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Illustrations of a woman shadowboxing

Knowing how to throw a punch is not only a valuable self-defense tool but also a physically and mentally challenging way to work up a sweat.

“Boxing is a full-body workout that uses balance and coordination of the left and right sides as well as the upper and lower body,” says Lisa Fougere, a self-defense instructor, kickboxing black belt, and corrective-exercise specialist in Oak Park, Ill.

Shadowboxing offers a fun way to practice without equipment or a partner. In this workout, Fougere explains how to throw a jab, cross, and lead hook, and she offers a workout that combines these key basic moves with each other — as well as with other body-weight exercises — for a simple, high-intensity drill.

Start by practicing each move individually, on both sides of your body. Reduce your speed and power to focus on correct form. “You want to emphasize control and quality movement patterns rather than flailing your arms around, so your joints stay healthy,” Fougere says.

Then practice the boxing combinations at right before performing the full circuit.

Starting Stance

An Illustrated Woman Shadowboxes In A Starting Stance.

Stand with your feet hip width apart, dominant side’s leg back, and both knees soft. Keep your elbows close to your body and fists in front of your face, a couple of inches forward from your mouth. Tuck your chin slightly. When in your stance, whichever foot is forward is called your “lead.”

Jab

An Illustrated Woman Jabs With Her Left Hand.

Exhale as you extend your lead arm, turning your fist to angle the knuckles down. Keep your rear hand by your face. Your lead shoulder will round inward, helping to create a protective barrier for your face. Reverse to return to the Starting Stance.

Cross

An Illustrated Woman Crosses With Her Right Arm While Shadowboxing.

Rotate forward on the ball of your back foot. Exhale as you rotate your torso forward and extend your rear arm, turning your fist down so the wrist is straight. Keep your lead hand by your face. Reverse to return to the Starting Stance.

Lead Hook

An Illustrated Woman Demonstrates A Lead Hook In Shadowboxing.

Plant your rear foot and come up onto the ball of the lead. Rotate your feet and torso while you bring your lead arm out in a semicircular strike. Your fist should end in front of your chest, palm facing your chest. Keep your rear hand by your face. Reverse to return to the Starting Stance.

Two Shadowboxing Circuits

1. This circuit combines boxing basics with two common body-weight boxer-workout moves — jumping rope and pushups. Perform a total of three times, resting for 30 seconds between rounds.

  • Jab-Cross-Hook combination with dominant leg in rear position: 60 seconds.
  • Jump rope: 60 seconds.
  • Jab-Cross-Hook combination with dominant leg in lead position: 60 seconds.
  • Pushups: 30 seconds.

2. Repeat three times, resting for 30 seconds between rounds.

  • Cross-Hook-Cross combination with dominant leg in rear position: 60 seconds.
  • High knees: 30 seconds.
  • Cross-Hook-Cross combination with dominant leg in lead position: 60 seconds.
  • Sprawl: 30 seconds.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.

Illustrations by Kveta
Nicole
Nicole Radziszewski

Nicole Radziszewski is a writer and personal trainer in River Forest, Ill. She blogs at www.mamasgottamove.com.

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