Shadow Wrestling: What Is It?

Shadow wrestling is a great solution for practicing wrestling without the risk of physical contact. It is often used in classes, tournaments, and practices to give wrestlers the ability to practice their moves without fear of injury or for those who don’t have a wrestling partner to practice with.

In this article, we will explain what shadow wrestling is, how it is used in practice and some of the benefits of using shadow wrestling.

shadow wrestling

Table of Contents

What is Shadow Wrestling?

Shadow wrestling is a method of individual practice that involves executing wrestling techniques without the presence or assistance of a partner.

The goal of shadow wrestling is to help wrestlers hone their technique and movements so they can use them more effectively during live matches. This method became popular among wrestlers in the late 20th century, and many wrestling athletes use it as part of their practice routine.

Is Shadow Wrestling Effective?

Yes, shadow wrestling is effective and it’s one of the best wrestling workouts at home for wrestlers. It helps with technique and mental preparation, improving focus, cardiovascular fitness, muscle memory, stamina, and even eating disorders.

Shadow wrestling also helps wrestlers stay motivated, which is important for their overall performance and success. It can also save some money for those who can’t afford to attend wrestling tournaments and can’t find a partner for practicing.

The Benefits of Shadow Wrestling

1. Improved Timing and Execution

Shadow wrestling helps wrestlers coordinate their moves better by allowing them to practice at their own pace and get a feel for the timing of the technique. This helps them become more confident and precise when executing techniques in a real match.

2. Improved Focus

Shadow wrestling can help wrestlers stay focused on their technique and movements. This type of practice helps wrestlers maintain concentration by forcing them to focus on each movement and how it impacts their opponent.

3. Improved Cardiovascular Fitness

Shadow wrestling is a great way to get in some cardio while practicing your technique. Like other wrestling cardio drills, shadow wrestling helps wrestlers improve their cardiovascular endurance and agility.

4. Improved Psychological Preparation

Shadow wrestling is great for improving wrestling mental toughness and preparation as well. It helps wrestlers stay focused and motivated, and can help them build up the necessary confidence to succeed in a real match.

5. Improved Muscle Memory

Shadow wrestling is an excellent way to build up muscle memory and help wrestlers remember the exact movements they need to execute in order to be successful.

6. Increased Stamina

Another benefit of shadow wrestling is that it helps increase a wrestler’s stamina. This type of practice helps endurance, which is important when competing in live matches and tournaments.

7. Help With Eating Disorders 

Shadow wrestling can also be helpful for wrestlers who struggle with eating disorders. This type of practice provides an outlet to focus their attention on something else other than their eating habits. Moreover, shadow wrestling can help wrestlers control their diet, enabling them to eat healthier foods in smaller amounts.

8. It Makes You Work on the Basics

One of the best things about shadow wrestling is that it helps wrestlers work on the basics of wrestling, including stance, footwork, and moves.

This type of practice helps wrestlers improve their fundamentals and can be used to refine their technique. Many experienced wrestlers allow themselves to occasionally practice on their own using shadow wrestling to help them stay sharp and keep up with the competition.

9. Improved Coordination

Shadow wrestling also helps wrestlers with their coordination. By focusing on the timing and execution of their moves, they can become more agile in competitive matches.

Coordination is essential in wrestling, as Nick Suriano, an NCAA champion, said: “The ability to move well and be highly coordinated will win you more matches.” This type of practice also helps wrestlers develop better responses to their opponents’ movements, improving overall performance.

Shadow Wrestling Drills

Common shadow wrestling drills include:

1. Move-by-Move Drills

These drills involve wrestlers executing a specific move or set of moves multiple times while counting out loud. Common moves are circles, sprawls, fakes, backups, switching legs, down blocks, misdirections, push-ups, and more.

2. Shadow Sparring

This type of drill involves two wrestlers’ shadow sparring against each other. The focus is on executing moves that would be used in a real match and getting comfortable with the timing and flow of an actual wrestling match.

3. Shadow Takedowns

These drills involve executing takedowns from different positions, such as headlock, leg trip, or double leg takedowns. You can also use a dummy, which is a great accessory for home wrestling.

4. Shadow Freestyle

This drill involves executing moves that are used in freestyle tournaments. The focus is on getting comfortable with the rules and techniques of freestyle wrestling.

5. Shadow Endurance

This type of drill involves doing shadow wrestling for longer periods of time to build up endurance and help wrestlers last longer in a real match.

6. Shadow Defense

These drills involve wrestlers executing defensive moves to work on their defense and counter-attack skills.

7. Tai Chi Movements

Yes, this is not a mistake! Some wrestlers have found that incorporating tai chi movements into their shadow wrestling drills can help them improve their balance and agility.

Movements like tai chi “Reaching and Pulling” as well as “Wizard Standing” are actually a type of shadow wrestling that can help wrestlers develop better body control and understanding of different techniques.

8. One Leg Drills

This type of drill involves wrestlers doing shadow wrestling from one leg only. This helps wrestlers work on their balance and stability, improving their overall technique. “If you do it with one leg, you’re able to move better and more efficiently,” says two-time NCAA champion Mike Zadick.

9. The “Bad Rope” Drill

This drill is a great way to work on the basics and improve conditioning. Wrestlers stand in their stance and use an imaginary “bad rope” to execute all of their moves, including takedowns and escapes.

10. Visualization Drills

These drills involve wrestlers visualizing a match in their heads, from start to finish. This helps wrestlers get more comfortable with different types of match situations and gives them an opportunity to practice problem-solving. According to a study by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, visualization can help wrestlers enhance their performance by almost 15%.

11. The “10 Minutes Shadow Drill”

This drill lasts for 10 minutes during which all possible exercises are practiced. Left and right circles, sprawls, backups, down blocks, fakes, misdirections, push-ups, switching legs, shots, and more.

Getting the Most Out of Shadow Wrestling Requires Experience

Shadow wrestling is a great tool for wrestlers to practice their technique and build confidence. However, it requires experience to be effective as you can’t try drills that you never heard of before.

That’s why it’s important to consult a coach or a more experienced wrestler and get advice on how to make the most out of shadow wrestling and to make sure you know the wrestling basics, as well as understand several techniques, strategies, and drills like a few types of takedowns, pins, stances and more.

It is also important to listen and focus on your technique while shadow wrestling, rather than just going through the motions. You should practice slowly and patiently, and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable with the moves. This will help ensure that you are executing the moves correctly and getting the most out of your practice.

Film Your Training Sessions in Order to Improve

Analyzing the footage can help you identify areas of improvement and make adjustments to increase your effectiveness in a real match. You can also see the improvement from time to time which will give you a sense of satisfaction.

Also, you can send or show these videos to a colleague or a coach and ask for their feedback. This can be very helpful in correcting any bad habits that you may have acquired over time, and help you get the most out of your training.


Shadow wrestling is a great tool for wrestlers to practice and hone their techniques, build confidence, and increase their endurance. However, it requires experience and patience to get the most out of it.

By filming their training sessions and asking for feedback, wrestlers can make sure that they are executing the moves correctly and improving in the right direction. The best way to become a great wrestler is through hard work and dedication, so don’t forget to practice shadow wrestling regularly! Good luck.