Friday, May 18, 2012

I'm addicted to shadowboxing.

I find myself doing it constantly. It's good though. I'm slowly learning to pace myself through it. It's strange too that I'm finding I can get more power and snap into the more relaxed punching style. Relaxing while you box is one of those things that everybody "knows" but nobody really knows it until they've learned to do it through experience. That might be the toughest thing about learning to box. Reading about it is easy.

 Nowadays everybody is an expert on boxing theory. In practice though it's a whole other thing. You're going to lose a lot of rounds, you're going to get so tired that you can barely stand and you're going to sweat so much that at the end of a training session you can wring out your T-shirt like it's a wet washcloth. Very few people stick with boxing beyond the first few months. I see people come and go all the time. New people show up, typically in groups, and most of them are full of enthusiasm and untested knowledge. The lazy ones are immediately identified. When the rest of us are jumping rope, they're stretching. When the rest of us are jogging, they're walking. When the rest of us are shadowboxing, they're either standing still, chatting, or doing some kind of alternative fitness exercise. Wall sits or squats or something. Fuck them anyway.

I thought my years of strongman training and competition would be an advantage in boxing but it's not. It's almost a disadvantage. The added mass puts me a few weight classes above where I should be so all my sparring partners have a much longer reach than I do. The added power to my punches on the bag is okay but that kind of power fades quickly. Your power absolutely needs to come from technique first and foremost, and muscle second. That's probably why I shadowbox constantly now. I'm practicing how to throw punches like I'm cracking a whip instead of dropping a battering ram. My background in taekwondo is somewhat helpful but not much. The balance in the footwork is different. Also, while you can get a lot of power out of a taekwondo punch, it's such an overcommitment that you absolutely have to land it or you're screwed because there will be little or no time for a follow up. Great for breaking boards in the backyard but boards don't move around and they don't hit back.

The blocks found in taekwondo are almost useless. Positioning, footwork and head movement go so much farther than blocking does that there's very little comparison. And if and when you do block, it's a very small motion with the rear hand and then right back to your guard position and not an attack in itself meant to break your opponent's wrist or whatever. Those kind of blocks are another example of overcommitment. Chances are they'll miss anyway because punches come at you a lot faster in the ring than they do in a parking lot brawl. Not to mention an experienced fighter will be throwing combinations. You'll never be able to block them all and you'll open yourself up sooner rather than later. This isn't the Matrix. You can't recognize an attack and then launch that heavy a counter-attack before it gets to you. Not for very long anyway. Learn to keep moving, keep your hands up and your head down.

This guy has never lost a fight before. His blocking is phenomenal.
If you don't believe him, just read any of his youtube comments.

Stamina is way more important than strength when it comes to boxing. Any fighting sport really but I think particularly boxing. Without decent stamina you won't even make it through training, never mind sparring or ever competing. Even when you get to the point that you can work out without feeling like you're going to die, the ring is still exhausting. You need endurance to get through training, you need training to develop techniques and you need sparring to turn those techniques into skills. It all starts with building the stamina to get through it.

Shadowboxing is one of those exercises that you can do forever and I don't think it's ever too much. It takes a while before you can do it without wasting a lot of energy trying to make every punch a knockout haymaker. As your technique gets better, you can get though it using less energy and your shoulders build up to it. Once you're there, it's just refining that technique. Drill your footwork, drill your basic punches, drill your combinations, then let your imagination take over and pretend you're in a fight. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Shadowbox with nothing. Shadowbox with your sparring gear on (wraps, gloves, mouthpiece, headgear, groin sheild). Shadowbox with dumbbells. Don't shadowbox with just your wraps on though; that's lame. You don't need wraps on to shadowbox. There's no point to it and it identifies you as either a beginner or a phony. Put your wraps on when you're going to glove up and spar or hit the bag, otherwise don't bother. It's equivalent to putting plates on a barbell with the numbers facing out.

One side of this barbell is loaded right and one side is wrong. That's just the way it is.

Look at us with our wraps on. We're WARRIORS!

The coolest thing about shadowboxing is that it's fun. There are so many nuances of every basic punch to master and shadowboxing is one of the best ways to do it.


  1. Do you still lift weights?

  2. Nice post. I think foot-work is the most important thing about shadow-boxing: I used to be able to pounch a bag consistentlyfor twenty minutes and would sometimes draw it out to twice that length, but I was lucky if I could make it through three rounds of sparring.
    The other thing I've noticed, is people using little pansy .5kg weights (there's no room on the dumbells to write a "0") when shadowboxing and still worrying inside about slowing themselves down and thinking "if I master this I'll be able to hit really hard!": My sparring mitts already weigh a pound, how the fuck can I progress if I let myself get weighed down by my gloves? So now I do all shadow boxing with the gloves on.

  3. I tend to use either 2-lb dumbbells for shadowboxing, occasionally 5-lbs. Usually I don't use anything though.

    KC, I still lift weights but not in the same way that I used to. I have no interest in getting bigger or even being big anymore. I'm probably going to do a strongman contest in June though.

  4. According to the technical rules book of the International Powerlifting Federation,
    "The first and heaviest discs loaded on the bar must be loaded face in; with the rest of the discs
    loaded face out."
    Just thought you should know.

