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Boxing Workout: How to Shadow Box for Exercise.

Updated on March 1, 2013

Shadow Boxing

Shadow boxing is when a person boxes with themselves Instead of boxing against an opponent. There is just them and their shadow. They don't hit anything and they don't get hit but they get in a boxer's stance and go through the movements like they are boxing. They punch, block and evade. Boxers do it as part of their training and boxers need to be in great shape. It provides them with exercise and increases their boxing skills.

If shadow boxing did not help them get ready for real boxing matches then it would not be part of their training. It can give you most of the benefits of boxing without the violence. While shadow boxing you can burn calories, build muscle and increase the power of your punches. It can be a fun way to get exercise.



Boxers protect themselves. They hold up their fist with the knuckles in the air to guard their chins. When they throw a punch they start from the guard position. As soon as they are done throwing the punch they quickly retract their hand back into the guard position. While punching one hand stays near the face to protect the chin. They will also move from the guard stance to block incoming punches.

When a person is shadow boxing they should guard themselves like they would if they were boxing an opponent. Do a quick punch or block and then go back to protecting yourself using the guard position. It makes for a better workout.

Punching the Air

When you shadow box you should still have a target. The target is where your punch is going to end. Aim for a specific spot and stop yourself when your fist reaches it. Don't go through the target. The movement should be a lot like actually punching a person or a heavy punching bag. Punching the air can be good for your abs. You need to put more effort into balancing yourself because you are not hitting a solid object. As a result your abs and back muscles are used more.

The punches should be powerful. Punch like you are in a competition and the power of the punch matters. You should not just be going through the motions and punching air. Imagine you are punching a strong opponent or a punching bag. In the moment of the punch think of yourself as a boxer. You are fast and powerful. Maintain power and control.


The four main boxing punches are the jab, cross, hook and uppercut. You can also do variations or combinations of these punches. An overhand punch refers to a horizontal punch with the palm facing the ground when it reaches the target. Since you are boxing for exercise you don't need to focus on using your strong arm for the power punches. Use you right and left arm. You can do combos by quickly following a punch with a different style of punch. For instance a right uppercut followed by a left hook or a left jab followed by a right cross.

Jab, Cross, Hook, Uppercut

Cross punch.
Cross punch. | Source
Hook punch.
Hook punch. | Source

A jab is a quick, straight overhand punch. It can be done while taking a half step forward. Jabs usually lack power but they are quicker than the other punches. Boxers usually jab with their weak arm and save their stronger arm for the more powerful punches.

A cross is another straight overhand punch but it crosses the body and has more power than the jab. When thrown with the right hand it moves towards your opponent's right side which is your left. The shoulder of the lead hand moves forward to touch your chin. More weight is transferred to the lead foot during the punch and the rear heel turns outward. A half step forward can be taken during the punch.

A hook is a powerful curved sideways horizontal punch that comes from the side. Draw back your elbow to the outside. Then punch in a semi circular motion while keeping your elbow bent. Rotate the torso and hips into the punch for more power. The punch should connect with the side of the target. More weight is directed to the rear foot and the lead heel is turned outward during the punch. Target your opponent's head or lower body.

The uppercut is a vertical rising semi-circular punch aimed at the head or the stomach while close to the opponent. Lead hand drops down to the opponent's belly and the knees are bent slightly. Punch upward and push yourself upward with your legs. Weight is transferred to the front leg. Rear heel turns outward. Hips and thighs are rotated with the punch for more power. During the punch your palm should face left, upwards and then towards your body, if you are using your right hand. When using your left hand the palm should be facing right at the start of the upward punch.


Boxers are on their toes most of the time and they move their feet a lot. When stepping the foot closest to the direction of the step goes first. They push off with the other foot to move. Then they either quickly pull the other foot closer to the foot that was moved or pull the foot that was moved back to where it was before. It allows the boxer to quickly move towards or away from their opponent and it can be used to increase the power of a punch.

Evade And Block

Bob and weave to move to the side and beneath an opponent's punch. Shift the body to one side while bending down just enough to avoid the punch. Then move back into position. Duck straight down to get under a punch. Sway by leaning back to get away from a punch. Slip by rotating the body so the chin turns sideways and the punch misses the head. Block punches using your hands, forearms and shoulders. Holding you fists up high to protect your face and using your forearms to protect your torso is referred to as a cover-up. These are the different methods boxers use to avoid getting hit in the face or torso.

When blocking or evading you should be looking for a good moment to strike. Since you don't have an actual opponent while shadow boxing you need to imagine punches are coming at you. It is a good idea to evade and block when shadow boxing because it adds some variety to the exercise and you will need breaks from the punching.


A round of boxing typically lasts 3 minutes with 1 minute of rest between rounds. When you shadow box it is a good idea to use a timer. You could use a watch or a mobile device. Lots of devices have timers on them. I can set my music player to start or stop playing music after 3 minutes. Using a timer makes it easier to stay focused because looking at a clock or wondering about the time takes your focus off the workout. Timers also make it easy to increase the duration of the exercise. You may want to start with 1 or 2 minute rounds and build up to 5 minute rounds. Like most workouts it is a good idea to gradually increase the duration.

As Exercise

When boxing for exercise you want to quickly use up a lot of energy. There is no need to hold back. Guard, punch, block, evade, move around and stay on your toes most of the time like you are fighting someone but spend more time on the offensive. Jabs don't have a lot of power so don't spend most of the time doing weak jabs. Use the power punches and include combos. It is called shadow boxing but you can do it without using your shadow if you want to.

Like any other workout you should keep track of your performance and try to improve. Increase the intensity, duration of each round or the number of rounds. Since it is hard to make shadow boxing as intense as real boxing you may want to increase the length of each round to 5 minutes instead of 3. Use an alarm or something else to tell you when it is time to rest and when it is time to start the next round. Shadow boxing is physically and mentally demanding. To keep the intensity up you need to keep pushing yourself to do more.

When I shadow box I usually do it as one of the exercises in my workout. For instance push-ups, jumping rope, dumbbell curls, shadow boxing and running. It can be hard to focus on shadow boxing for extended periods of time. So after 3 or 5 minutes I move to something else. It is a good upper body cardio exercise. You can shadow box as your workout or include it as part of your workout like I do. Shadow boxing is one of my favorite ways to exercise inside but if I want to keep at it for a long intense workout then I need to watch a boxing workout DVD.

If you have trouble staying focused while shadow boxing you can get boxing workout DVDs and a punching bag at stores like Walmart. Adding kicks can add more variety to the workout. Sometimes I just shadow box by myself. Other times I put in a kick boxing workout DVD and do Tae Bo. Of course you can just start punching and and moving around like you are boxing without learning the proper techniques but if you are going to do it on a regular basis you might as well try to use good form.


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