Health

I tried Liteboxer, a home fitness machine similar to a video game that wants to become a boxing peloton – this is how it feels to use

As the subscription-based, at-home fitness market expands, there are more options than ever to digitally work out with others while you’re actually alone. Previously, there were plenty of apps that prescribed workouts or programs; Nike Fit Club’s free one is still one of my favorites.

But now, the fitness industry is rife with investment-heavy systems where you buy the equipment while also having to pay a monthly fee to stream content — it’s a useful strategy for money-making on the manufacturer side and accountability from the user. Peloton’s been one of the most successful pioneers of this model but brands like Mirror, Echelon, Tonal, and even a classic like NordicTrack entered the fray, all with unique yet somewhat similar setups.

It’s in this uber-competitive market that we meet Liteboxer, a new home gym solution meant to do for boxing what Peloton did for biking — but with more lights, music, and tactical satisfaction.

Specs
Liteboxer
Weight 150 lbs
Dimensions 54″- 64″ x 55.3″ x 37.5″
Max user weight 325 lb
Minimum app requirements iPad 5th generation, iPhone 8 on iOS 10, Android 7.0 with > 2 GB RAM
Setting up the Liteboxer
The Liteboxer typically delivers in two large boxes for self-setup. White glove assembly and delivery aren’t available but the brand offers a video tutorial and written instructions that break down the steps.

I can’t speak from experience how that works, however, since mine was a fully assembled model that had been making the press rounds. I received it shrink-wrapped on a pallet, and a little worse for wear with a few missing components.

The few things I did do — screwing on the rubber feet, adjusting the level of the feet and shield unit height, sticking the USB cable into a plug — were straightforward.

Pair of Liteboxer boxing gloves
Su-Jit Lin/Insider
Before you start, you need to have a few things in place: Your phone or tablet, a speaker of some kind, and gloves. From there, you need to download the app and create an account. This is needed as the whole point of Liteboxer’s program is to hit designated strike zones to music and track stats like strike force and the number of punches thrown.

The unit requires a good whack to awaken; there’s no power button so it turns on with contact and off without. Once on, it connects to a phone via
Bluetooth
without a hitch. Keeping it connected is tougher, as, throughout several uses, I’d get kicked off in the middle as the app would freeze or crash and I’d have to start over.

Pairing it was a matter of punching the strike zone displayed on your device’s screen. It then asks if you would like to calibrate the rhythm, which is done by punching to the beat. You are cued to do this every time you pair but you can choose to skip it if you like. I found no discernible difference between when I calibrated it and when I didn’t.

How to pick out a workout
Trainer-led classes
Classes are accessed via the Workouts section of the app, where you’re presented with two categories of programs: Trainer-Led Workouts and Build + Restore. The latter offers things like yoga, targeted area bodyweight sequences, warm-ups, and some conditioning programs. None of them exceed 20 minutes and some are as short as a single song.

Trainer-Led Workouts is where you’ll find the heart of the Liteboxer app but this is a bit of a misnomer as this category branches out into sub-categories. These include real-time guided timed workouts where the instructor coaches you through the entire session. You can even find some conditioning exercises and sparring sessions where they call out punch combos.

After that brief intro, you’re on your own to follow the lights to the proper targets as you flail about, trying to remember what the instructor said. It’s a challenge since it gives you two combos per song, plus wild card flurries that appear out of nowhere.

For both, I found that not all workouts share what music genre will be played and none of them allow you to preview the playlist. Neither type are filterable whatsoever.

Self-guided workouts
Even more independent than Sparring Sessions are the Quickplay options. This is a different tab on the navigation of the app and offers the options of Punch Tracks, Freestyle, and Thumboxer.

Punch Tracks is one of Liteboxer’s headliners that boasts an impressive playlist created through an exclusive partnership with Universal Music Group. A premium membership gives you access to songs of different genres, while a non-premium membership limits your options. Shield strikes are programmed to work in sync with the beat of the music – I’ve found that this can lead to errors.

Freestyle lets you play your own music through whatever service you use, and you can just relax on the shield as it tracks your strength. It’s nice, but no different from a freestanding punching bag. However, due to its shape, you cannot work with hooks or legs like you would with a traditional bag. The Soft Bouncy Uppercut Bag is a thoughtful improvement and improvement on the regular heavy bags, but it’s too bad that most instructors don’t use it.

Thumboxing is similar to Punch Tracks, only you push your phone instead of the shield.

How does it feel to use
Quarantine made me a shadow boxer, so I was in awe of using Liteboxer. My guess was that being an experienced, trained kickboxer fighter means a smooth transition from beginner to expert level. This was not the case because it was a completely different experience than what I was used to.

On the positive side, the biggest, most instinctive aspect of Liteboxer is its arcade-like sensory feedback. It was like disguising the exercises as a more aggressive version of Dance, Dance Revolution and Whack-a-Mole – and that’s not bad.

Liteboxer guides you to each shot with a sequential sequence of LED lights that lead to the impact zone on the backboard. Your goal is to get into this area as soon as the light reaches a point in its center. Sooner or later, make contact or get into the wrong panel, and the circle will turn red; you can practically hear disapproval. But just in time, and this circle will solemnly light up green.

It’s so simple and stupid, but insanely enjoyable to get those virtual back pats. Its psychological manipulation is used in the most positive way, enhancing the endorphins you feel from movement with dopamine, which is an immediate gratification.

Another unexpected, intuitive gratification is the feel and sound of your gloves on the shield. New punching bags have excessively strong resistance, while used punching bags do not withstand the load. Hanging heavy bags take time to get back into place, while freestanding bags tend to shift. Liteboxer solves it all with excellent acoustic feedback.

The durable touch has remarkable impact response, providing the signal strength you need with a plastic surface that should bend around your impacts for years. The tower is loud when you hit it, but there is no doubt about its stability and ability to withstand whatever you are willing to do. The non-slip emery platform mat further enhances this feeling.

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