Top 10 Shadowboxing Benefits: is it a Good Workout?

This article will walk you through the benefits of shadowboxing and why shadowboxing is a good boxing workout. Specifically, you will learn how shadowboxing builds muscle.

If you ask a random person about boxing training, the probability that they will mention heavy bag, skipping or shadowboxing as boxing’s main exercises is very high.

Indeed, shadowboxing is one of the fundamental boxing exercises and by many, it is considered to be a hallmark of the training in this sport.

Before we go into detail, let’s start with the basics.

What is Shadowboxing?

Shadowboxing is a form of boxing training in which one spars with an imaginary opponent. Specifically, we attack the opponent by throwing punches but at the same time, defend against him/her by using footwork, blocking, and other techniques.

One of the biggest misconceptions beginners make about shadowboxing is that they think they are just throwing punches in the air.

It is completely different: we don’t just blindly hit the air without thinking, but rather throw punches and boxing combos that we would really do if we face a real opponent. Additionally, in this situation, we visualise the opponent’s attack and perform defensive techniques such as blocking or slipping punches.

Below you can see a video of one of the greatest fighters of our generation Vasyl Lomachenko displaying his skills during shadowboxing. As an interesting fact, we will add that shadowboxing as it is now known has been somewhat invented and named by the Canadian boxer George Dixon.

Now that you know what shadowboxing is and how it’s used by many great boxers around the world, let’s understand the benefit of shadowboxing. Specifically, we will look at 9 of the greatest benefits of shadowboxing.

Benefit #1: Shadowboxing Builds Muscle

Shadowboxing is a good workout that builds a lot of muscles around the body.

Particularly, shadowboxing builds the muscles around the chest, shoulder, arms, core, and leg. This is because shadowboxing is an all-body workout that is designed to imitate the condition you would face in sparring or a boxing match.

In such a situation, it is natural that you will need to throw combos at your opponent all while defending against him/her by slipping, footwork, or blocking punches.

Another muscle group trained in this workout is the fast-twitching fast twitching muscle fibres that could help you not only jab faster but also a vital ingredient for use in setting up knockout combinations.

a muscular man
It won't turn you into a bodybuilder physique, but it will build muscle!

Benefit #2: Improve Muscle Memory

The reason why they say that ‘inactivity is the greatest sin of boxing’ is partially linked to the most important reason why you should shadowbox and why it is such a great workout.

Boxing is a sport in which muscle memory plays a crucial aspect.

When boxers fight, they do not actually think of every move they make – there is no time for it.

Boxers’ bodies are trained to react in certain ways. 

What boxers do when fighting is use certain combinations and patterns of movement learned previously at training.  

The key aspect of learning those patterns of movement is muscle memory – and there is no better exercise to learn muscle memory than shadowboxing.

Often repetitions of certain movements for instance slip and cross contribute to encoding such movements in the memories of our muscles. When someone attacks us with a jab, boxers do not have to think of what to do, but their bodies perform slip and the right-hand counter.

a boxer shadowboxing

Benefit #3: Fighting Conditioning

Shadowboxing demands endurance and cardio.

When performed at a good pace and with a proper speed, it can make you as tired as the fight.

More importantly, we improve our ‘fighting conditioning’ which is different from other types of conditioning.

I have met many people who can run for miles and outrun boxers, but when they step into the ring, they quickly gas out.

Boxing and fighting conditioning are different from conditioning for other sports. Therefore, an important benefit of shadowboxing is that it gives you great ‘fighting conditioning’. 

Benefit #4: Weight Loss

As we mentioned previously, shadowboxing is physically demanding.

It is an exercise that engages absolutely all muscles and imitates the fight. When done properly, it requires a lot of energy and thus burns a lot of calories.

There is no doubt that one of the benefits of that exercise is weight loss.

Of course, shadowboxing should not be used as a weight-cutting technique as there are more efficient methods in the context of boxing.

But nonetheless, it does help to lose weight and it happened to me that before some fights I used shadowboxing to cut some weight.

Benefit #5: Improving Technique and Correcting Mistakes

Shadowboxing, especially one that is recorded or performed in front of the mirror is a great way to improve technique and see/correct mistakes.

It is very easy to see what improvements need to be made when you watch yourself or when your coach watches you while shadowboxing.

Specifically, analysing the recorded shadowboxing will allow you to see the gaps in your armour as well as make punches smoother and crisper.

When you build proper technique, you will be truly invincible, and Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather is the greatest example of that. There are very few exercises which improve your technique more than shadowboxing.

a boxing trainer training an athlete

Benefit #6: Release Stress

Shadowboxing is a great way to release stress and strengthen the mind.

During this exercise, you imitate a boxing bout and that allows you to literally throw your emotions away.

