What is shadow boxing?
Why do pro boxers shadowbox so much?
More importantly, how could YOU be shadow boxing differently to improve your fighting abilities?
Shadow boxing is not just punching by yourself.
Shadow boxing is one of the oldest, most pure, and versatile exercises for improving many aspects of your fighting ability.
Learn how to shadowbox to become a natural fighter.
What is Shadow Boxing?
Shadow boxing is when a boxer or fighter moves around by himself throwing punches at the air. Shadowboxing is a popular exercise for fighters to hone their fighting techniques, condition their muscles, warm-up or warm down during their workouts, or even to mentally prepare themselves before a fight. Done properly and with the right goals in mind, shadow boxing can improve your boxing technique, stregnth, power, speed, endurance, rhythm, footwork, offense and defense, and overall fighting abilities.
What are the benefits of shadow boxing?
Shadow boxing is incredibly versatile because of its freestyle nature and simplicity. You can practice anything you want without any distraction (of a bag moving around, or an opponent trying to hit you), and take instant feedback from a mirror, coach, or camera. You don’t need any equipment or anybody. Shadowboxing is quite harmless as you aren’t punished for making mistakes. All you need is an imagination and you can practice virtually any movement you want.
The drawback to shadow boxing may be that it isn’t always realistic of a real fight. There is nobody for you to adjust to. Even if you’re fighting an imaginary opponent, there’s a good chance this imaginary opponent is moving the way you would move and with too much predictability. Fighting a real opponent is always harder because he’s unpredictable and requires you to change your thoughts and react on the fly.
Most boxers aren’t shadowboxing enough
The reason why I say this is because most fighters don’t have good movement. They may have good power and good speed but their movement isn’t natural and isn’t relaxed. As athletically impressive as they may be, it simply doesn’t look coordinated. I see a guy huffing and puffing, sweating and grunting, simply to move his own body.
You should not be getting tired when you shadowbox!
Shadow boxing is all the movement. There are no distractions about having a target in front of you to punch or an opponent in front of you to make you uncomfortable. The main focus of shadow boxing is to get used to boxing movements. Nothing else!
Before you try throwing a thousand punches on the heavy bag, you should first do it in shadow boxing. Your arms need to get used to the movement. There are so many guys with weak back muscles because they’re so used to punching at the heavy bag every day. The thing is the heavy bag bounces you hand back at you so your recovery muscles aren’t being trained. And then when you fight a live opponent, your arms get tired quickly when you miss punches.
I’ve also noticed a lacking of “calmness” from boxers that don’t shadowbox enough. There’s something different about a fighter that shadowboxes regularly. He looks very comfortable moving around and throwing punches, as if that’s his default movement…it’s as natural as breathing for him.
On the other hand, a fighter that doesn’t shadowbox always looks like he has to be “switched on” to fight mode. This is a guy who needs to be pumped up before he gets in the ring. And then he gets in there and he appears to be a bit too much “ON”. He’s moving around too much, he’s all over the place. He’s too excited, too anxious, perhaps even too nervous. It’s clear that it isn’t natural for him to be fighting. And sure enough he eventually gets “switched off” in the ring. He gets tired and he gets beat down and then he goes into panic mode because fighting is fun but it isn’t yet natural for him.
Shadow boxing is the practice of committing repetitive boxing movement to muscle memory. Forget about power, or speed, or endurance, strategy, flashy moves, etc. It’s simply the raw exercise of moving your body like a boxer. You might be too tired to spar or hit the heavy bag but you can always have energy to practice moving. It’s this constant practice of developing this coordination that truly makes you a boxer and makes you a natural. It’s this supreme ability to move your body that develops naturalness, allows you to relax, to be efficient, to be balanced, to feel comfortable in your own body.
How to Shadowbox Properly
1. You need a goal
The goal is not to showoff for everyone else in the gym, throwing as many punches as you can, and jerking your head back and forth. That’s a terrible goal and if anything, only leads to you getting tired in under 5 minutes. Which is pretty sad if you’re getting tired fighting the air.
Common reasons for shadow boxing:
- Warm-up – Move around. Use your legs, move your head, relax the shoulders, throw some punches, move move move. Shake your limbs out. Repeat! Breathe and put some purpose to your movements. Breaking a sweat is OK if your goal is to warm-up. You want to put your body into motion.
- Technique – Are you working on a certain punch? Or a defensive move? Go slow, take your time, and check out your form in your mirror. Instead of working on the entire movement, maybe you can pick out 1 or 2 key points to focus on. Once that part feels right, you can move on to another detail or try the movement in it’s entirety. Repetition is important but only after you know for sure that you’re practicing the right thing. This is where having a coach helps.
