Sunday, June 4, 2023
Home Boxing First, Begin with Yourself: How to Shadowbox for Beginners

First, Begin with Yourself: How to Shadowbox for Beginners

Ever see a boxer training by himself, tangled up in a fight with someone he can only see? No, he’s not crazy — well, maybe a little. However, this is actually a part of the training program set to make a boxer be the best athlete that he can be.
If you are just starting off in the ring and recently joined a boxing gym, you might notice fighters around making bizarre movements for no reason, hopping back and forth, breathing in a rhythm and jerking their head around like they are avoiding an imaginary attack from a kind of angry snake.
This seemingly “odd” exercise is called shadowboxing. Although most fighters train with this type of exercise often, if you’re a beginner you might not really see the point of it all.
However, behind a person’s eyes and imaginary punches, there’s a lot more to it. There are defensive strategies being planned, movement preparations being drawn, and an attack being formulated.
As a beginner, my guide on “How to shadowbox for beginners” is a perfect tool for you to learn everything there is to learn about shadowboxing. From being guided in the right direction with your footwork to perfecting your timing, checking your distance, setting up your defense, gaging your power, working on your hand speed, and all in all, training your inside fighting ability is what boxing shadowbox is all about.
I hope that my guide can help you wade the waters in boxer shadowboxing and help you be a better fighter tomorrow.

Shadowboxing Defined

This training method is basically sparring but on your own. When you’re completing this shadowbox exercise, you have to have a wicked good imagination to envision your opponent. Although we’re in the virtual reality age, the original “feinting” reality of this exercise has helped professional boxers everywhere simulate a fight as close enough as possible without actually meeting another opponent.
The key to shadowboxing, which makes it very difficult for beginners to grasp the concept, is to mentally prepare yourself for a fight. If you have never been in a fight before, how could you visualize it?
With time, you’ll learn how to shadowbox properly. Before you head into learning how to do it, though, I’m going to tell you why you should implement shadowboxing into your boxing training program.

Reasons to Shadowbox

reason shadowbox
If I still haven’t won you over, I’m going to give you a few reasons why you should take up professional shadowboxing. It is such a versatile training because of its freestyle nature. It can be done no matter where you are or what’s around you. Not only do you not need any other equipment, you also don’t have any distractions. For example, if you are hitting the bag, you always have to concentrate on the bag — if it’s moving around. Although this might be a great aspect of training, it is also pretty distracting if all you want to focus on is how you hit the bag.
Having feedback from shadowboxing is actually relatively easy, as well. Even if you don’t have a coach or someone watching your form, you can use a mirror or even a camera — recording your every move so you can play it back later. It is great to use for feedback on your punching style, reaction time and your overall form.
Although it isn’t as realistic as actually sparring with someone and you can’t imagine fully how someone would move without having an opponent in front of you, it’s still quite effective in working on your form and on your conditioning.
Without further ado, here are a few reasons why you should try and take up shadowboxing, implementing it into your training regime.

Taking the First Step

When you are first learning all there is to know about techniques and form through film or instruction, shadowboxing is a perfect opportunity to try it out. Although your fist isn’t hitting a particular target, you can still see the technique. It is the first step in gaining the foundation you need to improve on later in your boxing career. After you get shadowboxing down, you can then move on to hitting the bag, hitting mitts, and sparring with another partner. It is an important first step to take.

Puts Everything into Perspective

Shadowboxing, especially when you’re filming yourself, gives you the opportunity to see yourself raw and unperturbed. It is a way to be able to point out every aspect, every detail and every tiny mistake that you could miss when you’re sparring with someone else. You can zero in on your balance, every detail of your form or have someone help you in evaluating it all.

You can Focus on your Footwork

I can’t stress it enough: footwork is extremely important. Once you are comfortable with your punching form, you can advance into working on your shadowboxing footwork. The great thing about working with shadowboxing for your footwork is that you really are limitless. Since it is based off of your imagination, you can throw in lateral movements, foot feints, pivots, step-offs, advancing or retreats whenever you want. Having the freedom to be able to practice all of these techniques whenever you want really gives you the time and opportunity to perfect them.

You Don’t Need a Thing

No, it isn’t just a song I’m singing at you. Having the opportunity to be able to shadowbox, regardless of where you are (although we don’t suggest you do so at the office) and whatever you have with you while you’re training is a huge opportunity right at your fingertips —er, fists. It requires absolutely no equipment, which is a breath of fresh air when you normally are weighed down by heavy bags or mitts. Although you can always add cones, bands, weights or even partners, you don’t necessarily need any of that.

Now that I’ve highly convinced you of good enough reasons to begin shadowboxing, you might want to know a few tips before you start. Even though you might have a coach helping guide you through the training process, there might be a few things that he or she has missed.

