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I had the best cardio workout of my life while boxing in VR

Any kid that ever watched Rocky growing up has thought about stepping into the ring at some point or another, but I never took that plunge — and since most gyms are still not operating at full capacity, the best cardio workout I’ve had in two years was a game of tennis. Enter Liteboxer VR.

Liteboxer is a company I’m familiar with; in fact, we reviewed the original Liteboxer here at Digital Trends a while back. The device combines music with boxing, asking the user to punch targets as they light up in rhythm with the music. The downside is that it’s on the bulky side and needs to be attached to the wall. The idea of Liteboxer VR is that the same experience can be delivered without modifying your home in any way — all you have to do is strap on a virtual reality headset and you can use Liteboxer in a virtual space.

Liteboxer VR challenges you to keep moving.

I’ve worked out in virtual reality before (mastering a song in Hard mode in Beat Saber will have you sweating). I’ve never used a dedicated workout app, though. The too-perky, upbeat trainers always annoy me more than motivate me. But after Liteboxer sent over an Oculus Quest 2 headset for me to test the workout for myself, I wanted to give it a shot.

It was awesome. And it thoroughly kicked my butt.

Classes teach you the basic moves

Like I said, I’ve never boxed before. There is so much more to boxing than just punching things, and the trainers drive this home. You can choose whether to take a class or take part in a sparring session. The first class I dove into was a 10-minute session featuring R&B music. It’s the first time in years I’ve heard anything by Ne-Yo, but I figured R&B is slow enough to ease into a boxing workout.

I was wrong, and by the end of those 10 minutes, my arms felt like lead.

I then took on a sparring session with one of the trainers. It’s not a true “sparring” session, but rather the trainer walks you through a routine of the same basic moves for a set amount of time. According to my trainer, “the key to boxing is repetition.” I followed the same set of moves for about three minutes each before another move or two was added in to spice things up a bit.

The Liteboxer VR board is a series of six targets, each of which represents a different part of the body. The top target is the head, while the middle two targets on either side are the torso. The bottom target is the center of the gut (or perhaps the chin.) There’s also a section of the board that reaches out toward the player that’s the uppercut reader.

The Liteboxer can be mounted on a wall.
Liteboxer VR is like this, but in virtual reality.

A light in the center sends out pulses to different targets.  Your score is based on how in rhythm you are with each blow. Consistency pays off, too. After a certain number of hits, you’ll receive a 1.5x score multiplier. That multiplier goes up the longer you maintain your streak.

At the end of the workout, you’re presented with your overall score, the number of hits you landed in rhythm, your streak, and the number of calories burned.

Plenty of song and training options

The biggest downside of many workout apps is their song choices. If you aren’t a fan of hard rock or hip-hop, there isn’t much there for you. Liteboxer VR has a lot of songs to choose from and classes tailored around specific genres of music.

You can go wild, punching as fast as possible, and channel every anime fight you’ve ever watched to see how high you can score.

The Workout tab lets you choose between guided classes and sparring sessions, but if you want to do it solo without help, choose Quickplay mode. You can choose “Punch Tracks,” which lets you select from every song available in the app, or you can choose Freestyle. This mode just throws up a board in front of you and lets you go punching crazy.

Liteboxer VR's leaderboards show you the best players.

Freestyle Mode is particularly cool, as it measure your punches per minute. You can go wild, punching as fast as possible, and channel every anime fight you’ve ever watched to see how high you can score.

The songs are filtered by genre, and you can even choose Alternative or Country (neither of which is well-represented, though.) There are a lot of songs to choose from, but I definitely wish I could sort by artist.

Can you get in shape doing this?

You might be a bit skeptical that Liteboxer VR is actually an effective workout. Sure, you can cheat the system — as long as your VR controllers make contact with the right part of the board at the right time, you could theoretically box with your feet. What would be the point, though?

The songs are catchy, and you’ll find yourself wanting to move your lower body as you get into the workout.

There’s definitely a level of honesty required when working out like this. The trainers urge you to focus on form — maintain a tight core, hold a proper defensive stance, and punch in rhythm. Some classes even have panels lighting up to indicate incoming punches that you have to duck and dodge. While these won’t count against you if you dodge, they do utilize your lower body.

After a few sessions, I was sweating and ready to call it a day. While the calories burned didn’t amount to much (just over 150 in about 15 minutes of play), it was fun. And that’s the key.

If a workout is boring, I won’t stick with it — but Liteboxer VR reminds me of other rhythm-based workouts like Dance Dance Revolution or Beat Saber. I would play it just for fun, but it’s a great way to get moving, especially for quick sessions to start the day. The way it manages to gamify boxing (and lower the cost of entry compared to an actual physical setup) makes Liteboxer VR an excellent choice. Just don’t try taking on Apollo Creed after your first few sessions.

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