- Coordination – Being able to do a move perfectly doesn’t mean you can do a move NATURALLY. Perhaps you’ve got your jab technique down right but can’t seem to land it in a real fight. You can improve this by throwing jabs from different situations. Instead of always setting yourself up in the same stance, you can try throwing the jab from different stances. Also try moving around and throwing the jab at different points in your footwork. Instead of trying to force the jab out, try to find a way for your body to allow a movement to feel natural.
- Rhythm – Sometimes singular movements feel good but you lack the flow during a fight. You can work on your rhythm while shadowboxing by making many movements. 3-4 punches, 3-4 slips, 3-4 steps, repeat. Here you’re working on rhythm so it’s ok to minimize the movements to help you find a natural “fighting dance” rhythm in your body, rather then fully extending all your punches and putting 100% power on every movement. Develop some rhythm by focusing on the SHAKE-SHAKE-SHAKE!
- Strategy – Shadowboxing is perfect for working on key strategic moments during a fight. Maybe you’ve got a bad habit of always running away. Or maybe you’re working slipping the right hand to land the left hook to the body. Or maybe you just got out of a sparring match where a guy kept landing his jab. Shadoboxing with a strategic mindset is great for developing new strategies to beat opponents and then developing NEW HABITS to fulfill these strategies. It’s all muscle memory.
- Warm-down – Move slowly, relax, breathe. Reflect on the sparring you just had earlier in the day. Think about different techniques or movement strategies that could have helped you and work on them. You’ve already done the hard work for the day. This is your time to enjoy the moment rather than to squeeze one last workout out of your body.
The worst thing you can do for developing technique
is try to work on everything all at once.
2. You need to execute
I’d say my biggest complaint about shadowboxing is not so much that boxers are doing it wrong but rather that they’re not doing it enough. If you’re a serious fighter, you should be shadowboxing a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Pros will do more like an hour. That shouldn’t be hard at all considering you already use shadowboxing for warm-up/warm-down and also when developing new techniques.
A general shadow boxing workout would be about 15 minutes of shadowboxing. You do it straight through, no rest. Keep your body moving and your muscles warm. If you’re getting tired too easily, simply slow it down. Shadowboxing can be done anywhere anytime. You should never have any excuse for sitting down and doing nothing at the gym. You can shadowbox, even as you’re watching a sparring match, or waiting in line for the bag, or talking to a friend. Shadowboxing can be your default “rest workout”.
When to shadowbox during your workout:
- Warm-up – use shadowboxing to get warm and start loosening up your joints.
- Technique Drills – use shadowboxing to work on new moves like punches, defensive techniques, or footwork.
- Conditioning – use shadowboxing to condition your hand and leg endurance. Work on the common repetitive movements that you use during a fight.
- Warm-down – use shadowboxing to close out your day and loosen whatever muscles that may have tightened from your workout. Take one last look at your technique in the mirror to recap on the techniques you’ve learned that day.
Different shadow boxing workouts:
- Alone with your thoughts – Shadowbox anywhere, anytime when you’re alone. Try using a mirror and see what happens when you change different things. Or try shadowboxing in a ring when it’s not in use and get yourself used to moving around on the canvas and touching up against the ropes.
- With a slip rope or slip bag – Shadowbox as you practice your slipping, bobbing and weaving, and head movement techniques.
- Around a heavy bag – Push a heavy bag so it swings and then move around with it as you throw punches but don’t connect so it stays moving. It’s always good to have a moving object to your senses alert.
- With a partner – Don’t shadowbox alone. Have a friend shadowboxing with you so it’s like you’re fighting each other except you keep a distance so no punches connect. This is a great way to ensure that you’re keeping senses alert and not developing lazy eyes or bad movement habits that don’t help you in a fight.
- With a coach – Shadowbox under the supervision of a boxing coach and take in the feedback. Adjust on the spot and see what happens. You can also have him move around you and hold his arm out or throw slow motion punches for you to practice working from different situations. If I know my fighters will face a southpaw in their fight, I’ll stand in a southpaw stance in front of them with my right arm extend to get them used to moving around the southpaw’s jab.
3. You need feedback
This is one of the biggest reasons for training in a gym and having a boxing trainer. You need a way to know if what you’re doing is helpful. You need a way to critique yourself and look for opportunities to improve. It is very hard to improve if the only feedback you get comes from yourself.
How to get feedback while shadow boxing:
- HAVE A TRAINER – have a trainer oversee your movements and make little suggestions here and there. There really is no substitute for having the resource of someone more experienced than you. Even if you don’t have a mirror, you could have a fellow boxer (preferably one more experienced) take a look and adjust what he sees.
