Packing a punch – The Boston Globe

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Liteboxer consists of a padded flooring area that is attached via a post to a shield-shaped target that you punch. On the post is a holder for a tablet or phone that you provide. Accessing the company’s content via its app costs $29 per month ― you can’t do anything without it.

The app offers a few ways to work out. The most fun, we found, are the Punch Tracks. You cue up a song like “Fireball” by Pitbull or “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar, and when the music starts, you try to punch different parts of the target when they light up. When you’re in Freestyle mode, you can create your own combos, or punch along to different music played from your tablet; Liteboxer keeps track of how many punches you’ve thrown and their power, on a scale of 1-5. There are also clinics led by instructors. These “Trainer Classes” teach you different punch combinations using the lights on the shield. There are ducking and rolling movements in between some of the punches, and the instructor usually leads a few stretches at the end.

A 10-minute workout led by a trainer named Myles, and accompanied by Motown music, just flew by. It was one of the classes labeled as beginner content, but you have to hunt for these — there’s no categorization in the app of classes for newbies, versus intermediate, versus more experienced boxers. I found it pretty easy to shift between watching the screen for instruction and then looking at the lights on the shield when I was punching. But while the instructors talk about how your body should be positioned and the numbers of each punch, there’s no way for the system to give feedback on your technique — and I knew that my rolls and right uppercut weren’t going to win any prizes.

Punching the target areas on the shield didn’t feel as stiff as I thought it might when I first looked at the metal-and-plastic Liteboxer gear. My brother-in-law Joe, who dropped by to test it out, said it felt similar to a heavy bag, with “just enough give.” He’s been an Army ROTC instructor in charge of whipping undergrads into shape, and I could tell he initially viewed the Liteboxer as an entertaining arcade game — sort of like Dance Dance Revolution for your firsts. But after 15 minutes of trying to get the force rating above three — which he did briefly, jabbing along to “Pump Up the Jam” — he had broken a pretty good sweat, and moved the Liteboxer platform a few inches across the floor.

The biggest drawback is one that’s shared by many of these new Internet-connected fitness devices: you often approach them ready to work out, only to discover that you need to do some tech support first. Is the tablet connected to a WiFi network? Is the tablet connected via Bluetooth to the Liteboxer, and an external Bluetooth speaker (helpful for making the music and instruction louder)? Is the Bluetooth speaker charged?

Liteboxer’s app also has a tendency to crash or freeze — and I tried two different versions, one that has been released to the app stores, and a new version still in development. It’s no fun to get three minutes into a ten-minute routine and then have to fiddle with your technology to restart it. (Some online reviews of the Liteboxer app complain about the same issue.)

I also wanted a better way to gauge the effectiveness of my workout. A rough count of calories burned — not just punches thrown — would be nice, and maybe a leaderboard that let me compare my force and accuracy on a given workout with others who’d done the same workout. (Liteboxer’s head of marketing, Scarlet Batchelor, says that a leaderboard in the works.) Some of the most enjoyable competition I got was by picking a song that both Max, my 13-year old, and I would punch to, and seeing who landed the most punches in sync with the lights. (Answer: Max.)

My issue with all home exercise gear is that I don’t have the room to set up a full gym, and just about everything new loses its luster after a few months. (The Liteboxer takes up a floor area slightly larger than three by four feet.) I’ve sometimes mused about a rental business that would drop off some whiz-bangy new device like the Liteboxer, and then swap it out for something else after three months. (Trade your Peloton for a Hydrow for a Mirror for a FightCamp.) Maybe someone with a van, and a vast inventory of exercise gear, is the next great billion-dollar business idea.

But until then, Liteboxer is playing in a crowded and competitive arena, where most consumers will choose one home fitness device to buy, not two or three — so finding a way to generate sales momentum and word-of-mouth will be key. (In our house, the fitness system I purchased pre-pandemic, the rowing machine made by Cambridge-based Hydrow, occupies that one slot.)

I can’t yet tell whether the Liteboxer is sculpting me into an Ali-like Adonis, but it’s a stress-reliever, and taking a break mid-day to punch along to a three-minute Bon Jovi classic is a great way to get the blood flowing before my big match with George Foreman — or yet another Zoom meeting.


Scott Kirsner can be reached at kirsner@pobox.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKirsner.





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