The Shadowboxing Workout That’ll Make You Feel Like a Total Badass

What’s more empowering than learning self-defense? Getting strong while you learn it. At CKO Kickboxing, a gym chain across the country, you don’t have to be a fighter to train like one. With 75 clubs in 12 states, the high-intensity, hour-long classes have thousands of students kicking and punching heavy bags like the pros.But hitting a bag isn’t the only way to see the results of a kickboxing-style workout. Shadowboxing, also called shadowstriking, is the main training choice for professional MMA fighters, boxers, and other combat sport participants, says Michael Andreula, CKO’s head trainer. Plus, it’s a killer workout that can be done anywhere, with no equipment needed.

“Shadowboxing is both a fantastic workout and a technique builder,” says Andreula. “It helps to warm up and prime the muscles, improves power and balance, and most importantly, improves proprioception, the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body, and strength of effort being employed in movement.” (Torch fat, get fit, and look and feel great with Women’s Health’s All in 18 DVD!)

Because no weight or equipment is required, it’s a relatively safe and easy workout, even for those new to exercise, says Andreula. He created this full-body workout based on the programming taught at CKO Kickboxing gyms. Just find a small, safe surface where you can extend your arms and legs without hitting anything and you’re ready to begin.

Move 1: Forward/Backward Shuffle
Forward/Backward Shuffle
1/6 Beth Bischoff
Move 1: Forward/Backward Shuffle

Start in a fighter’s stance with your feet shoulder-width apart, one foot slightly in front of the other, with your hands under your chin. Next, push through with your lead foot while “grabbing” the ground with your rear foot. Continue forward for two to five steps, depending on how much space you have, then reverse and step backwards for two to five steps. Repeat 50 times.

Move 2: Jab/Cross

2/6 Mitch Mandel
Move 2: Jab/Cross

Staying in your fighter’s stance, turn your body slightly inward while extending your lead arm straight in front of you, fist closed. Pull your lead arm back to your chin while simultaneously extending your rear arm out in front of you. As your rear arm extends, pivot your rear foot and hip to help you reach full extension. Keep your abs pulled tight towards your spine as you repeat this move 25 times on each side.

Move 3: Slips
3/6 Beth Bischoff
Move 3: Slips

In your fighter’s stance, bend your knees slightly so you are almost in a half squat. Keep your back straight, hands up, and shoulder blades pinched back. Shift your weight from right to left, almost as if you were ducking under a rope. The deeper your squat, the more you’ll work your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Start with 25 reps, working your way up as you get stronger and faster.

Move 4: Hooks
4/6 Beth Bischoff
Move 4: Hooks

Start in your fighter’s stance with your hands up under your chin. Visualize a “hook” shape with your lead arm; your knuckles are in line with your wrist, your elbow bends slightly to form the hook. Pivot your foot and hip as you swing your hooked arm across the front of your body, twisting your torso inward at the same time. Reverse with the other side while returning your lead arm back under your chin. Keep your abs tight as you twist your torso. Start out slowly and build up to 50 hooks with good form.

Move 5: Knee Strikes

Knee Strikes
5/6 Mitch Mandel
Move 5: Knee Strikes

Begin in your fighter’s stance and shoot your rear leg forward, bending at the knee. As your thigh nears parallel to the floor, lean back slightly, hinging at the hips. Keep your abs tight and shoulder blades pinched back, chest expanded. Return your leg to the starting position and repeat with your other leg. Start off by marching in place after each knee strike to regain your balance, and as you progress, work on minimizing the number of steps taken between each knee strike. Repeat 25 times per side.

Move 6: Uppercuts
6/6 Getty Images
Move 6: Uppercuts

Return to your fighter’s stance, and bend your knees slightly, similar to your position for performing slips. Begin with your rear side, and push off the ball of your foot, bringing your fist upwards from waist to chest level. Extend your knees while your fist comes up in front of your body. (Imagine your uppercut strike landing at chin level of an imaginary opponent.) Repeat the move with your lead side as your rear hand returns to chin level. Perform 50 uppercuts per side, increasing your speed as you progress.

After you become comfortable with the strikes above, you can begin to incorporate them into striking combinations. For example: jab, cross, hook, hook, uppercut, uppercut. You can make up your own combinations, or use combinations from famous fighters, says Andreula.

“Muhammad Ali loved to throw an uppercut, hook, cross combo on the same side as he simultaneously moved backwards to avoid a counterstrike,” he says. “By moving around your space while you throw your combinations, you’ll get the benefits of great cardio conditioning while you improve your technique.”