If you are familiar with boxing, then you have probably heard the term ‘shadow boxing’ before.
When you think of shadow boxing, you probably get an image of someone practising punches in front of a mirror, acting as though they are in the middle of a fight when there isn’t an opponent in the room. It’s an important part of a boxer’s training and warm up routine – but how exactly does it benefit a boxer?
Here is all the information on shadow boxing that you need to know if you are planning on using shadow boxing to increase your muscle mass and make yourself stronger.
What Is Shadow Boxing?
Shadow boxing is a training method in martial arts, including boxing. It’s most commonly used as a warm up technique as it gradually increases heart rate and prepares your muscles for training and physical activity.
Shadow boxing basically involves the boxer moving around a room, throwing punches in the air, mimicking a real fight. It consists of three main things: footwork, body and head movement, and throwing punches.
Shadow boxing helps you practise all three areas while warming up for some more intense training. It also helps a boxer find their rhythm and helps boxers envision themselves fighting real opponents, allowing them to spot what needs fixing.
This technique was made famous by world famous boxer Muhammad Ali, who would shadow box in the ring for five three-minute rounds as part of his training. Ali performed his famous shadow boxing routine on ABC’s Wide World of Sports television program, introducing thousands to shadow boxing.
Now, it’s a common training technique adopted by boxers all across the world with many using it to practise at home and as a warm up before carrying out their usual training routine.
Of course, shadow boxing is not limited to just boxers. Martial artists can take up this exercise to help practise their form and warm themselves up swapping punches for different styles of striking including kicking.
For example, martial artists and actor Bruce Lee was often seen practising kicks in front of mirrors while working on films.
Does Shadow Boxing Build Muscle?
Shadow boxing has a number of benefits, but building muscle is not one of them.
This is because shadow boxing is a form of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise means that your muscles have enough oxygen to produce the energy you need to perform, so you can keep going for long periods of time.
While your heart rate and breathing will increase over time, you won’t be burning much fat. Aerobic exercises are used to build endurance – and so, shadow boxing does not really do much to help you build muscle.
Muscles and strength is built up through resistance, and punching the air provides no resistance for your muscles to use their strength against. Practising against punching bags or focus mitts is a much better way to build muscle as your muscles are actually striking something and building up their strength to hit harder.
However, if you are a beginner who is just starting out in boxing, then it is a good way for you to build up some muscle mass. The movement involved in shadow boxing works your whole body and will help you burn calories.
However, as you grow stronger, you will need to move onto more challenging exercises to properly increase your muscle mass.
Reasons To Still Keep Shadow Boxing
If you are a little disheartened because shadow boxing isn’t a quick and easy way to build up your muscles, this does not mean you should give up on practising shadow boxing.
Shadow boxing is still a vital component of your warm up routine and still has a lot of benefits that will help your performance as a boxer. Practising shadow boxing is the perfect opportunity to improve your form and technique.
Without the pressure of keeping up a pace or an opponent, you can focus on your basic boxing stance and practise distributing your weight around your body.
Without nailing down this stance, you can’t move on and progress as a boxer but using shadow boxing to get into the right stance will mean that you can perfect it and move on to more advanced stances.
Shadow box in front of a mirror so you can correctly see how your stance looks and if all your body parts are where they should be.
Once your form is perfect, you can also use shadow boxing to focus on your technique and spot where you are forming bad habits. Once you spot something that needs improving, you can zone in on that issue and drill it until you have ironed out any imperfections.
You can perfect any part of your technique – footwork, movement, dodges – all through shadow boxing.
Shadow boxing can also be used to practise your movement and balance. Both are incredibly important to have pinned down before you step into the ring as you will need to move around your opponent to dodge their blows and land your own. Shadow boxing allows you to perfect your footwork and get used to the feeling that comes when your punches fail to make contact.
And what about muscle memory? The more you practise something, your muscles will eventually react instinctively without you having to think about it. Before you know it, you are throwing punches and dodging blows in your sleep because your muscles know what to do.
This means you can complete techniques like you’re on autopilot easily and with the same amount of accuracy. This will help you increase your speed and pace because you’re not thinking too much about the little things.
So will adding shadow boxing to your daily exercise routine build your muscles?
No, but it can help you lose weight and perfect your boxing stances and movements. It’s still an important part of boxing and your trainer may expect you to use this as part of your warm up routine. If it was good enough for the likes of Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee, then it will definitely help you improve your boxing performance.
If it’s building muscle you are after, you should consider weight lifting and working with a punch bag to make your muscles work hard and grow stronger.
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