A common question by many beginners:
Will shadowboxing with weights increase handspeed and punching power?
A: Not really. (It depends on your technique, and also existing strength.)
1. At best, shadowboxing with weights is only a conditioning exercise.
It can strengthen your shoulders and that extra strength in itself may give you a little more power and speed. But to what degree will it really improve your punching power and handspeed?…this depends on many things.
Is your physical conditioning really poor? If so, then yes…doing anything physical like running or punching with weights or push-ups, can strengthen you and make you stronger and faster. But what if your physical conditioning is already great? Well, in that case…I don’t believe throwing punches with weights will do much for you.
2. What punching technique do you have?
If you’re an arm-puncher (inferior punching technique), then it makes sense that increasing your arm/shoulder strength would increase your punching power. But if you’re a core-puncher (superior punching technique), and punching with relaxed arms, then increasing your arm/shoulder strength wouldn’t do as much for your punching power. Honestly, most of your punching power will come from the legs and core anyway! If anything, the arms are only for speed and endurance. Do you really want to be building “punching strength” with your arms when you should be developing speed and endurance with them?!
3. Shadowboxing with LIGHT weights vs HEAVY weights?
If you’re shadowboxing with such light weights that it doesn’t stress your arms or shoulders at all, then it probably won’t do much for you. On the other hand…if you’re shadowboxing with such heavy weights that it physically challenges your muscles but wrecks your punching coordination, timing, and technique…are you sure that’s really a good idea?
4. Shadowboxing with weights will mess up your punching coordination/timing.
This current era of athletic training seems more obsessed than ever with the idea of adding weights to everything. Old school athletes [I think] didn’t rely on them as much. Please don’t misinterpret my words. I’m not against RESISTANCE TRAINING, nor am I against weight training. I’m simply against the default mentality that adding weights to exercises is the only way to increase their functional capacity.
Punching is a complex movement. It’s not as simple as laying down and bench-pressing a bar straight up (although that’s “complex”, too). A punching movement is a chain of many movements throughout your body. There’s a special weight distribution of all your body parts, and then a special timing in how all of them coordinate together to deliver maximum power. I truly believe adding weights will certainly impact up your overall punch timing and coordination.
Don’t believe me? Try running with a 60lb backpack on. Do you see how weird it feels? To have a weight stressing your body at odd and unrealistic angles? Sure, it might make your run more “challenging” but will it really make you a better runner? (I’ll let you answer that one.)
You know what I think is the funniest logic of adding weights to shadowboxing? It’s that the weights don’t even provide resistance in the direction of your punch. All your punching and arm-retracting motions are horizontal (parallel along the ground)…but the weight adds only resistance going DOWN in a vertical direction towards the ground. Let me flip the logic on you. Imagine you were training to jump higher by have your brother pull STRAIGHT BACK on your shirt while you jumped. You see how silly it is? The weights aren’t even adding resistance in the right vector to properly “resist” your punching motion anyway!
5. Shadowboxing is for coordination, speed, and endurance…NOT STRENGTH TRAINING!
You still want to do weight training with punching motions somehow? That’s totally fine, do that in a separate exercise! Let your shadowboxing training be the one “RAW TRAINING” exercise where you use nothing but your “naked” (unweighted) body. Doing it like this lets your practice punching at maximum speed. Why is this good? So you can get used to punching at maximum speed; heck, maybe push your maxmium punching speed to be even faster. Even better, it forces you to stay coordinated and also think faster while punching at high speed.
6. Don’t combine exercises.
I think punching drills and resistance training should be completely separate exercises. There is little point in putting them together into one ugly ineffective Frankenstein exercise. You want to strengthen your arms? That’s fantastic! Do it with dumbbells, push-ups, cables, bands, and any other exercises that challenge the arms. You want to work on your boxing technique and coordination? Do it with exercises that use realistic boxing movements.
I understand the logic of trying to make things harder and more challenging for yourself, but I don’t think you should make it more challenging by putting conflicting goals. Try doing separate resistance exercises with more resistance, speed, or reps…and then doing separate punching drills with more speed, angles, and movement. Let one set of exercises focus on conditioning while another one focuses on coordination/timing.
7. Alternate ways to add resistance to your punching movements.
FINE! You still want to add resistance somehow? You still think you absolutely need to have it or else you won’t punch stronger/faster?
I’ll list common ideas below and how I feel about them:
- Shadowboxing with 1-3lb weights like the pros – they do it with SLOW movements, or very small circular movements like they’re throwing uppercuts. They don’t throw them at max-speed. Not only do I think it messes with your punch timing but can potentially injure your wrist, elbows, and shoulders.
- Hitting the bag with heavier gloves – I’m ok with this as long as you keep your volume up. If you normally hit the bag with 16oz gloves (throwing 100 punches per round) and you move up to only 18oz gloves and throw the same amount of punches, I’m ok with that. But if you put on 20lb gloves and throw only half as many punches, I think you’re doing it wrong and defeating the purpose. The idea of adding weight is to make things harder, not change what the exercise entirely.
- Barbell punching exercise – the one where you have the barbell standing up and one hand “punches” it out. I’m think it’s not a bad exercise. Do it!