- USE A MIRROR – look at your form in the mirror and see if you can find areas for improvement. It also helps to compare your form to other boxers in the gym. See how certain aspects of their technique look different from yours.
- PAY ATTENTION TO HOW YOU FEEL – if something feels too difficult, you’re probably doing it wrong. Your shoulders shouldn’t be hurting during the hook. Your back shouldn’t be aching when you slip. You shouldn’t be falling off balance when you move around. If you’re getting tired shadowboxing, how can you expect yourself to have much endurance during a high-stress fight with an opponent?
4. You need to think
This should be a rule that you apply to every minute of your training. Don’t ever let the brain go dead. THINK! Be alert. See if you can notice your own vulnerabilities before your opponents do.
What to think about while shadow boxing:
- WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? – What are you focusing on? If it’s speed, then work speed. If it’s strategy, then work strategy. Pick one thing and focus on it. One thing at a time.
- WHERE IS THE PROBLEM? – This is the hardest part of learning. It’s very hard to improve if you don’t know what the problem is. Again, this is why you need to work with trainers, coaches, and people more experienced than yourself.
- TRY SOMETHING NEW – Instead of throwing the same jab everyday, trying finding new ways to change it up. At first you try throwing it from different positions. Then maybe you can try it with a different emphasis on the muscles used (shoulders vs lats). Maybe you can try it with your weight more over your front foot or your back foot or in between. Maybe you try it with a 1 inch step, and a 3 inch step. Applying this theory in every way to every technique will get you very far! Paying attention to the more experienced fighters can give you a clue as to where to vary your technique.
Common questions about shadow boxing:
- Can I shadowbox with weights or gloves on? – I do not recommend it. It distracts from the purity of the shadowboxing exercise. If you want to add resistance, it becomes resistance training. And even then the weights do not help your punching speed/power very much because they apply force in the direction of gravity rather than the direction that your punch travels. It might be a good conditioning exercise and even then, the pros that shadowbox with weights do it at a VERY SLOW speed. High speed shadow boxing with weights may damage your joints!
- Should I shadowbox as a southpaw? – No it’s not necessary. Maybe every now and then you can mess around as a southpaw but it’s not necessary as part of your regular boxing training. In my opinion, if you want to try something new, weird, or different…you should try something new from your regular stance. That would make more sense to me than using a switch stance and doing the same thing you’ve always done.
Pro Boxers Shadowboxing
Speed and power.
Rhythm and flow.
Speed and footwork.
Combos and head movement.
Positions and strategy.
I love shadow boxing man over the 8 years of boxing nothing has elevated my boxing game like shadowboxing right next to sparring. I haven’t hit a heavy bag in about a year from hand problems, shadow boxing has kept me sharp, believe it!
if i train in one combination 2hours day shadow boxing and heavy bag for 2 weak it will become automatic in the fight?
you couldn’t execute the shadowboxing combo in the ring? that’s crazy! it seems like the more you practice shadowboxing, the more punches you would land in the ring…boxing is much harder than i thought…
That’s not a bad start, Mike. Give it a try and see what you have to adjust. The better your opponents are, the better you will have to be.
It will definetly make your hands become more automatic but practice in the combo in sparring, a lot of combos I could do on back I couldn’t pull off in sparring without getting cracked half way through it
guys i m 15 years old and i m looking to be in the heavyweight division when i will be 17yers old now my weight is 65kg do bodybuilding is good to me ?
You will gain weight only by sustaining a calorie surplus. This can either result in you gaining fat or in you gaining muscle. Most likely it will be both. Bodybuilding will certainly help you shift the gains towards muscles, but since you’re boxing, you should not only be looking for muscle mass, but also functionality. That means, you shouldn’ sacrifice your speed for a huge biceps or huge quads for your agility in footwork. There’s good stuff around about how Boxers should train in order to gain weight. I don’t know if Johnny has written about it, so I’m not comfortable sharing any recommendations. But two years is ample time to make your weight goal, i.e. bulking up and cutting down while sustaining or better yet improving your abilities.
Stay at your natural weight
Let your body grow to its natural weight and fight in your natural weight. Your body performs its best when it’s at its natural body weight.
when throwing a punch at what percentage of power we use, whether 50℅ or 100℅?
Use whichever you want. But usually in training, it’s better to focus more on technique than power.
expert boxing when i throw fast combinations it keeps me flying off the ground any tips?
Stay balanced by not letting your upper body or hips lean beyond your front knee. You can also try throwing punches without shifting weight.
Max can you give me your facebook
Thanks for the notification of the importance of shadow boxing.
Wouldn’t you recommend to wear gloves when shadow boxing ? I think it really makes sense though I’ve almost never seen anybody doing it or that kind of suggestion.
