Most people who join a boxing gym for fitness purposes want to come to get a good work out and that includes hitting the heavy bag. Relieving stress by hitting a heavy bag is one of the most inviting factors to joining a boxing gym.
Hitting the heavy bag to a beginner looks like a very easy activity that will yield the results of a good workout. “Just put on a pair of gloves and hit the bag, it’s that easy”, well in theory yes, but in practical reality it’s not that simple. Hitting the heavy bag without proper punching mechanics and without a specific warm up routine is a sure way to 1. Learn bad technique, and 2. Expose yourself to a variety of injuries. As far injuries go, hurting your hands, wrist, and shoulders, even knees can be a result of bad punching techniques.
One way to avoid both of these issues is to learn how to punch, move and warm up properly by shadowboxing.
STICK AND MOVE
Shadow boxing is the practice of throwing your punches, using your footwork and practicing your defensive movements but without hitting anything or anyone hitting you. Literally you are punching the air, or in the best case scenario an imaginary opponent. You practice the mechanics of throwing your punches properly, of developing muscle memory for combinations. You practice using your waist to move your head for defensive purposes, of using your footwork, of remaining in balance while you are moving around the ring or training floor, and you are putting all of your tools together against your own body weight. While hitting a bag is a form of resistance training, shadowboxing is a form of calisthenics. It is also the primary way to warm up your muscles before you actually go into the resistance part of your boxing session. The heavy bag, the focus mitts, the double end bag, the speed bag, and sparring partners are all forms of resistance training during a boxing workout. Sparring being the most challenging resistance training of them all because they hit back. One way I look at shadow boxing is like this: It is the equivalent of practicing forms in Tai Chi or Kata in Karate. In Martial Art training a student will practice and aim to master the ‘forms’ of the movements used in that system, with and without a training partner. This is also true in boxing, and you can practice shadowboxing anywhere, you don’t have to be in the gym to do so. Yet being in the atmosphere of a boxing gym will definitely inspire your shadowboxing, plus when you see others doing it that helps the beginner learn as well. Shadowboxing is where you begin to learn how to "Stick and Move" another one of the fundamental principles used in Boxing.
For the dedicated boxer be it a competitor or fitness enthusiast, shadow boxing is never overlooked. I would say it is of utmost importance and it gives the practitioner time to get into the “zone” and build up a good sweat before hitting anything. Warm muscles will always react better during any physical activity. From a ballerina to a boxer, warming up properly is key to a successful performance or practice session. To the beginner shadowboxing can seem boring or frustrating. Finding their own balance is not as easy as it looks. It’s like learning how to walk all over again. I’ve seen many beginners question why so much shadowboxing, and if left to their own devices will chose to skip shadowing all together and just go straight to the bags looking to execute their power. My suggestion is to SLOW DOWN, and learn to walk before you run.
All of this being said and I could go on, I encourage anyone who is in a boxing program regardless of your level of experience to pay attention to the shadowboxing portion of the training. Listen to your trainer or coach and learn how to make the adjustments prescribed to you. No matter how long it takes, learn the proper way to do these things and it will pay off in the long run.
Shadowboxing is one of the key ways in developing a good foundation in boxing. So no matter why you choose boxing, for fighting, fitness or just fun, this part of your training will take you a long way in the gym, and in the ring. If you think shadowboxing is easy, try a few rounds before and after your bag work and certainly you will notice the difference.
Yours Truly - Coach Djinji Brown