Fitness challenge: Shadow boxing

Many people find boxing a great way to keep fit. You can still get a boxing-style fitness workout at home without expensive equipment by doing shadow boxing on your own. We’ve got some tips on how to get the best out of your at-home upper body shadow boxing training plus a mini workout to get you started. These tips may also help you if you’re feeling a little lost during gym group fitness combat classes!

Your basic stance

With feet around hip-width apart, one foot should be slightly forward, one back and turned outwards slightly. Knees should have a little bend in them at all times so try and relax your body into this position so that it feels comfortable.

Make fists with your hands by tucking your thumb in toward your palm and curling your other fingers down over it. To ‘protect’ your face, your guard should be up at all times if you aren’t throwing a punch, so fists up! The hand at the front (same side as your front foot) should naturally sit in front of your face below eye level, your other hand should be velcroed next to your cheek.

When you’re punching, movements should be controlled and with purpose so do a short sharp breath out every time you punch, and make your punches snappy. Try and keep a little bend in your elbows at all times, especially if you are overly flexible/prone to hyperextension.

The jab/cross

The hand at the front (same side as your front foot) is your jab, the hand at the back (by your cheek) is your cross as it goes across your body. When you punch out, you need to brace your muscles as if you were actually hitting something. A big mistake with shadow boxing is just flailing your body parts outwards!

For both your jab and cross, your hand should rotate when you punch until your palm faces downwards and your top three knuckles are parallel with the ground. Rather than aiming straight forward, pretend you’ve got someone standing in front of you and aim to their opposite side. When you cross, your back heel should slightly lift and you should naturally pivot on your toe as your arms comes forward. You should feel this as a side-to-side twist in your belly – a common mistake is to ‘bounce’ up and down, so try to keep the bend in your knees and stay low/grounded.

The hook

The hook is like you’re trying to punch a sparring partner in the side of the face. Keeping your elbow bent to 90 degrees, lift your whole arm up so your palm faces down, twist through your belly to draw your elbow behind you, then punch around. It should be snappy, like you’re trying to flick a tennis ball forward off your elbow. When you’re using your cross hand to do the hook, lift your back heel as you punch around to help add to the body force behind your punch.

The uppercut

Do a little squat down and punch up in front of you with one hand as you stand as if you were trying to punch someone in front of you under the chin. Keep your palm facing towards you (so it would be your top three knuckles hitting the person opposite). Again, when you’re using your cross hand to do the uppercut, lift your back heel as you punch upwards to help add to the body force behind your punch. That’s all there is to it!

A couple of abs exercises
Your first will be a basic crunch. Lie down in situp position, hands flat on thighs. Slide hands up thighs towards knees as high as you can go while exhaling, then slide back down while inhaling.

Your jab/cross crunch is like a normal crunch, but when you get to the top of your situp, punch both hands one at a time aiming just above your knees in a jab/cross, then return down to the ground.

Plank position will have you on the ground on your belly. Have your forearms on the ground under you, hands clasped together, elbows directly under shoulders. Tuck your toes under and lift your belly so you’re ‘hovering’ with just your forearms and toes touching the ground – your aim is to keep your butt down and maintain a straight line between your heels and shoulders. If it’s too difficult, drop to your knees but maintain the straight line between your knees and shoulders. Brace your abs and you should feel it starting to work in there! If you start to feel it in your lower back, it means your abs aren’t quite strong enough to maintain the position so it’s time to drop out of it as you don’t want to get injured.

Put it all together….

If you have trouble remembering, jab/cross is straight out in front, hooks are around, and uppercuts are up. Here’s your mini programme to get in an upper body shadow boxing workout at home:

– 5 mins warmup (can be a jog, skipping rope, bike etc.)
– 20x Jab/cross
– 20x Left hook/Right hook
– 20x Left uppercut/right uppercut


– 20x Jab/cross/left hook/right hook
– 20x Jab/cross/left uppercut/right uppercut


– 10x Left hook/left uppercut
– 10x Right hook/right uppercut
– 30 seconds jab/cross as fast as you can go
– 30 seconds alterating uppercuts as fast as you can go


– 30x basic crunch
– 30x Jab/cross crunch
– Plank hover hold – as long as possible

Note: If you have a boxing bag at home, make sure you wear wraps and gloves to protect your hands! Don’t forget, that if anything hurts or feels wrong, to consult an exercise professional and ensure you’re performing the moves correctly. Even just a one-off session focusing on shadow boxing technique can help you avoid injury in the long term.

Image / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – photostock

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