Five things to remember for beginners

We have all been beginners at some point. Especially if you don’t have a coach or fellow fighter to help point you in the right direction, it’s pretty easy to run into mistakes. Lucky for you, you probably aren’t the first fighter who is constantly making these mistakes or are running into these problems. I’m here to help ease your worry. After having the stories of hundreds of fighters and coaches out there, here is a list of compiled, common mistakes that you as a beginner should try your best to avoid.

Common Beginner Mistakes to Avoid

Common Mistakes for Begineers

Too Much Static Stand-Still

A huge benefit of effective shadowboxing is having the freedom to move around as you please, imagining the best you can a fight and an opponent. Therefore, just like in an actual fight, you wont be standing still with your feet planted and simply throwing punches. Beginners often focus too much on form and technique on punches rather than incorporating footwork. This will work on your conditioning and help you prepare the best you can for a fight or sparring.

Too Much Looking into a Mirror

We all know that you’re fighting with the man in the mirror but sometimes it’s good to switch it up. If you are constantly just shadowboxing in front of a mirror, you won’t get used to watching your imaginary opponent’s chest and using your peripheral vision, you will instead always be scanning for mistakes. This is not beneficial when you’re sparring or in a fight. Shadowboxing is beneficial when you’re imagining an opponent. If you need to work on your form, you can also always film yourself, which then, you can playback every detail of your form.

Not getting into it Mentally

Although it is a great way for you to warm-up, not imagining your opponent, not focusing on where you’re punching won’t be as helpful as it should be. It’s like listening to music but not focusing on the lyrics. Although you hear the beat, you don’t really get the whole meaning behind the song.

Focusing on Power rather than Technique

Even though you don’t have an opponent or physical target in this case, you might feel like you can simply just use shadowboxing as a conditioning exercise. Even though it’s not a bad thing, one of the main points of shadowboxing is to get yourself ready for a fight. Focusing more on technique rather than power and explosiveness will help you in the long run.

Now that I’ve prepared you for the beginning of training, I think it’s about time we get into it. Especially if you are just getting started with boxing, shadowboxing might be an entirely new concept. Therefore, I’m going to ease you into it.
I’m going to offer you an exclusive two simple routines that you can follow right from the get-go. The number one thing to do is: to let go. Don’t worry about looking or feeling silly. We all had to start at one point and today’s the day for you, which can transform into shadowboxing everyday, so, let’s do it.

Beginner’s Boxing Routines

boxing routines

Routine #1

Start with rounds, two minutes on, two minutes off. These rounds will focus solely on footwork.

Starting on the balls of your feet, move all directions: step forwards, backwards and sideways — all while keeping your guard up, both hands at your chin and your eyes locked on an imaginary opponent.

Instead of simply moving about, really hone in on your imagination. Get creative with your opponent, who is moving around opposite you.

As you move in the four directions, begin to throw a jab in between your steps. Drive the punch off the opposite foot of the direction that you’re heading in.

After you’re comfortable with this, move on to defensive shadowboxing.

Keep your guard where it is and imagine that opponent fighting back. You’ve probably learned a few defensive movements in your training already — blocks, bobs, and weaves, etc. Implement those into moving around and jabbing.

After feeling comfortable with incorporating jabs and defensive movements, initiate a round with some uppercuts and hooks. Be aware that this will be short range, so keep up your high guard. Make shadowboxing as realistic as possible.

Mix in these punches to the body and to the head of your imaginary opponent:

4-5, 5-2, 2-5, 2-3, 3-2

After doing all this, you can move on to the long game. Incorporate long jabs and crosses. Make sure you are not standing still. If you have to, limit yourself to a 3-second standstill “break” while punching.

Mix in these punches to the body and to the head of your imaginary opponent: 1, 1-1-, 1-2, 1-1-2, 1-2-1, 1-2-1-2, 1-1-6, 1-2-3, 2-1-1.

You can view this video: for more visual learning.

Routine #2

Start with rounds, two minutes on, two minutes off. These rounds will mix and match what you’ve learned in your first routine.

However, what sets this apart from the previous is that you’re working on conditioning rather than technique here.

You will really step your game up here. Once you’ve mastered routine #1, you can try completing 8 different rounds of throwing 10 sets of 10 punches. You should be throwing them at full speed and power. Giving your all.

Since you are just beginning, keep the combinations simple, for example: 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2.

These should be thrown with maximum intensity and then have a quick recovery between sets.

What to focus on when performing this routine:

In addition to all the points I previously explained, make sure you are protecting your joints. When you’re punching, never lock your elbows. Instead, place your concentration on your midsection and torquing it explosively, working on your core.

After performing these routines, you should throw in a cool down of shadowboxing. Keep it light and comfortable, slowing your body back down.


