fitness, and a basic introduction to striking fluency. A good place to start is to throw one punch over and over, and this is how they can improve their jab, or their cross. Once the beginner has a basic understanding they can move into basic combinations like jab, cross, hook, and jab, cross, uppercut, with the intention of focusing more on their footwork than the actual punches. Moving around the mats in a constant motion can be physically draining, so beginners will need to understand the fundamental principles to regulate their breathing. This means to breathe in through their nose, and out through their mouth at a controlled and regulated speed. This will help to keep them at a calm pace, so they don't tire out too quickly, or start to execute poor form, which can be detrimental, as bad habits can creep into their muscle memory. 

Beginners should try circling around a hanging boxing bag, and shadow box. This will help them to have a specific target in sight, so they can focus on stepping in and out at the right times. Another good tip for beginners is to practice shadow boxing in front of a mirror, and this is so they can watch their form, and see where they can improve. All beginners will be sloppy at the start, and have bad technique, and improving their skills to a competitive level takes time and patience. A beginner's sessions should be at a controlled pace, as they will be working extensively on their footwork, and the timing of their punch as they step in. Beginners can mix it up by implementing a more strenuous shadow boxing workout, where they put more time into building up their cardiovascular fitness, and their strength and conditioning. This will help them to be ready for a higher level of striking, as they progress through the process.


Shadow boxing is the first exercise that any beginner will do, pad work, bag work all comes later on after a beginner has familiarised themself with shadow boxing. At first it can feel quite odd, but it is an extremely important exercise for understanding, and preparing for a real fight. All athletes that want to reap the benefits of shadow boxing, need to set goals for each session. This could be as basic as putting a three punch combination together, or working on an evasive maneuver followed by a counter combination. Either way the athlete should be knowing what it is they want to get out of their shadow boxing workout. 

Some athletes only want to use shadow boxing as their warm up drill to get the body moving, while others are in it for extensive strength and conditioning purposes. Setting goals in Martial Arts is important, and sometimes when the goal is too unrealistic it can seriously affect an athlete's confidence. This just showcases the importance of not setting expectations too high, and only start by setting highly achievable goals. This way when the athlete achieves their goal it will set them up with a good level of confidence, and will empower them to raise the bar, and set harder goals next time. The beauty of shadow boxing is there is no opponent, so a mistake won't cost anything, it just means they will need to address their mistakes, and learn from them. This is a good recipe for self improvement, and all while keeping their self confidence in tact.


Learning how to punch the right way, and utilising this in effective combinations is one aspect, but piecing this all together in a way that is beneficial to an athlete is another. Beginners should always keep certain concepts in mind if they want to successfully improve their shadow boxing skill sets. Imagination is key, and this means to imagine the beginner is in a real fight. Visualise an opponent in front of them, and think about how they are going to react to a strike, or how they might attack, giving the beginner a moment to visualise an evasive action. This type of training becomes instinctive, and in some form, the beginner will develop a significant coordination within their movements. The beginner can use a boxing bag as the opponent, and simply circle around the bag, making sure to stay active.

Another key concept is staying outside of their imaginary opponent's range. Staying one metre away from an opponent is a good range, it is not too close where they could be tagged, and it is not too far for them to attack. In a real fight an opponent will be moving around, so when this translates into a shadow boxing workout, a beginner must not just stand still throwing combinations. They must imagine their opponent is coming at them, so they should circle away, and then look to close the distance themselves, before throwing combinations. Staying out of range, and not allowing an opponent to trap an athlete into the pocket is crucial, and using shadow boxing is the best way to perfect these concepts.

Another vital concept is exiting back to a safe range. A beginner might do all the hard work of closing the distance, and stepping into range, before throwing a volley of combinations. This may be effective enough to win the fight, but realistically the opponent will be evading, blocking, or counter striking, so after closing the distance for a combination, the beginner must know how to exit into a safe position. There are three ways to get back to safety, and that is moving straight backwards, or circling to the left, or to the right. No matter how much dominance a beginner might be achieving, they must always be ready to defend, and this means good head movement, which can be a great evasive maneuver, and a good way to trick an opponent, as they can commonly be set up for a power punch.