No, I don’t recommend for you to wear gloves when shadowboxing unless it’s for warming up RIGHT before a fight. Or in case you want to practice a specific technique/strategy with your gloves on. But generally, boxers do not shadowbox with gloves on.
When I throw fast combos I start to rise up too, in my opinion do a defensive move every 2-3 punches to keep you grounded
Siegfried and Victor,
Johnny talks about this in another article, but make sure to drop your hips regardless of you are punching high or low . This way your weight and power is low and you can still stay on your toes and throw your hands fast. Good Luck
hows that mitt article coming 🙂
It’s been outlined but not yet ready for release! Will probably be another month or so before we see it here. Great idea, though. Thanks for being patient, Ben.
Great article! I definitely do not shadow box enough and will work on that now 🙂
Thanks for your tips, they were really very helpful!
Very nice article, I need to ask one thing. I am an orthodox boxer, do I also need to practice southpaw style for some rounds or equal rounds as orthodox?
Is it beneficial or I just can carry on with my orthodox style?
Focus on your orthodox style. Every now and then, you can mess around as a southpaw but I don’t think that’s necessary for your regular boxing training.
Thanks! I have thousands of gratitude towards you to help me understand fighting and movement.
Love, Love, Love
Sorry, I put the comment on wrong place above.
Thanks for the notification of the importance of shadow boxing.
Wouldn’t you recommend to wear gloves when shadow boxing ? I think it really makes sense though I’ve almost never seen anybody doing it or that kind of suggestion.
No, it doesn’t make sense to me because you’re taking away from the purity and focus of shadowboxing. The gloves don’t add to the quality of shadowboxing, they distract from it.
Would you recommend full extension on punches when shadow boxing? It’s slower, but seems to simulate real punching better. I see a lot of boxers doing short punches which are faster, but not sure what the benefits of each are.
What do you think?
Full extension can be for practicing the actual punching technique, whereas shorter punches can be for working on rhythm and flow.
Very nice article, I need to ask one thing. I am an orthodox boxer, do I also need to practice southpaw style for some rounds or equal rounds as orthodox?
Is it beneficial or I just can carry on with my orthodox style?
One more question I like to add on.. is it OK if I go for shadowboxing with weights, is it really beneficial or I can continue without it?
Every time you train you should work on developing new mind/muscle connections. After all, during a fight, this is what you will rely on. That being said, working in southpaw is not necessary to become a good boxer, but it is good to shadowbox and hit the heavy bag/double end bag for at least a round occasionally for a few reasons: 1.) as mentioned above, you will develop new mind/muscle connections whether or not you realize it just by doing a different movement. 2.) Working on your right jab and left straight as a southpaw will, over time, make your right straight quicker and your left jab more powerful when you switch back to orthodox; same goes for your hook. 3.) Anything can happen in a fight, and a time may come when you are getting killed by your opponent”s left jab (orthodox) or right hook (a southpaw) and you may want to switch for a little while so you can block the jab or be able to see the hook. 4.) Being able to comfortably switch to southpaw is beneficial because, depending on the level of your opponent, switching it up on him may be just what you need to get an edge or make him uncomfortable. 5.) This may seem farfetched, but you may hurt your one of your hands, and it is good to be able to jab and throw with power with both hands.
Regardless of whether you think you will ever switch stances, you will undoubtedly at least fight square for many moments in the fight, whether you are working inside or against the ropes, and practicing southpaw is a good way to be more comfortable mentally in these situations.
Keep up the work, good luck,.
As for your second question, only use 1 or 2 pound dumbbells when shadowboxing and go SLOW. Its the perfect time to focus solely on technique.
Also, don’t use weights for more than half of the time you plan to shadowbox
Thanks for clearing my doubts, I will surely follow the way you have shown me from my very next workout.
I don’t feel practicing as a southpaw is necessary. If you want to try something weird and different, try doing something new from your orthodox style. That would make more sense to me than trying to do the same thing you normally do as an orthodox but from the southpaw stance.
And no, I do not recommend to shadowbox with weights.
I would not use “weird and different” for things tried in the opposite stance. If I practice a southpaw stance, I don’t try anything weird or different. I try techniques that work, that are neither weird nor different. It doesn’t mirror my orthodox stance either. I do it because it cannot be done in my orthodox stance. One switch to the southpaw stance and I can counter jabs with hooks and straights just from slipping under my opponent’s very same jab.
Second, I kind of agree with David on fighting square, but actually it’s not square depending on your fight style. If you shift like Jack Dempsey or Pacman, you constantly bring either leg in front of the other to achieve new angles, and that means you’re not actually square but constantly switching stances as you punch. If your opponent retaliates or the situation suddenly calls for anything, you will have to counter punch or execute whatever movement in whichever stance you are in. If you are able to do that you have much more angles that you are comfortable in compared to your opponent. What’s the best way to be comfortable? As said in Johnny’s guide, it’s to shadow box.
