There are many different ways to shadowbox, and in this article I'd like to share some of the most effective ways to use this aspect of your training. At the amateur levels, shadowboxing is often overlooked, which is surprising because next to sparring and good padwork shadowboxing is the closest thing to simulating a fight.
When considering how you want to train any aspect of your boxing you must take into account what stage you are at in your boxing program, and in this article I mean that on a mini-scale. For example, are you months out from a fight, are you weeks or days out from a fight, or are you just coming off a fight etc … this is going to impact how you focus your efforts and what part of your game you need to work on. But before we get into these aspects, I recommend that you wear very light hand weights during your shadowboxing, nothing too heavy, something around the weight of a boxing glove (which is 1lb. For sparring gloves, 12 oz for bag and 8-10 oz for fight gloves). You don't have to wear them all the time, but at least half the time to get a feel for carrying the weight of a glove during shadowboxing.
Having said that, there are five major ways to utilize shadowboxing:
1) Repetitive Drilling – This is the simplest form of shadowboxing. Basically, you pick a single technique and you repeat it over and over to improve this technique. A lot of amateur boxers have a left hook that is not up to par with their right hand, so you may want to take a round or two each workout and just work on left hooks until it becomes a 'money' punch. As well, you can always add a second component to drilling, you may want to work on your jab and add a step back by pushing back off your front foot after throwing the jab, sort of popping in and out. The main component with drilling is to keep it simple and focus on your technique
2) Freestyle (single aspect) – With this type of shadowboxing you are moving freestyle (moving around and going by what you feel and whatever comes to your head), however you are only working on one aspect of your game. For example, you can take a round and just work on head movement, or blocking and parrying, or footwork, or straight punches. With this type of training you can add in other components, but the focus is on what you are working on. If you take a round and focus on head movement, you can still add the odd punch and you can still add footwork, but make sure that 80% of your effort is focused on head movement.
3) Sequencing – This is when you work on a specific sequence of moves that you have set up between you and your imaginary opponent. For example:
You – throw the jab
Opponent – slips jab and throws jab
You – catch jab and counter with left hook, duck after the hook and throw another left hook
Opponent – blocks both left hooks in sequence and quarter turns out to your right to get away
You can make this sequences as long or as short as you want. The key is to treat it like a chess match so you can deal with different scenarios. Try to imagine problems an opponent has given you and create solutions for these problems. Play them out in shadowboxing and then test them out in sparring.
4) Scenario – This is similar to sequencing, but the specifics are taken out. In scenario based training you adopt a certain mindset and you shadowbox based on this. One of my favorites in the last 30 seconds of a training round is to imagine that I have my opponent hurt and I'm going after him. I'm laying on the heat, but still cautious of any wild counter punches from my opponent. I'm trying to put him away but he just won't go down, I'm landing but he's fighting to stay alive.
You can also imagine yourself as the counter puncher, or that you are down on the scorecards and you need the round to win. Imagine you are the against the ropes and picking your shots. The key is to create a mindset based on the situation you've created, and shadowbox to win.
5) Freestyle – This is where you work your complete game, from offense to defense to head movement to footwork. When you do this you want to simulate the fight as much as possible. Imagine your toughest sparring or a recent fight. At the end of each shadowboxing round you should feel as though you just emerged from one of these rounds. Shadowbox fast, at fight pace. Anything slower just won't do.