Shadow boxing can provide a challenging upper body and cardio workout as well as add a bit of punch to your regular training routine. Shadow boxing has been a long-standing training tool used for boxers and mixed martial artists as a pre-fight warm-up and drill to improve technique. All you need to shadow box are your two hands and an imaginary opponent.
Starting Position & Footwork
Note that shadow boxing is not called shadow punching. You are boxing, or fighting, an imaginary opponent and that will require you to move and stay light on your feet. Make a tight fist in each hand and place your fists on either side of your chin, but not touching your face. Your feet should be shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. If you are right-handed, place your right forward until the heel is about a hand width in front of your left big toe. Reverse if you are left-handed. Shift your weight to the balls of your feet and keep your heels off of the ground. Shuffle forward and backward, left and right as well as along an imaginary diagonal line while staying on your toes and not letting your feet come together.
Jabs are used to keep an opponent on the defensive and are meant to be delivered quickly and without a lot of power. To throw a jab, aim a punch at your imaginary opponent's nose with your leading hand (right hand if you are right-handed). Snap the punch in and quickly retract it to the starting position. Practice throwing a few jabs with your lead hand without moving your feet. Once you are comfortable punching from a stationary position, start adding movement. Dart forward with your feet as you throw the jab and quickly jump back to your starting position with your hands back by your chin.
Notice how your hands are up your chin protecting your face from your opponent's imaginary punches? Hooks are punches designed to go around that defense and connect with the side of face or body and can be thrown with either hand. Throw a hook by staring the punch aimed to the outside of your opponent's body while raising your elbow until it is parallel to the ground. This motion will shift the direction of your punch so it will move toward the center and strike the side of your opponent.
Cross & Uppercut
The cross and uppercut are tighter versions of the hook that are used to go around your opponent's defenses when you are in close. Like the hook, the cross comes in from your opponent's side, either to the head or the body, but your punching elbow remains close to your body. The uppercut is the vertical version of the cross with the punch coming up under the opponent's chin and your elbow pointing toward the floor. The power for both punches comes from your lower body. The cross comes from pivoting your hips into the punch while the uppercut comes from pushing against the floor with your legs to drive your body weight underneath the opponent's chin.
Putting it Together
To put all of the moves together, start by fighting your imaginary opponent for three, three-minute rounds. Throw jabs the first round, hooks the second, and crosses and uppercuts the third. Another option is to complete each round with a training partner calling out number combinations for you to execute. For example, one is a jab; two is a hook; three is a cross; four is an uppercut; and five is all four punches in a row. Make sure you alternate during each combination.
Jack Kaltmann is a Las Vegas-based writer with more than 25 years of professional experience in corporate communications. He is a published author of several books and feature articles for national publications such as "American Artist" and "Inside Kung-Fu." Kaltmann holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Miami University and is a retired nationally certified personal trainer.