Final Advice for You Beginners

Although I’ve left this section as last, it is equally, if not the most important of them all. Before you head to the gym or get into your guard position, you should make sure to go through these points and perform them to the best of your ability — and simple remember them.

Too Much Static Stand-Still

A huge benefit of shadowboxing is having the freedom to move around as you please, imagining the best you can a fight and an opponent. Therefore, just like in an actual fight, you won’t be standing still with your feet planted and simply throwing punches. Beginners often focus too much on form and technique on punches rather than incorporating footwork. This will work on your conditioning and help you prepare the best you can for a fight or sparring.

You Need Proper Feedback

Whether it is a mirror, a coach, film or a training partner, having feedback to your form is a very important aspect for performing shadowboxing — paying attention to small details, technique, and mistakes.


A trainer: If you are fortunate enough to be training under a trainer, you can have them watch you while you shadowbox. Although this might feel awkward at first, they can see things that you can’t and also have more experience than you do. He or she can help with how to build a shadowbox frame and how to shadowbox display.

A teammate: Same thing with the trainer, you can have another person watch you and give you feedback.

A mirror: Even though you shouldn’t be watching yourself at all times, using a mirror can be a beneficial aspect to shadowboxing. It helps you compare to other boxers and watch your technique on your own. Benefits of shadowboxing in a mirror:

Your feelings: Yes, you heard me correctly. If you are performing a movement and it really feels wrong or hurting, you probably have incorrect form. Pain and imbalance shouldn’t be occurring when you’re simply shadowboxing. This is a great indicator of feedback and proper form.

Know When You Should be Shadowboxing

There are several different times during a workout where you should perform shadowboxing. Although you don’t have to perform it at all of these times, they are the perfect time of training to get in a few punches and work in footwork:


Warm-up: You don’t have to be so intense here but you can use shadowboxing to get your body and joints warm.

Technique Drills: If you have just learned some new techniques, you can use shadowboxing to practice performing without an opponent or target simply to work on your form and footwork.

Conditioning: A perfect exercise for conditioning, shadowboxing can be used to work on your endurance and repetitive movements.

Cool down: End your training with something that you can incorporate all the techniques you just learned into. Don’t overdo it, at the end of the day, this is a cool down so loosen your muscles and recap all the techniques and moves you just worked on.

Keep These Things in Mind

Keep your shadowboxing under 15 minutes. Being able to perform shadowboxing without fully resting will boost your conditioning, keep your muscles warm, and keep you moving. If you are getting tired, slow down instead of stopping completely. The key here is that when you’re training, you should never be stopping or taking a break. Even if you are in between training exercises or watching a sparring match, you can shadowbox.

Make sure you know your goals.

When you’re shadowboxing, you should have a focus in mind. If you are working on a particular weakness, you should focus on it. Whether it’s speed, strategy or technique, among so many other concepts, you should always keep yourself mentally focused on improving.

Always be on the look out for problems.

Shadowboxing is a great opportunity to learn and point out mistakes. Use this exercise as an opportunity to improve, whether you’re using film, other people or coaches, always try and get feedback.

Work on your new techniques.

Especially since you don’t have the threat of someone throwing a punch in your face when you’re focusing on a new technique, shadowboxing is a perfect time to try something new that you just learned. Try different positions or place emphasis on other parts of your body. Switch up your steps, distances and directions.


Wrapping It Up

At the end of the day, I know all of this information can be overwhelming. Therefore, I’ve compiled a few common questions about shadowboxing that can be beneficial to be someone who is just starting out.
Should I add weights or gloves on when I’m shadowboxing? If you are just starting out, you shouldn’t add it. This should be reserved for more advanced boxers with experience already in shadowboxing. The beauty of shadowboxing is that is strips everything down so that you can focus solely on you, technique, speed, and form. If you want to shadowbox as a form of exercise and strengthening then you are better off performing another exercise. It also can be dangerous for your joints and body.
Should I shadowbox as a southpaw? Instead of trying to change your game up that way, you should focus on changing up other things. For example, you should try changing up your stance or footwork, and focus first on that. If you don’t think that there’s much to improve on, get in touch with a coach to watch you and give you some tips to improve on. Even though you might think there’s nothing else you can work on — you’re probably wrong.
Especially as a beginner, shadowboxing can feel like a weird, awkward exercise. However, integrating it into your boxing training regimen is definitely extremely important to cover and build a foundation and base for your training later on. It truly is an invaluable training tool that you can use before you move on to sparring or training with mitts. Although it might not have the same appeal as the bag, it has benefits that you can’t get with anything else.
The great thing about awesome shadowboxing is that it solely depends on you. You get out what you put in. I hope that this guide has helped you take the first steps towards being a pro in shadowboxing and developing the techniques, form, and strategies that will help you only advance in your career.


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