Shadowboxing vs. Hitting the Heavy Bag | Which Should I Do?
There are many exercises and training methods used in Boxing. Besides sparring, there are two other drills that every boxer uses: Shadowboxing and Hitting the Heavy Bag. To properly train for boxing, whether your goals are purely fitness and exercise related or you’re interested in competition, incorporating sparring, shadowboxing, and heavy bag practice will ensure you are a well-rounded fighter and you get the most benefit from your boxing workouts.
Is Shadowboxing better than the Heavy Bag?
No. The opposite isn't true either. Both training methods, shadowboxing and heavy bag work, build different qualities in a fighter and both are useful for fight preparation and a general boxing workout. The two are not mutually-exclusive, and are instead complementary.
Why should you Shadowbox?
Shadowboxing helps you perfect your boxing form, increasing accuracy on the bag and in real-life fight scenarios. This is an extremely effective method for beginners when they are first entering boxing.
When you shadowbox in the gym, it's usually done in front of a mirror which, interestingly enough, makes it very similar to...practicing dancing. Yeah, that's right! Think about it, you have a mental model of how your body should move through space to get to a certain position, at a certain time. Obviously it's a different set of basic movements, but, you are learning a very raw dance, aimed at positioning you to strike your opponent and evade their attacks.
Why do you need to use a Heavy Bag in your training?
Shadowboxing is great for building boxing techniques, but because it doesn’t offer resistance to your punches, it won’t really help you increase your stamina and build your punching power.
The heavy bag builds on all that and conditions your hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders to withstand the resistance of hitting an object with your arms, for (potentially) many rounds. Doing interval training on the bag (alternating periods of very intense activity and rest) will also help you keep a high level of power and speed in your movement and punches for the full duration of a fight.
When you build your endurance on the heavy bag to be able to go for up to 6-7-8 rounds in a single session, you will feel a much different level of fighting endurance compared to your beginner self. Most people are born with a 1-punch knockout power, but the difference between the punching power of an untrained beginner boxer and a trained fighter with the same genetic makeup is huge. The heavy bag will help you realize what your body’s potential for punching power really is.
For insight into heavy bag training and a look at how to train on a heavy bag, we break it down here.
Does shadowboxing or hitting the heavy bag burn more calories?
(Intensity is what matters, I’ve burned more going 90% with shadowboxing than going 30-60% hitting the bag)
Hitting the heavy bag will burn more calories than shadowboxing. The bag allows you to land your punches with close to maximal power, and this can’t be emulated without resistance (i.e. throwing punches in mid-air with no heavy target to hit). Still, when you are on the go and you don't have access to a heavy bag, don't underestimate the effectiveness of a shadowboxing workout. Shadowboxing will increase your heart rate and body temperature, and you will definitely break a sweat--and if you put in the effort, you will activate and strengthen most of your body's muscles.
How often should I Shadowbox and hit the Heavy Bag?
I would say Shadowboxing can be a part of all of your training sessions (at the beginning and/or the end of the workout), while hitting the bag can be part of most sessions, but maybe skip on days that you are sparring with partners.
Shadowboxing is usually done for fewer rounds than working the Heavy Bag. Think of it as a great way to warmup or cool down before or after your FightCamp workout. A typical session may include 3 rounds of shadowboxing at the beginning of the workout, followed by 5 rounds on the heavy bag (and probably including other exercises in-between/before/after those 2 drills).
If I want to get good at Boxing, do I need to go to a boxing gym?
No, with Shadowboxing, you can practice and workout wherever you are. Just change into some comfortable clothing, stand in front of a mirror or other reflective material, or go old school and look at your shadow on the ground, and you can get in a nice 15-30 minutes of boxing training, no equipment needed.
FightCamp's connected at-home boxing experience offers a full size free-standing heavy bag you can fit right into your living room or home gym. There are different equipment packages available, and a mobile app loaded with boxing and kickboxing workouts led by professional boxers, kickboxers, MMA fighters, and martial artists that you can follow along with.
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Why You Should Start Training With a Punching Bag
The Author: Nikolay Tsenkov is a dad, husband, entrepreneur, and boxing aficionado. He started training late, when he was 26 years old. One of his biggest regrets in life is that he never competed. For several years he has trained alongside national and European champions and professional boxers. He is an avid student of boxing, but enjoys all sorts of martial arts.