Just to establish some credibility for my claim on getting comfortable with both stances and achieving new angles instead it didn’t sound convincing, Jason Van Veldhuysen who was featured in expert boxing for the Killer Heavy Bag Workout, dedicated his second round to southpaw, “to balance out [the] body, work different shots and angles. You never know when you’re gonna need this tactic [or] strategy in sparring or in a fight. It’s good to have it.”
If it’s worth it to hit the heavy bag in southpaw stance, why would it not be worth it to shadowbox in the southpaw stance?
There will always be differing opinions. My job is to give mine. But yes, if you ask someone else, you might get another opinion. For an even better explanation, I suggest for you to go to a gym and ask a trainer…most likely his answer will be, “Show me how you shadowbox from your regular stance…oh man, you’re doing so many things wrong, you should be working on your normal stance first.”
I see where you’re coming from. Ok, my post might have been misleading. I actually shadowbox in orthodox most of the time and do it as my trainer instructs (e.g., which footwork with which punch, sit and step in on cross, left heel hinge motion on left hook, etc.).
And I know what you mean when you say ask a trainer and he’ll tell you to work on your normal stance first. In my gym, I see lot of guys having trouble getting the exact motions down for the 6 different kinds of punches moving forwards, backwards, and sideways. I’ve been fixated on doing exactly what my trainer instructs the first day I walked into the gym, so now even when I throw fast combos I maintain the technique and form.
Jason Van Veldhuysen has his basics down too I’m sure. He only dedicates 1 out of 10 rounds to the southpaw stance.
Unless you are claiming that the southpaw stance will destroy your orthodox stance, which you never said, why is your opinion against southpaw? Maybe the actual message is to master the orthodox stance before you get into southpaw? I have no evidence that giving 1/10 rounds to southpaw will destroy your orthodox form so I can’t make any claims on that. Actually, when I change to southpaw, so far my trainer(s) have yet to speak up.
I’ve already explained up above…if you’re insisting on doing something new or different or weird, simply for the sake of being able to offer your opponent a new look…I would say it’s best to do this from your regular stance.
If you’re getting your ass beat from your regular stance, chances are: it’s not gonna help you much to switch stances. It’s not like the fight is going to turn around for you because you’re now standing the other way around. Likewise, if you’re already winning the fight, what’s the point of switching stance to a side that’s more risky for you and potentially exposing you when you’re already ahead?
Unless you’ve been training for over 5 years, there are so many things you could be doing. Are you shadowboxing over 30 minutes a day? Are you doing all your footwork drills, head movement drills? Are your combinations and defensive reflexes automatic? How many jabs are you throwing per day? Are you doing your work on the double-end bag? There are so many things a beginner could be working on, I don’t know how he would even find the time to “play southpaw”.
It’s one thing to let loose and have fun being a southpaw (I’m all for having fun); but it’s another thing to put in a few rounds southpaw and think that’s actually part of your SERIOUS boxing training. That’s like me saying, I only need to practice uppercuts every now and then and that’s enough to make it a backup weapon if I ever need it someday. A “backup weapon” is not going to beat someone else’s “normal weapon”. You might score it here and there in a trick shot, but once they catch on to it, it’s not going to work. You need to work on sustainable skills. Boring shit like the jab is what most beginners need to do more of…not being a temporary southpaw.
I could go on and on all day about this but perhaps it’s better for you to find out for yourself. Experience is the best teacher and if you prefer not to learn from mine, I guess you can learn from your own.
Hey johnny. Bit off topic but how is your 30 day fighters diet set out? What I mean is different weight means different needs so is the diet for a person say a middleweight or have you made it accessible for everyone. Thanks
I’ve made room in the diet guide for everyone, Mitchell. I’ve made suggestions and planning ideas for people trying to gain, maintain, lose, or cut weight.
The fighter’s diet guide is very informative and quite thorough.
Ok, thanks for answering. I will definitely get it in the coming weeks.
just to give you an idea of how old is shadowboxing,it is found on writtings at about 500 b.c.it is written that a statue of an olympic boxing winner is as if he shadowboxes.in 500 b.c. and obvious we dont know how older,they knew the importance of shadowboxing.the word is exactly translated in greeks.sorry if my english are not so good.
Johnny, i was wondering something : when you fight, did you have some “test” that you often do in order to find what are the weaknesees of your openent ? I mean, like try a double hook (middle and high) to see his reaction, rush on him to see his reaction..?
