Boxing is an excellent cardio workout, it builds muscle mass and melts fat, and there’s no way you’ve lived through the last couple of years without wanting to punch the shit out of something. But in-person sparring sessions still seem unwise, and if you stuck a heavy-bag in most people’s workout area, they’d have no idea what to do with it. We need coaching, something to constantly push our pace, and music to numb the pain. Toward the twin goals of maximum health and minimum pent-up rage, I give you the at-home boxing workout machine Liteboxer, the strangest piece of exercise equipment I have ever fallen in love with.
At first glance, Liteboxer looks like a goth stop sign, but it works something like a smart heavy-bag. It’s a big plastic shield studded with six sensors that light up in patterns, a bit like one of those Simon toys from the late 20th century. Here’s the difference: With Simon you would test your memory by gently pressing its buttons and repeating its patterns, but with Liteboxer you just punch the fuck out of the targets as they light up. Hit this one with your left jab, that one with your right hook—correct hits make the sensor turn green, while mistimed or mispunched ones go red. It’s simple yet unbelievably hard; you watch someone punch away at it and think “please,” and then you glove up and start a session and reach your absolute maximum heart rate within about 20 seconds. It looks silly, but Liteboxer is no joke.
What makes this piece of equipment compelling and fun—even as it wrecks you—is the added element of music. Liteboxer has a licensing deal with Universal Music Group, so the sensors light up to the beat of some familiar songs. Get aggro with Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole.” Pray that the version of Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” you’ve selected is the radio edit. Find the furious, pugilistic heart of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” Whichever path you choose, know that at the end of the song, you will be gasping for air.
You can choose your “punch tracks” and go song by song, but training classes and sparring sessions are pre-loaded in the Liteboxer app, accessible from your phone or iPad. These workouts last anywhere from one short song to a full 30 minutes, they get into body-weight conditioning workouts, and you can adjust them for your fitness level. And I am telling you from experience, your fitness level is less fit than you think; I run and bike and swim and lift and generally think of myself as a middle-aged guy in fairly good condition, but a boxing workout makes the heart pound and the sweat drip like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I’m getting new tone in my arms and shoulders, and I awake the morning after even a ten-minute session sore as hell in my hips and quads. It feels wonderful. And unlike an in-gym boxing class, if I look like a jerk, nobody needs to know but me.
Most importantly, once that adrenaline gets going, you can really let yourself release that repressed anger. It’s as beneficial to the spirit as a year of therapy, and maybe you’ll get Jake-Gyllenhaal-in-Southpaw jacked from it.
There are some caveats. You will need some space, as the Liteboxer unit measures 37.5 by 55.5 inches. Its weight distribution isn’t completely dialed in just yet, so after every session, the Liteboxer has scooted over to a different part of my gym. (And I can’t even blame my brute strength; though I feel like I’m brutalizing this poor device, I’ve never scored higher than a three out of five on the app’s force scale.) It often downplays the uppercuts. And while the coaches all give good, clear instructions about form, they’re not there in person to correct yours. After using the Liteboxer for a couple of weeks, I had a real life boxing coach come over to give me some pointers, and my stance and punching technique were just a little bit off. Repetition of bad form reinforces bad form, which could lead to repetitive stress injury down the road. Of course, the same is true of a regular heavy-bag used without supervision, but can a regular heavy-bag light up to the beat of Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It?” Reader, it cannot.
A Liteboxer unit (plus a pair of gloves and hand-wraps) retails for $1,695—but it’s $400 off for Black Friday right now—with access to all the workouts and music for a $30-per-month membership fee. Liteboxer also just announced a wall-mounted version that takes up much less space than the stand-up unit, available November 3. It’s a little less expensive, and a lot more satisfying than punching the wall the old-fashioned way. Either way, if you’ve got the extra space and cash, Liteboxer can really add some spice to your workout routine, as it provides a safe outlet for your 2021 rage and anxiety.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go HAM on this thing to the strains of Billie Eilish’s “Ocean Eyes.”
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