More importantly, it is not as damaging as releasing the stress during an actual bag, on pads or on a heavy bag.

When hitting the bag or pads, the hands are susceptible to injuries and at times, we cannot hit the heavy bag due to injuries.

As shadowboxing does not require hitting physical objects, we therefore can release stress without a chance of injuring ourselves.

Benefit #7: Visualisation and Implementing Strategy or Game Plan

Shadowboxing is a great tool that helps with fight visualisation and allows us to work on a game plan.

When I know who I fight, I always imagine that person in front of me when I shadowbox.

It makes me ready for that particular fighter and makes me less surprised when I see the fighter in the ring, as I have already envisioned his size, weight, height and the way he will attack me.

This is a great benefit of shadowboxing.

During shadowboxing, one can also work on the strategy.

One can adapt the strategy to the opponent. If your opponent is stronger but slower, during shadowboxing you can practice picking him apart with fast shots. If you know he starts slow, work on attacking straight away and then slowing down or speeding up during the fight.

No better exercise than shadowboxing to practice those.

two boxers facing off and strategising

Benefit #8: Improving footwork!

Shadowboxing is simply great for footwork.

It is a great tool with which you can work on your feet. The majority of people associate boxing with hands, but contrary to popular belief, the lower body plays an equally important if not a bigger role in boxing.

If one does not stand properly and does not have a balanced positioning, one will not be able to generate power.

The power and speed of punches are in balance and movement. Shadowboxing improves those.

Benefit #9: Improves Coordination

Shadowboxing makes your body more coordinated and therefore an important aspect of boxing.

Coordination is everything.

In order to be able to fight, one must be coordinated. The epitome of boxing’s technique is the coordination of legs, hips, and shoulders that generate the power which is transferred through the fist.

Shadowboxing helps to coordinate hands and feet and coordinate the movement of the entire body.

The moves in shadowboxing are the perfect combination of martial arts and boxing, which makes it a unique way of exercise that needs endurance and energy. If you run a shadowboxing club or are hosting a tournament or a seminar, you may consider investing in some metal pins to commemorate your club or event. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, and can be custom designed to meet your individual needs.

Benefit #10: Improves Balance

Throwing fast or powerful shots while rapidly moving in the boxing stance requires good balance.

I’d even say it’s fundamental! That’s because you will need it to move around the ring freely and effectively defend or attack. 

Shadowboxing is the go-to exercise to build this.

Many times, you will need to throw counterpunches while on the move.

Other times, you may throw punches but miss the target and end up landing it in the open air. 

In these cases, you need to be able to maintain balance so as not to get potentially knocked down by your opponent.

Shadowboxing allows you to train your balance in these situations.

How to Make Shadowboxing a Good Workout?

Now that we understand what is shadowboxing and the benefits of shadowboxing, we will explore how to make shadowboxing a good workout and as effective as possible.

Specifically, we’ll explore how often you should be shadowboxing and then we will present to you some tips on how to get the most out of your shadowboxing workout.

How Much Should You Shadowbox Per Week?

There is no single and unanimously accepted rule on how often you should be shadowboxing.

It depends on many factors such as boxing experience, level of boxing, how many mistakes you’re making, and the date of your fight.

There are boxers who shadowbox once a week and there are those who do it twice a day. In general, it would be beneficial to shadowbox as often as possible but doing it 3 times a week will be a good start.

A good time to shadowbox would be during or right after warmup. Furthermore, it would be beneficial to have it looked at by a coach or do it in front of a mirror in order to fix mistakes in form.

Practical Tips on How to Effectively Shadowbox

Here are some practical tips on how to effectively shadowbox and maximise the benefits gained from shadowboxing.

  • Tip #1: imagine your opponent in front of you. Make sure to visualise the opponent and see his/her size, weight, height, reach, and body.
  • Tip #2: fight the imaginary opponent as if you fought him/her in the ring. For example, if the opponent is taller and has a superior reach, cut the distance and put in the hooks and uppercuts. In contrast, if the opponent is shorter and likes to brawl, then keep a distance using your jab.
  • Tip #3: shadowboxing is not only about offence, but also about defence. The opponent will not stand and wait in front of you to receive blows. Therefore, while shadowboxing, imagine defending yourself from your opponent’s punches.
  • Tip #4: work through a strategy, that is, don’t hit aimlessly. You wouldn’t and shouldn’t be throwing a 10-punch combination to your opponent during a bout. Instead, plan your fight by thinking about what opponent you are facing and execute the plan by throwing relevant combinations that are adapted to your opponent.
  • Tip #5: work on your feet, move around, and change tempo. That will allow you to dictate the pace of the fight and you will be forcing your opponent to fight you at your strength.

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