Shadow Boxing: How to Punch


How to throw basic punches: jab, right hand, hook, and uppercut when shadow boxing.






1. How to make fist?
2. Jab
3. Right hand
4. Hook and uppercut


First question you may ask is how to punch during shadow-boxing? Obviously, there are differences between punching at a target and punching through air. As we show in the examples below, fighters practice same punches quite differently, however, common are the principles of snap, pivot /leverage, and weight shift.

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How to Make Fist?

Normally, fighters do not clench their fists when shadow boxing, except, sometimes when practicing power punching. Keep your forearm relaxed, making fist as it is in a glove:


How to make fist when shadow boxing?

Some top fighters tend to stick the thumb out when the fist is near the face. Probably, instinctively, it feels that you are protecting more area by doing so. It might be simply a bad habit. Anyway, remember, if you get used to sticking your fingers out, you may break them when fighting or hitting a bag.


Wrong fist when shadow boxing

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How to Jab?

No over-extension

Fighters do not recommend to over-extend elbow when jabbing to avoid injury, especially when using hand-weights:


Andre Ward jabbing (1/2 speed)


This does not mean you should not extend elbows all the time. First of all, you can extend your arm from time to time, just avoid the strain in the elbow that may lead to over-extension. This may cause very unpleasant feeling in the elbow that may take months to cure. Secondly, to solve the problem, in the final stage of the punch, you may twist the hand and the forearm inwards, so that the elbow is pointing more upwards. Some fighters call it snap[1].


How to avoid elbow pain when jabbing during shadow boxing

Here is how Sergio Martinez is jabbing when shadow boxing:


Sergio Martinez bringing elbow up when jabbing (1/4 speed)

Start punch with a leg

In all examples above, extending or not extending the arm, all other phases of the punch are present: Andre Ward and Sergio Martinez clearly push with the back leg before the punch, then transfer weight from the back to the front leg [2]. Notice how Sugar Ray Leonard was practicing his jab when shadow boxing:


Ray Leonard pushing with the right leg when jabbing (1/4 speed)

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Right hand


Normally, fighters jab 3-5 times more often than throwing right hand. This is why over-extension is less a problem in this case. It means that the risk of injury is much lower. Still, we advise to use the same tips as with the jab: avoid over-extension by twisting the hand inwards [3].


Saul Alvarez twisting hand inwards when throwing right hand (1/4 speed)


Snap alone is not enough to expose full power of the right hand. The key to power in the right hand punch lies in proper leverage and mass transfer [4]. We guess, this why Ali was practicing more pivoting, or how to rotate into the punch on the left leg to create the proper leverage, rather than focusing on the final stage of the punch. Notice his right hand does not extend completely:


Muhammad Ali practicing full leverage when throwing the right hand (1/4 speed)

Practicing these moves also gives you experience how to deal with getting off-balanced when you miss.

No setting up principle

In the above example of Muhammad Ali, we made a deliberate pause (for convenience) after the jab before Muhammad Ali throws his right hand. Make sure you do not make this pause. Bernard Hopkins explains why [5]:

“Once you stop for a tenth of a second and you know you gonna throw it, half-talent or half-knowledgeable guy knows you are going to throw it, because you are setting it up and then you let it go. Just throw it. If you think about it, this is this tenth of a second.”

The message is that when you are jabbing, do not telegraph your right hand by making an unnecessary pause.

Weight Shift

Another point is from Kostya Tszyu [3], who was advocating the need of practicing the weight transfer and proper accent during the punch. For example, Notice Floyd Mayweather firing three rapid right hands by shifting his weight from the rear to the front leg back and forth in succession:


Floyd Mayweather throwing three fast right hands (1/4 speed)

Power-line principle

All fighters from examples above do not extend their arm completely, except Kostya Tszuy. Of course, to avoid injury, you can do it safely only at low speed. However, the point here is that it is not the speed that you practice, but placing the right accent. According to Kostya Tszyu, the power in a punch comes from putting the right accent [3].

“The hand forms a straight line from shoulder to the knuckles of the hand (AB in figure below). You transfer mass from the rear foot, thigh, hip, body to the end point of your arm. This is called right accent. When I am shadow boxing, I hit lightly, without tension, but the accent is always there in every punch.”


Power-line principle

The explanation is very simple. It does not matter how powerfully you pushed with the right leg before the punch. It does not matter how how well you transferred the weight and how mighty is the leverage you create with all these. In the finishing stage of the punch, when you touch your opponent, if your arm is too “soft” because of bends in shoulder, elbow, and wrist, then there will be no power in the blow. More on power-line find in Jack Dempsey’s Guide to Explosive Straight Punching.

Sit on the punch

Last, but not least, as with the jab, the right hand punch starts from the leg. Make sure your weight is more on the right leg, so you can push with it before the punch.

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How to throw hooks and uppercuts?


When working on uppercuts, it is important to establish a characteristic shoulder snap by bringing the shoulder somewhat forward in the middle stage of the punch. Snapping in boxing is a way to use elastic energy of muscles and tendons when you are punching. Here is another example from Adrian Broner:


Adrian Broner checking uppercuts (1/4 speed)

Same holds for hook. Do not simply move the arm in the shoulder. To snap, first twist your body, so shoulder movement is somewhat retarded:


Adrian Broner snapping hook (1/4 speed)

Mass transfer and leverage

Canelo Alvarez practices his power left hook:


Canelo Alvarez practicing his left hook (1/4) speed)

The last example is Roy Jones working on his famous triple hook. Notice first two punches are light, but he connects whole body into the last one:


Canelo Alvarez practicing his left hook (1/4) speed)

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1. Jeff Mayweather – The Jab

2.RING SMARTS – Episode 1 – The Jab – Paulie Malignaggi

3. Kostya Tszyu’s masterclass (in Russian)

4. RING SMARTS: Episode 3 – The Cross – Saul “Canelo” Alvarez

5. Rashad Evans Meet Bernard Hopkins

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