  5. Really? Well, I didn't know that but I do know that in every gym I've ever been to it's only new people who load plates with the numbers facing out.

  6. To be honest, i'd never thought about it before you mentioned it, and it was a google search that took me to the bar loading rules in the IPF rule book. I've trained alone in my garage for 20 years and always loaded with the numbers facing out. This will very likely fuck with my mind when I work out tomorrow, thanks for that.

  7. Obviously when you are new you want everyone to see just how much you're lifting. When you're in IPF you want everyone to see just how much your lifting, and have had some time to think about it.

  8. I went through a phase while I was in college where I wouldn't even add up how much weight was on the bar. This was partly due to mathematical laziness but it was also because I just honestly didn't care how much it was. I would just count how many plates there were. 315 was three plates, 405 was four plates. Something like 350 would have been written as 3P10,5,2½. In other words three plates, a 10, a five and a two-and-a-half on each side of the bar. It might seem complicated but it's not at all. I always knew exactly what weights I needed without ever having to do any math at all. For example if I did 350 last week and it was written down as 3P10,5,2½, I knew right away that this week I was looking for three plates and two 10s.
    If I was doing squats or deadlifts and people would walk by and ask me "Wow, how much is that?" I would just shrug and tell them I didn't know. Then they'd go away with a stupid, confused look on their face. It was great.
    I only started adding up poundages again when I started one of those online training logs on Power & Bulk. The online log didn't last long but I kept adding the weights up anyhow only because I realised that math is something you'll forget how to do if you don't practice it regularly and barbell weight seemed like as good a practice as any.
    Nowadays though, I do most of my lifting with either bodyweight or an old beer keg. I dump 500 mL of water into the keg whenever it starts to feel too light and I have no idea how much it currently weighs. It may seem strange but I actually prefer not knowing.

  9. I agree:
    When you think about it carefully, most poundage comparisons are pretty pointless unless you're competing for a prize, since in the end, what is the significance of the people who lift more or less than you?, i.e.
    Weight classes are arbitrary
    The difficulty in lifting something depends on your proportions
    It also depends on your equipment
    Both these effect your technique
    "Parallel" isn't a height.
    Even if you want to be able to say, "Oh I can lift twice as much as I could two years ago", that doesn't mean a fucking thing since strength gains are so non-linear.
    If you start measuring the pounds and going for more, you are likely to start refining your technique, and technique refinements rarely give carryover outside of the lift.

  10. That's why I'm no fan at all of Dragondoor or any of their products. Half-assed efforts and obsession over technique and shortcuts. It's bullshit. Anybody who wants truly perfect technique (which is going to vary from one person to another) needs repetition and lots of it. You need to go well beyond what everyone else percieves as failure. That probably means starting over with a shitload LESS weight which is something the majority of egoes won't allow. I really believe that you'll get more out of one hour of as many power cleans as possible than you will out of a month of doing a bunch singles here and there with a weight you would have gotten three or even five with if you were really trying.
    It is true that high repetitions will break down your form but so what? They also force you to develop the most efficient form for YOU. In other words, it makes or breaks you and if it sounds dangerous that's because it is. Turn your brain off at any given moment and you'll probably get hurt; what about it?

  11. Since moving to the city I've been doing olympic lifting at a club for just over a year. We do practically nothing but singles there. I found my form improving tremendously doing the program the coach gave me. However, his programs call for a lot of volume too. There's an 18yr old that's on the olympic team who trains there and his routine is nothing but singles, sometimes doubles or triples on the assistance exercises. He trains twice a day 6 days a week though. What I found interesting when I first started was that everyone would try again after they failed a lift. Sometimes upwards of ten times, just failing and failing a snatch until they finally got it. Before that I'd been brainwashed by the internet telling me I should stop once I reached what I had thought was "failure".

    What is also interesting is that olympic lifting has little to no carryover to powerlifts/strength exercises. There was a general strength training contest at the club a couple months ago that called for log lifts, deadlifts and one arm dumbbell presses for reps. I hadn't done any of these for a year but I started training for it for fun and realised I hadn't improved a bit in any of those moves. The kid who's training for the olympics this year can C&J 160kg but he can barely deadlift 170kg. Can't do many pullups or dips either simply because they're not useful for his training.
    The programs are periodized and based on percentages. I've got impecable form on the squat now, but at weights I could do 6 months ago. I'm not doing that program any more. It's taught me a lot this year but I miss all the other stuff I used to do.
    I love oly lifts but I have no idea why crossfit people get such a boner for them.

  12. During the mid- to late 90s Brooks Kubik's Dinosaur Training was all the rage on the Internet and he pushed the Olympic lifts down everybody's throat as the most "functional" way you could train. It may have started even earlier than that but either way we've ended up where we are.
    I wonder how many medalists will come from crossfit gyms. I'm guessinf none but I've been wrong before. I went to a crossfit gym with a freind once who was a member there. It was nice sized area full of fun toys but I didn't like any of the programs that everyone was expected to follow. If you could just go there and do your own thing it would be alright.

  13. Brooks Kubick's training has the added "functionality" of piss-poor technique. He might as well have been swinging barrels around as well given that he never learnt the movements properly. In fact, he was swinging barrels around as well, that's how he made progress in his olympic lifts.