- Elastic-band punching – basically you stand with your back to the elastic band attachment and “punch” the other end out (stretching the elastic). I think it’s a dumb exercise. Extending your hand is only half the motion of a punch. The other half, and the much harder half IMO, is the retraction of the punch. If anything, I think most people get more tired from missing punches than throwing punches that land because they don’t have enough retraction muscle. IMO, punching with elastic bands would fail you because they make it a tiny bit harder to punch but then make it so much easier to retract your hand. And also still, I think they mess with your timing and coordination. Besides, most of your punches aren’t even such perfectly-straight punches anyway.
- Punching underwater – I think this is more of a gimmick than anything. And I also think it messes with your timing.
First off I want to say that this is another great article! I’ve been a long time lurker and huge fan of yours. You’ve basically taught me to box due to your great explanations of technique among other aspects.
Going back to the article, there’s lots of insight and valid points that many people tend to overlook that you’ve listed. I 100% agree with the idea that adding weights to increase speed/power is counter productive due to the reasons you’ve mentioned. However, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the idea of using the resistance band method to increase speed. It is done differently than the way described in your article, almost reverse. It’s taking the same concept but instead of you punching outwards and the band increasing in tension, you will be facing the opposite direction (towards the band and wherever you tie it) with the band already stretched out. You will throw your punch from this position, making your fists fly faster than usual due to the band’s assistance. On the way back, you work the very important retraction muscles you’ve mentioned. The idea here is to train your nervous system to be used to the increased speed of your punches due to the assisted acceleration of the band. thus increasing your hand speed effectively. This concept is called ‘Overspeed training’ and I was wondering if you’ve ever considered this as a plausible training method. I haven’t tried this method myself, I actually accidentally discovered the concept very recently but it does seem to hold some merit and piqued my interest. I apologize profusely for the super long comment, but I wanted to make sure I explained the logic correctly. Looking forward your response!
Hey Paul, I love this comment and do agree with the idea of “overspeed training”. I’ve done it in track & field training myself where we did sprint intervals running DOWNHILL. Hahaha…it really forces you to run faster than your used to and helps develop a higher speed coordination. I think it’s a totally valid training method.
Awesome! That’s great to hear coming from you. I think I’ll try to implement this kind of training to improve my hand speed. Thanks for the reply. Excited to read the next article!
Hey Johnny I use weights. I never shadow box with them. What I do is I’ll spend a few minutes holding onto the weights and letting my arms hang. So we can stretch and losing my ligaments before I actually shadow box. Just let gravity do its thing and let the weights hang out of my hands to loosen my shoulder forearm and wrist joints. One of my coaches told me that this is much more effective,Is this a good ideas. One of my old coaches told me that he doesn’t want me to even think about using weights. This is the only and that he’ll tolerate is me using it to loosen my ligaments and this is sort of matter.
Hi. In some respects it’s beneficial with hand speed. Try doing a round with weights and follow with a round without weights. Clear difference for me. Just my 2 cents. Work hard stay humble!
Excellent article. Everything I’ve read from exercise physiologists and degreed sports trainers goes right along with you. The training cannot deviate much from actual performance of a skill or the skill will be negatively affected. Basketball players don’t practice free throws with medicine balls. Thank you for putting so much time and effort in your website.
Good article, thank you.
I’m going to get battered for my brown belt in kickboxing so have started doing some shadow work with 2 kg dumbbells in each hand.
I’m doing it in the hope I’ll be able to keep my hands up longer and defend myself.
Do you think for this purpose it’ll be useful? I don’t need extra power or speed, just want to be fitter and be able to defend myself for longer.
Why are you yelling
You can shadowbox with weights, but put the weights on your ankles!
Thank you for the info! I wasnt sure if it were a good idea to shadowbox with weights.
I use this really great app on nintendo switch called fitness boxing 2, that combines boxing with rhytm. Its great!
Anyways, thanks! 🙂
A very informative article about boxing gloves. I enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing.
Loco boy 808
Oh yah braddah das Dakine cuz!
While gravity pulls the weight down, increased horizontal inertia acts opposite the direction of the punch when a weight is held:
F = m a
When the mass of the weight is accelerated towards the target it resists motion. So it increases the stresses on the fast twitch muscles, which may strengthen them and lead to faster punches.
A study of biomechanics for olympic boxers punching a headshape determined that the effective mass of the hand was calculated to be 1.9 to 6.8 kg.
Holding a weight heavier than a boxing glove would, as noted above, provide increased resistance along the punch direction. Which could speed up punches if the weight does not negatively impact punch mechanics and looseness.
Do not lock out the elbows shadow boxing.
I imagine that if one shadow boxes and trains with 16 ounce gloves and uses 8 ounces, the 8 ounce gloves will feel lighter and fly faster.
I use a pair of 17 ounce weighted UFC gloves, my 16 ounce boxing gloves actually weigh 14 and 14.5 ounces.
A study of olympic boxer biomechanics estimated effective hand mass in to be within a 2 to 6 kg range, with gloves. This calculation was based on velocities.
Sometimes a relatively slow punch velocity was related to a larger force, so effective hand mass includes body weight effects.
Heavyweight force of 4516N at 10.6 m/s (2.9 kg effective hand mass), force of 4741N at 7.0 m/s (6.8 kg effective hand mass)..