Beginners to a striking art will soon find out the nature of the sport, as the training is hard, the technical components are complex, and the real life fight can be relentless. Boxing arts are extremely brutal, and involve rigorous conditioning, and dangerous punching situations. This means all beginners must be warmed up, and ready to go. Most striking arts incorporate power and endurance within their training structures, and running for a kilometre or two is a good way to get the blood pumping, and all of the muscles moving. It is important to stretch up any sore or tight spots, and all of their major muscle groups. Loosening up the arms, and the legs is vital for the athlete, so they can access a more fluent form within their striking. 

All beginners must warm up by elevating their heart rate, and raising their core temperature. This can be done a number of different ways like jogging, skipping, cycling, light shadow boxing, and other cardio based exercises. A lot of boxing trainers will use the RAMP method, which stands for Raise, Activate, Mobilise, and Potentiate. Raise stands for raising the heart rate with low intensity exercise like jogging, and skipping. Activate stands for exercises that are used to fire up the muscles like squats and lunges, and these will start from a medium pace, progressing into a faster rate. Mobilise means to increase the range of motion, and improve the quality of movement. In striking combat it is important to mobilise areas like the shoulders, the hips, the core, the glutes and thoracic rotation. Potentiate means to utilise jumping exercises which encourage a fast, and productive extension of the hips like squat jumps, or leg extensions. 

Warming up is essential for all combat athletes, but in terms of a beginner, they especially need to warm up correctly. A beginner is new to striking, and the aches, and pains they can receive can be attributed to poor warm ups. Utilising shadow boxing as a warm up, or a main exercise is extremely beneficial to a beginner. Shadow boxing is one of the core principles behind the art of striking, and this is because it is a solo simulation of what a real fight attack should look like. As a beginner starts to improve with all of their fighting systems, they can build their shadow boxing up to a much higher standard, as they look to incorporate more unique punching combinations, mixed with a good range of evasive maneuvers.


Strength and conditioning is extremely important for all combat athletes, and beginners need it even more than a professional. A beginner will often lack the core strength needed to be functional within their movements, and they will often lack the mobility needed to prevent injuries from occurring. This is why a beginner must take strength and conditioning exercises seriously, and comprehensively build strength into all of their important muscle groups. Shadow boxing can act like a strength and conditioning workout, as all the athlete needs to do is integrate the basics with strenuous exercises like push ups, burpees, squat jumps, lunges, and sprawling techniques. This will enhance a beginners level of strength and conditioning, and help them to initiate an improvement in core strength. 

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shadow boxing workout for beginners

Another way for beginners to build strength is shadow boxing with weights, and this can be a really effective method. It is important that all beginners start off with a light weight like a 0.5 kilogram dumbbell, and this is so they don't put too much strain on their arms. It is not recommended to exceed a two kilogram dumbbell, even for more experienced athletes. The purpose of using weights to shadow box with, is purely to build extra strength, and help with some mobility within the shoulders. Some beginners may feel the need to impress their peers by using heavier weights, and this is foolish, and will always lead towards injury. There is only one person a beginner needs to measure up to, and that is themself. There is a difference between being brave, and being calculated, bravery sometimes will get someone injured, where being calculated will always result in the best decision possible. 


The harsh reality of combat sports is that not everyone can become a good fighter. The art of striking is not for the faint of heart, and some athletes are naturally gifted, others will have to work incredibly hard at it, and others might have to stick to something a little less intense. Beginners that don't have natural talent, but do have a strong work ethic, can become skilful in the art of striking, it will just take some time. The key component is to be consistent when training, always push themselves to their limits, be humble and willing to learn, don't shy away from hard work, build an extensive cardiovascular fitness, and never give up. These are the ingredients for building a formidable striking game, and if the beginner has the drive, the motivation, and the dedication then they will certainly be able to become a prolific Martial Artist. 

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