I’m not sure to be clear. Is there moves to do and things to look at in order to understand better your oppenent ? How do you figure out the style and the specific weaknesees of your oppenent ?
Thanks you in advance for your response & the work you do here !
Yes, I do Wister. I have many things that I use to probe his defense. And also some common tricks and tactics I use to pry his defense open and screw with his reflexes. I might share it here one day!
do you know the rules and can you kill someone and do they reallybled
You can kill someone in boxing. That’s the point. Also, tons of blood.
Here are the rules: 1) Kill your opponent before he kills you. 2) The more blood, the better. 3) You dumb.
This is really amazing, I have incorporated shadow boxing much in my workout since I have read this article. I have been doing 20 min shadow boxing immediately followed by 10 min double end bag work, without any rest. It becomes 30 min continuous work. Though I do it twice a week not daily, however I can feel the change in my punching speed and body movement, I don’t feel my body heavy anymore. I can move easily and don’t get tired now.
Is above mentioned style OK, or shall I replace that 10 min of double end bag with shadow boxing?
Thanks for this great article, really appreciated.
No need to replace, do both.
Hi johnny is there any tips or guide or training plan. On the celiling to floor speed bag? What skills can I improve on it? How often should I train on it? Because I can work on it for hours very enjoyable but does it give any benifit. Quality over quantity? Any drills to on the bag?
I’ve written several guides on the double-end bag. Take a look!
Sorry if it turned into a debate, but the moment I realized that I regretted as it was not my intention. I will not say you’re wrong since different successful fighters have probably either never done southpaw shadow boxing or have done it. I’m going to stop arguing for the southpaw stance since this is your blog. I had already thought that I shouldn’t be arguing for my opinion in a blog you use to deliver yours but I had started it and it was too late. Sorry. Some of your articles have helped me and I respect those ones that are unbiased and open-minded.
So why am I typing this post? The reason is first, to apologize, but most importantly, to clarify a misinterpretation I noticed from your claim that my idea was to desperately switch stances when getting beat up in the orthodox stance (although Roy Jones actually did that successfully). However, what I actually applied it to was to the ability to naturally and effectively react during shifting, the art that inevitably brings either foot in front of the other for the purpose of creating angles and advancing one forward while maintaining balance. That is, I did not say to use a one-time only cheap trick and “change stance” into southpaw to hit/surprise the opponent as a desperate resort (when you are losing in orthodox), but that you “happen” to be in a southpaw(ish) stance in the middle of your execution/combo/exchange and for whatever unexpected reason, it is most desirable to naturally and instantly punch, counter punch, or execute any move from that position. That was my point for getting comfortable with both positions after you have mastered the orthodox. I’m just repeating myself so as not to be misunderstood. I’m no longer arguing for or against southpaw shadowboxing.
It’s my belief that no matter what the outcome of an argument, the most important part is that the information transferred was accurate. Only then is the person accepting or refuting what I actually said. I reiterated what I said to resolve the misinterpretation, but I’m not going to further argue in your blog that shadowboxing in a southpaw stance will help with what I said. At this point, I understand that you don’t want to pointlessly debate since a comparison of experiences and opinions will never yield an absolute answer (like x+y=z) and I agree. I will add that I am still open-minded to your theory and if one day I see someone perform what I’ve stated really well and they tell me that they’ve never practiced in a southpaw stance, I will not be surprised and will simply add that to my pool of knowledge.
Also, I am not here to say that shifting should or should not be used. It was simply that that was my point and you missed it so I repeated it. If the best shifting boxer I’ve seen loses to one who doesn’t shift, I will welcome that outcome and add that to my knowledge as well.
Again, thanks for all your articles that have helped me out and given me new insight. I only thought to give my opinion here, but ended up in a debate and I apologize.
I didn’t feel offended by you so no worries there. In regards to accidental southpaw positions. I wind up in those ALL the time and have dealt with it just fine. If anything, you deal with those situations better by sparring often. It’s common in sparring to end up in all sorts of wacky tripped-up awkward leg placement situations that it’s not practical to train for all of them in sparring.
I appreciate you sharing your thoughts as it gives me a chance to address them and help others who might have been too shy to comment. If you have a question, fire away! I appreciate the comments, my friend. 🙂
Oh dear……how can Pacquiao throws punches that fast?I think I may never reach that speed…….
Johnny your articles are GREAT!
Your articles have helped me improve tremendously, and as an aspiring boxer I really want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to write all these amazing articles and make the great instructional videos. Its been tremendous help having all this information for free, and right at my finger tips, the nearest boxing trainer is a little over 80 miles from where I live so getting my training tips online is really my only choice, and I just want to thank you for all the help!
