How to Shadow Box Like a Pro Fighter

Shadow boxing is one of the most famous training exercises for any striking combat sports athlete. Mostly, people do it before the workout to warm up their muscles for hard training. 

However, I believe that shadow boxing should not be only a warming-up exercise, and old-school coaches agree with me. 

In this MMAWhisperer article, we look at the following aspects of shadow boxing:

  • Benefits of shadow boxing
  • How to shadow box like a pro fighter
  • Planning your shadow boxing training

After reading this article, you will understand how shadow boxing can benefit you and how to have the greatest outcome by doing it correctly.

Let’s get started! 

The Benefits Of Shadow Boxing

As I already mentioned, shadow boxing is not something that can be used only for warming up. This can be very beneficial for different aspects of training for mixed martial arts, boxing, and Muay Thai. It is also something you can drill for an MMA workout at home.

Muscle Memory

Shadow Boxing is a great exercise for muscle memory.

In fights, we do not have to think a lot, and many things depend on our instinct. There are different ways to improve your instincts, but I believe that shadow boxing is one of the most beneficial types of training for improved instincts

You can work on different techniques and improve your combinations, speed, accuracy, and timing.

How to shadow box like a pro fighter


Punches that do not land on the target get you more tired than the punches you do land. 

Shadow boxing correctly means throwing lots of combinations. These combos thrown into the air will increase your heart rate, but you still have to keep focus and use different combinations. 

However, doing shadow boxing correctly will improve your cardio, especially for the beginners, who often do only 2-3 rounds of sparrings, bag, or pad works.

It can also be a great way to incorporate martial arts to burn fat.

Technique and Footwork

Footwork is key to being a great fighter. To find striking angles, you need to be quick and stable on your feet and have perfect punch technique, and you need to avoid being flat-footed.

Your right hand is down while throwing the left hook? Is your ankle not turning well while throwing a cross? Can you not cut the corner correctly?

Shadowboxing is the perfect exercise to test some techniques and determine how your body feels. 

However, these benefits are only possible if you do shadow box correctly, like a pro fighter.

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How To Shadow Box Like a Pro Fighter

Cardio from shadow boxing

From my experience, I can tell you that whenever I get too comfortable during shadow box, I am more likely doing it incorrectly.

I do not mean that you have to suffer during this process, but to see the result, we have to leave our comfort zone and do something better.

So let’s talk about the tips that can help you increase the productivity of shadow boxing. 

Imagination and Visualization

This is one of the most important things you have to do. You have to imagine you are in a real fight against a real fighter. To make this visualization process easier, imagine: 

  • Size of your rival
  • Style
  • Color of shorts

Anything that works for you can be added to it, but these three aspects work well for me. 

Visualize Your Opponent When You Shadow Box

Sometimes, I also imagine someone specific, like a former rival or future potential rival, so it also gives me an additional source of imagination. 

pro fighter shadow boxing


Sometimes we all have got too comfortable during shadow boxing and do not realize how long the 5 minutes lasted.

That’s because we lose focus and keep throwing punches without attention, which means making the same mistakes as before. 

This is not only a “waste of time” but also terrible for us.

Doing it incorrectly, for the round means getting used your muscle memory for the wrong, incorrect combinations, so this kind of shadow boxing can actually be harmful.

Focus On Every Round When You Shadow Box

Focus on all the rounds, throw combinations correctly, try to fix your bad habits, and not get used to making the same mistakes. 

Focus also means having an exact strategy against your rival. 

If you are fighting against short guys, use lots of jabs or whatever works for you.

If your opponent has the size advantage, move more, try to close distance, and unload strikes to the body. 

Use the Mirror 

People think that mirror is for beginners only, but I’m afraid I have to disagree.

Of course, you might not look into the mirror for the whole round, but you have to spend some time watching in the mirror and checking out if you are doing combinations correctly. 

As a beginner, I recommend using lots of mirrors. This will help you understand the importance of head movement, and as soon as you can feel the action, you can work it out without a mirror.

Shadow boxing training

Move in a Circle

Another common mistake I see in every gym is people not moving. They are moving on the line, throwing combinations, then just turning around and doing the same thing for 5 minutes. 

That’s a terrible mistake.

In the fight, you do not move only in a forward and backward direction.

You have to cut corners and move in the circle like a real fight.

Footwork can be more critical in combinations than you think, so always move because it will strengthen your legs, improve your footwork, and improve your combinations in a real fight. 

Be a moving target, and you will be harder to get hit. 

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Plan Your Shadow Boxing Exercise

Do shadow boxing whenever you will remember, not just during warm-ups. You need to have a plan and work out according to it. 

Let me share my plan for shadowboxing to have an idea of what kind of schedule you might have for shadowboxing. 

Round 1

Have a light shadow boxing at a slow pace. Try to warm up your fists, elbows, arms, knees, legs, every joint, and muscle. 

Round 2

Do shadow boxing relatively at a higher pace, but with weights in your hand (2lbs is enough for me as I am featherweight, naturally weighing 77KG/170Lbs). 

Round 3

Do another round without weights in your hand. After the second round workout, my hands will be much faster, and we are shadow boxing for reaction and timing.

Shadow boxing with weights will increase your speed and strengthen your arms, and doing this exercise, like in the third round, will improve your timing and focus because you do not know how many times the coach will knock.

You have to be ready for 1 or 5 punches combinations and stay focused for all rounds. 

This is one of the options of shadow boxing plan, and you can make it your own, which will work better for your improvement.

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Shadow Boxing Like a Pro Final Ideas

To shadow a box like a pro fighter, you have to understand everything about it. Now you know, what will benefit this exercise, and if these benefits are your priorities, you will pay more attention to it. 

The most crucial factor is the stay focused and concentrated. If you do it for the sake of duty, do not expect a great outcome. 

This is as critical a workout as sparrings, bag, or pad work, so read these tips carefully, get your plan, or use my plan for the beginning, and do it correctly.

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