Shadowboxing has been a part of the sport of boxing almost from its inception. The idea and exercise of throwing punches at the air and towards an imaginary target is meant to warm a fighter up. It can help get his body in combat mode or cool him down after a workout. When done properly, shadowboxing also gives a fighter a solitary moment to perform a mental check list as he prepares for the main event of his boxing routine. Rewind and repeat: WHEN DONE PROPERLY shadowboxing gives a fighter a solitary moment to perform a mental check list as he prepares for the main event of his boxing routine.
The basic concept is that by watching his reflection in the mirror or his shadow against a wall, a fighter is able to review his technique and perform a “self-evaluation” to be sure that he is sticking to the proper boxing fundamentals. It allows a fighter to loosen-up boxing-specific muscles in preparation for harder, more intense physical exertion. Other sports have just recently adopted this same sport-specific approach to warming-up, as opposed to old-school, more traditional ideals of stretching (which, in recent years, have been found to actually weaken the muscles and makes them more susceptible to injury). Fighters have used this technique to perfect their form and get in the right frame of mind for at least the past century.
The only drawback to shadowboxing is that too many fighters go through this exercise to just shake off the city dust and boxing rust. They don’t perform it with the right intent. They go through the motions, talk while they’re doing it and tend to wander in the ring and gawk around the gym at what other fighters are doing. They move their hands, shake their shoulders and shuffle around, but don’t really perform shadowboxing with a real focus or the intensity it deserves.
Shadowboxing is intended to be done with a purpose. As a fighter, you should be closely watching yourself in a mirror and monitoring your form. By close examination in the mirror, you can make adjustments towards better technique and greater punch output.
This is a perfect time to break down every aspect of your game. Study how you throw your jab. Make sure you’re shifting your weight properly to deliver a strong cross. Watch that you are also incorporating defense and remember; don’t neglect foot movement. This is a great time to watch your feet and study your movement, when all of your focus isn’t centered on punching something. Quickly stepping in and out, moving side to side, to and away from the mirror is beneficial. It will make you quicker on your feet and more aware of how you are coordinating your lower and upper body movements.
This is also a good time to incorporate some visualization. Get used to confrontation and combat by imagining someone in front of you as you shadowbox. Move your head, avoid their punches and counter. Move, punch and defend. Act and react. It will help increase the intensity of your shadowboxing rounds and you will get more out of each second by making the moments more real. Every minute lasts 60 seconds. Use every one of those seconds to prepare yourself, instead of just letting the second hand tick away.
Shadowboxing should begin with short, slow movements. Allow your muscles a round or two to get acclimated to the warming-up process and the prospect of fighting. Then, begin to step up the intensity each minute of the remaining rounds so that your punches are flowing rapidly and in ideal form. Breaking a sweat is crucial. You should feel loose and ready by the time you have shadowboxed for at least four rounds. Your muscles should be ready and your mind right for engaging.
You can take this all one step further and add another dimension to your shadowboxing routine by picking up a light pair of dumbbells. One or two pounds extra will allow you to maintain form but require that little bit more. Aside from dumbbells, you can also use a resistance chord, wrist weights or even ankle weights. There are a wide variety of boxing tools that will help you enhance your shadowboxing routine.
All in all, the main thing to remember when shadowboxing is that it’s all about technique and attention to the details. When you perform it correctly, the exercise of shadowboxing has tremendous benefits. It gets you warmed up, gets you focused on the task at hand and gives you the ideal platform for honing your skills. If you pay attention while you’re warming up you’ll find that the best thing about a mirror is that it never lies.
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This post was originally published on January 27, 2014.