You’re welcome, Wyatt! Good luck to you and thanks for the comment.
I really want to improve my punch speed as I have very slow punches I know that punching with weights in my hands puts more strain on my wrists but are there any excercises that I can do to improve my punch speed as i lack speed in my punches also any exercises to help bob and weave like mike tyson?
Check out my articles on “hand speed exercises” and also “boxing head movement”. And ask some questions there if you need!
Mr.Johnny, I do shadow box but i dont add power in it, I just stay relaxed. Is it bad to put power punches all thourgh the shadox boxing? Or shadow boxing isnt meant for power; hence power is reserved to the mitts and heavy bag?
You can put power, you can do whatever you want, but try to stay relaxed. Being relaxed is what gives you speed and power. And shadowboxing can definitely improve your power, do it!
I started boxing at the age of 40,i came from powerlifting and heavy lifting, I decided to make the change from weights to boxing, so I can get fitter, I have been shadow boxing and I have joined a boxing club, and I also get one on one sessions twice a week with a coach, I love the boxing, but I finding shadow boxing hard. I tend to tense up when doing it and shoulders pump up very fast, any tips for me.
Also I have been sparring and my coach said he is happy with my progress, I am a heavyweight but been sparring with middleweights, as he wants to sharpen my movement up in the ring, my problem is when I sparring I seem to forget to move my head and although I do good in the spar I cant seem to get used to moving, I walk through all the shots so that I can then land my shots, but I want to be able to move more any tips for me to improve on my head movement.
More mittwork, Martin. And as for head movement. Get used to slipping the jab. Don’t worry about having to move your head ALL the time. Just be purposeful about it and look for opportunities to do it instead of trying to do it automatically. The problem with doing it automatically is that you will get distracted and forget the moment you get into an exchange.
cheers for the comments, I will try to just use the slip more, as you are right when sparring I try to think too much about moving my head,and this does distract me .
My age is 22 n i want 2 be a boxer , i have good strength and fitness. So, is it possible for me to became a good boxer??
Sure, why not?
But while digging profile of some of great boxers like Ali, Tyson, Foreman and lot more, all of them started boxing at there teen’s ..! Which most of Coaches claim as a perfect age to learn.
So , whats your view on this????
hajime no ippo
Look for Rocky Marciano.
He started after his 20 like you and is one of the greatest boxers.
Thanks ..4 da reply..
Well yeah…earlier is preferred but if you missed it, then go for the next best thing…which is…NOW!
These articles are fantastic, Johnny. Great work.
Another really helpful point that my coach pointed out recently that was a game-changer for me and a few other athletes, was the importance of the pivot. You mention footwork a ton in the article and I don’t think there’s anyone that would disagree with the importance, but the value of practicing pivoting off your front foot and quick directional changes really hit home for me. I mean, peoples’ experiences with shadowboxing are way different of course, depending on their skill level/instruction/training partners etc., but I found like this was something that seemed to be universally absent in many shadowboxing routines.
Just an addition, not a critique at all! Great work as always!
Useful points. Thanks for sharing, Derek.
I’m fresh to boxing and I just don’t feel right when shadow boxing, I don’t think that my technique is right because I feel like I’m leaning to the side when I punch instead of rotating, and when I correct that feeling my feet feel really far apart.
Awesome article. Gotta do more of this. Just don’t do this enough because it feels weird hitting nothing. Your statment about boxers getting too tired when they miss because they’re too used to a rebound does make sense tho. Im gonna try doing doing more of this before and after my training.
To me shadowboxing is to unrealistic I throw fast combos when I shadowbox but a soon as I start sparring I’m wearing big gloves and those combos are super slow they almost always get blocked that’s why I started shadowboxing with 16 oz gloves
A basketball player that doesn’t practice dribbling won’t be an effective or successful player. I feel the same applies to boxing as well. When I have extra workout time, I spend at least 30 minutes shadowboxing. I also shadowbox in between rounds on the speedbag and rope skipping. As a result, I feel more fluid and not as stiff. If I had one excercise to choose from, this would be it. Don’t neglect this valuable, simple and portable training tool, even if you feel awkward at first.
Too hard for me, Its hard when u dont know any technique at all OTL
Hey Johnny, great post on shadowboxing. I’ve been reading your articles for years and it’s really helped me develop my stand up game independently. I’ve heard of not breathing out with my punches when I shadowbox, and to breathe as if I was just going about my day. But if during sparring I’m supposed to breath out with each strike, then how does breathing normally while shadowboxing help with proper execution? Is there a difference in the aims of shadowboxing when you breathe with your punches versus breathing normally?
So we have two different things:
1) Synchronizing your breath with your punches in shadowboxing.
