Shadow Boxing: The Art & Important Tips

Shadow Boxing

Anyone that has practiced a combat sport or watched training footage knows what shadow boxing is. It is an invaluable exercise specifically created to improve a boxer’s technique.

Every style of combat sports practice it and we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about shadow boxing. Going over how it was created, the importance of shadow boxing, and listing importing tips for doing this exercise properly.

What is Shadow Boxing and Who Created It? 

For those that don’t know, shadow boxing is a solo exercise that was developed for boxers to develop their technique. Fighters will move around in a ring/cage, visualize an opponent in front of them, and practice their technique.

They will spend rounds moving around to improve their technique, build up their cardio, and fix flaws in their movement.

Since shadow boxing was first introduced into boxing, it has been universally accepted and performed in all gyms. Not just in boxing, but all forms of combat sports.

George Dixon

The person that everyone credits for coming up with shadow boxing is the legendary Nova Scotian boxer George Dixon. He is widely considered as one of the greatest minds that ever practiced the sweet science.

Dixon was a small man and weighed under 100 lbs when he started boxing professionally. But he had the heart of a giant and was incredibly intelligent.

During the late 1800s, boxing was still being developed and practitioners were still trying to understand how to properly train. 

George realized that you can practice your technique alone by moving around and visualizing your opponent. The results were obvious as Dixon became the first Canadian boxing champion in the history of the sport.

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He is also credited with the creation of the heavy bag. Anyone that practices combat sports owes a debt of gratitude to George Dixon.

One of the greatest fighters ever that helped evolve boxing and later combat sports. 

The Benefits of Shadow Boxing

If you train in any type of shadow boxing, you really should be doing some type of shadow boxing routine. Here are some of the benefits of shadow boxing.

Great Warm Up Routine

Doing rounds of shadow boxing is one of the best warm up routines you can do when practicing combat sports. It’s a warm up exercise that mimics the exact same movements you do when sparring or hitting a bag.

It’s an exercise routine made specifically for combat sports that will help you break a sweat and get your blood flowing.

Improves Technique

Any fighter that is serious about improving their technique will take the time to shadow box daily. By doing shadow boxing before every training session, it allows you to improve your technique and see where you’re lacking. 

If you stay consistent with your shadow boxing, you will improve your technique at a faster rate.

Develop Rhythm and Timing

When you shadow box, it not only helps improve your technique, but also helps you develop rhythm and timing. When you’re sparring or fighting, you have to create a rhythm.

Your rhythm allows you to move more fluently and develop timing to set up your combinations. All of these best fighters know the importance of rhythm and timing, which is why they shadow box daily.

Less Stress On Your Body

If you have bad knees or aren’t coordinated enough for jump rope, then you should be doing rounds of shadow boxing. When you shadow box, your body’s moving fluidly and isn’t being put under any stress.

That’s why you see old boxers that are well into their eighties that still shadow box daily. It doesn’t put stress on your joints and is a great form of exercise.

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Which Combat Sports Perform Shadow Boxing

Every combat sport does some form of shadow boxing within their training. Here are short descriptions of shadow boxing within each combat sport.

Shadow Boxing


Obviously shadow boxing is performed in boxing, where the exercise was created. Boxers are very methodical when they shadow box and treat it just like they’re fighting.

When you see a top pro boxer do their shadow boxing rounds, you can see how advanced their skills are. Muhammad Ali was legendary for his shadow boxing and used it to create his flawless technique.

Muay Thai/Kickboxing 

Boxing had a hand in the development of the sports of Muay Thai and kickboxing. One of the many things that these striking arts adopted from boxing was shadowboxing.

If you’ve seen Thai fighters warm up, you’ll see them do rounds and rounds of jump rope and Muay Thai shadow boxing. These warm ups are ingrained in the training of these sports just like in boxing.


In MMA, fighters do their own form of shadow boxing that is altered for their multi-dimensional sport. Just like in boxing and Muay Thai, MMA fighters move around, throwing punches, kicks, and practicing their block.

They also add sprawls and shots into their routines to practice the grappling element of their sport.


You may not think that grappling arts like wrestling and BJJ would use shadow boxing, but they do. Many practitioners in both these forms of grappling use variations that they call shadow wrestling or shadow rolling.

They will visualize that they’re in a match just like in a striking sport. Doing everything from hand fighting pummeling, sprawling, sit-out, and takedown setups.

Important Tips When Shadow Boxing

There is an art to performing shadow that a fighter must know to improve their skills. Here are the important tips you must know when performing a shadow boxing routine and for more information on how to shadow box you can find it here.


When you’re doing shadow boxing, it’s extremely important to visualize an opponent in front of you. Seeing what your opponent could possibly throw and openings to land your strikes.

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Any pro fighter in any combat sport practices visualization when they do a shadow boxing routine. It’s what separates the good practitioners from the hobbyists.

Break a Sweat 

When you’re in action, don’t just go through the motions. Treat it as if you’re really in a fight. 

Always keep your technique and movement sharp. You’re doing it as a warm up and the point of a warm up is to break a sweat. If you’re not sweating after a few rounds of shadow boxing, you’re not putting out enough effort.

Speed Not Strength 

When you shadow box, it’s important to focus more on speed and movement, rather than strength. You have to remember that when you do this exercise that you’re punching air.

If you’re throwing hard and not hitting anything, you’re going to absorb the force that you’re creating. Throwing hard during shadow boxing will lead to you throwing your arm out or damaging your shoulder or elbow.

This is why you have to focus more on speed and technique rather than power when you shadow box.

Use a Mirror 

If you have a mirror available to use, we can’t recommend enough that you use it. A mirror tells no lies and will show you all the flaws of your technique.

The mirror will show you everything you could possibly be doing wrong. Anything from dropping your hands, keeping your chin up, flat footed, not using your legs, or not turning your punches over.

Always use the mirror and you’ll be able to fix your flaws quicker.

Don’t Be Lazy

Arguably the biggest tip that we can give you is to not be lazy when you’re shadow boxing. The old saying you fight how you train is 100% true.

If you’re just going through the motions during your shadow boxing rounds, it will show in your performance. That’s why you can’t be lazy and be completely focused.