Shape Up With Shadowboxing

Shadowboxing is where it all started for me when it comes to my first initial interactions with mixed martial arts -at least for kickboxing. After trying out jiu-jitsu and realizing it just wasn't for me, although it's an amazing technical branch of MMA, it didn't really resonate for me and it wasn't -as they say- my cup of tea.

Shadowboxing teaches me to be "body aware" because it's a solo act. It's just you and your body, and you're learning to internalize your movements, how they feel, where the mistakes are being made -you totally zone in, assuming you're in a flow state of such deep focus, you're aware of it all happening.

I remember when I first started shadowboxing how weird and awkward it felt for me. I felt like I looked stupid and silly, punching the air trying to pretend like I was fighting some imaginary opponent.

In essence, however, that's kind of what it is. Shadowboxing is a training method in mixed martial arts that serves as a simulation whereby you refine and build your fight skills or overall technique and form in general, through practicing without the heavy bag or pads being held by someone.

It took me a long time to find my groove with this practice -and even though I'm certainly not exceptionally perfect at this art form in itself- it's created for me a place of therapeutic movement that enhances my mental and physical state.

Not only does it do well for my psychological and emotional state of being, but physically as well. It keeps me in shape and challenges my body in a way that simply serves to be an all around valuable asset to my training routine.

Bruce Lee once said: "Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind."

He was right. That's what shadowboxing has taught me. While you want to be very in control and fine tuned with your execution of movements, you want to be fluid and flexible while also retaining power and poise -it's a healthy balance. You can't really move well if you're very rigid in your muscles and way of going.

Shadowboxing teaches me to be "body aware" because it's a solo act. It's just you and your body, and you're learning to internalize your movements, how they feel, where the mistakes are being made -you totally zone in, assuming you're in a flow state of such deep focus, you're aware of it all happening.

You're dissecting combinations and maneuvers; you're acutely aware of where you're placing your feet, your transitions, your merging of punches and how fluid or not-fluid they are. It gives you the freedom to speed up or slow down. Slowing down in the beginning of learning new combos was the best thing because it gave my brain a chance to "catch up" with what I had just learned and where my deficits were coming from.

I then myelinated that new knowledge, and "recorded" it through repetitious practice through shadowboxing. I still do this. Shadowboxing is the place of experimentation and reinforcing the skillset that transfers to performance regardless of your mixed martial arts goals.

"Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind."

You might ask then how shadowboxing keeps you in shape?

Below I've listed some of the amazing benefits of shadowboxing! Next week I'll discuss some of the basic and important fundamentals and techniques you need for shadowboxing and a complementary workout at the end of the post.

Let's get started!

Cardiovascular Training

Shadowboxing trains and conditions your cardiovascular system because it naturally increases your heart rate as your moving around. And that's the key with shadowboxing. You want to keep moving around at different paces.

Whenever you deliver a combination or a punch or kick in general, try to get into the habit of consistently moving in and out of range as though you're really in a fight.

If you simulate a real fight and adopt the mentality while training that you're fighting an invisible opponent, you're going to be constantly moving without breaking and finding your rhythm.

The fact that it amps your cardio means that you're definitely sure to lose weight and it'll cut fat. You want to be moving at a reasonably good pace, though, to get the most out of this benefit.

No Equipment Needed

Another thing I love about shadowboxing is how it literally requires you to have no equipment. I mean, you can if you choose to with resistances bands, and small weighted dumbbells to up the challenge, but this isn't necessary at all.

You find the perfect place to do it that gives you adequate space to move around that won't hinder your movement, and then just have at it! It's really that simple. You just need your two hands.

It Works Your Whole Body

Shadowboxing moves and engages your entire body. Your shoulders, your arms, your core, your legs...everything. It's a great way to tone up everywhere and work on your balance and coordination simultaneously.

It also makes you more aware of your body in areas you might not have noticed before. You want to make sure that you're employing proper technique and form to reduce injury. You learn where most of your weight is being shifted and where to adjust for certain movements like I said before. It's a great educational tool to enhance your performance in the ring, on the heavy bag, or with pads!

You Can Pair It With Other Exercises

The thing with shadowboxing that I really appreciate is that it can be mixed up with various different kinds of other modalities. What I mean is that I can work intervals with it.

I can skip rope in conjunction with my shadowboxing workout; add air squats, burpees, lunges, push ups, etc.

There's so many variables you can add into the mix. Shadowboxing intervals is a great way to challenge your body and even keep it guessing to an extent. Especially if you're shadowboxing for a couple of minutes, then switching to another exercise for another couple of minutes, then switching it back. This is increasingly challenging and optimizing for weight loss if you're doing not just body weight movements, but adding weights in there somewhere in between shadowboxing bursts.

It Reinforces Muscle Memory

If there is one thing that you want to make sure to be learning with shadowboxing, it's proper form and technique, as mentioned prior, but also accuracy.

Plus, repetition is an amazing role player in integrating and downloading muscle memory through this vessel of learning, so that it becomes easier and easier to execute the movements and transmute it to the heavy bag or fights even more so. It becomes less mentally sapping and more therapeutic where you get lost in the motion of it over time because it doesn't take as much effort anymore into thinking about putting the maneuvers in action.

You've already "programmed" them or myelinated them on a "beaten path" in the brain. This consistency pays off and even the pros know the value of a continual implementation of this training ritual.

Alleviates Stress

In one of my previous posts, "How Mixed Martial Arts Helped Me Combat PPD and PTSD" (linked here: I touched on the psychological and emotional benefits that MMA had on me during some trying hardships. Check it out once you're done here if you haven't already!

It's true when it is said, in my opinion, that movement is medicine.

You can release pent up energy, anger, stress, frustration, etc. but I believe it goes farther than that. MMA teaches you a further realm of discipline and resilience that you might not have known you were capable of before.

When you move, and sweat, and challenge your body, naturally your body will feel better, healthier, and stronger, which naturally alleviates stress and boosts your morale.

I always repeat this like a broken record, but it's literally like therapy for me. The way I rev this even more is to pop in some fitting music and just zone out. I tune out the world, forge myself into a flow state, and get lost in the art of the movements. Sometimes I'll even be shadowboxing and praying to God as I do this (personally), and by the end, I feel refreshed, recharged, and like a heavy load was completely lifted off my shoulders.

I'll see you in my next blog post. Thanks for stopping by!

Now, get moving, like a boss!