2) Not synchronizing your breath with your punches in shadowboxing.
The first one is the default standard for developing realistic coordinated boxing movement. The second one is for relaxing and moving your limbs around to keep them loose and limber and keep yourself calm while perhaps developing your muscle coordination. I imagine the second one is more often used as a warm-up and warm-down rather than as an actual shadowboxing workout. While it is possible to do the second one quickly, it’s much easier and more natural (especially for beginners) to do it only with slow movements.
When I do the second, my mental visualization is something like when I’m running or jumping rope. Where I’m not taking a breath for every step or movement, but rather I just breathe slowly and relax and make multiple movements within one breath.
Wow, I didn’t realize how much easier it would be to visualize during shadowboxing if your focus is on your imagination instead of your breathing. That really opened a new door for me. Thank you Johnny.
great tips. but what about shadow boxing with resistance bands?
I don’t like doing that. Besides most people need more work on the retraction phase rather than the extension phase.
hi Jhonny i am from India which has a very little room for boxers plus i am from a remote place here we dont have boxing gyms and all i learnt manny things from expertboxing thank you for that.Now i have one problen with me 3 weeks ago when i was shadow boxing i used my full speed and power then the very next day my upper body was sore and i left practicing for some days, again when i started boxing my elbow joints started poping and this poping problem persists till today please help
Erick Benjamin Perez
my coach tells me to throw my hip, shoulder, push-off with my feet while adding a snap into my punches and I think it makes sense but it seems that it takes so much time to execute versus when I throw more limited movement punches. Any idea how to improve the connect time?
Does shadow boxing require to imagination of a image boxer only than we can perform it the high performance?As i never fight in street fight or even join any gym before.So can i performing it alone for shadowboxing like just doing head movement and punching around?
If I shadow box 3-4 times a week for 15 minutes each time are my chances good to win in a street fight? And will my conditioning be good enough for a street confrontation with using pushups, pullups, situps and elliptical as part of my workouts?
I am 25 years old but some regions not able to start my career in boxing early age. Can I start it now. I want to do something in boxing. I want to make myself a good boxer for that what can I do. I recently start my coaching.
Please give me some tips or tricks.
Does shadowboxing similiar like those training 1000 time a single technique in ancient time?
How does it really help us? I try to perform it again and again still gain no hint about what its truly like a shadowboxing for real you know. It like fighting air only.I cant imagine how does a real one look like though..please enlighten me anyone?
But if you do shadowboxing constantly without weight, then when you wear hand gloves are harder to be.
Hey Johnny, how do you feel about shadowboxing to music to help build rhythm?
I don’t do Western-style boxing. However, I practice a martial art (Wing Chun Kung Fu) that uses mostly upper body techniques. I just wanted to drop a line and share my thoughts about what you wrote.
I truly enjoyed your article, and it opened my eyes to looking at shadow boxing in a new way. One of the main reasons I stopped shadow boxing is because I ran out of ways to imagine my opponent coming at me because I cannot get outside my own head and imagine how someone ELSE would attack (a problem you mention near the beginning of the article).
However, what clicked with me was when you said you should not do shadow boxing tense. This is to commit things to muscle memory. You need to get good structure down while relaxed, or it definitely won’t be there when you are flailing in the chaos of a fight! Thanks for the tips.
I totally understand how shadowboxing can get boring at times. The thing is it’s only one part of the feedback cycle. You need to supplement it with actual sparring or else shadowboxing won’t do much for you. The simple reason is because sparring gives you an endless supply of new things to work on. You’ll constantly find new challenges as you face different opponent and also grow through different stages.
FOR EXAMPLE: I would spar a live opponent first. After the sparring session, I realize I need to move my head more. Maybe I need to develop a better defense for left hooks, or maybe I need to develop a new pattern of footwork for this particular opponent. I try out these new things in shadowboxing and go spar again, which things gives me an entirely new set of things to work on. But if all you ever do is shadowbox and more shadowbox, you’ll be stale OR you’ll become proficient in skills without knowing if they’ll ever work in combat (or know if they’re even what you actually need).
Very good drills and techniques
Sure this is helpful…i must apply this knowledge for the better
Thank you jonny and the crew
Great article thanks so much! In ‘Rhythm’ what you mean by “Develop some rhythm by focusing on the SHAKE-SHAKE-SHAKE!”
Thanks again for this!
How many punches should you throw in a 3 minute round of shadow boxing if conditioning is the goal?
How many punches did each fighter throw in an absolute all out war of a fight like Haggler v Hearns? To me, that seems like the pace to go for for an all out conditioning workout like how sprints and high rep sets of burpees make the body feel while training hard and building muscle, skill, and stamina for sports.