There are plenty of methods to obtain fit that don’t involve getting punched in the face. This is probably why you’ll see most people riding a Peloton bike or lifting weights instead of walking into their local boxing gym in their quest to get into shape. But boxing for fitness has grown into an activity with a vibrant subculture, mostly thanks to its gradual move out of dank gladiatorial dungeons and into boutique gyms. This growth spurt makes sense, as boxing is a terrific workout that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and body types.
FightCamp is a connected workout system created with the aim of bringing real boxing training into the home. The Personal package ($1,219) I tested comes with everything required to do boxing or kickboxing training in your living room or garage: a heavy bag, a workout mat, gloves, hand wraps, and a pair of digital punch trackers that you wear near your wrists. The bag stands up on its own thanks to the weighted base, so you do not need to hang it from an overhead beam like a traditional heavy bag. The workout mat forms an eight- by four-foot workout space in front of the bag. If you already own or have access to a heavy bag, you can opt for the Connect package ($439) that includes just the hand wraps and the digital punch trackers.
The trackers pair with the FightCamp app, which provides over 200 workouts, along with extra content and tutorials. The workouts offer a combination of punches, kicks, core work like planks and sit-ups, and leg movements like squats and lunges. When choosing workouts, badges on the workout descriptions indicate whether or not an activity has kicks as well as punches, are designed for left-handed boxers (southpaws), or are strictly core workouts, among other variables.
The workouts are accompanied by a selection of streaming music stations that play EDM, rock, pop, and hip hop. The songs seem specially chosen to get your heart racing, with upbeat selections from artists like Meek Mill and the Strokes.
Bringing some 21st-century tech to the ancient sport, FightCamp workouts are recordings streamed to the app on an iPhone or iPad. Additionally, you can stream the workouts to a TV from your iOS device using AirPlay. The punch trackers are thumb-drive-sized Bluetooth gizmos that fit right into the hand wraps and count your punches as you work out. The number of your strikes shows up on screen during your workout. This feature allows you to track your improvement and see how well you match up against other people who’ve done the same workout. Additionally, each workout lists a goal punch count as a motivational boost. This also helps you track your progression over time as you watch your punch count creep up over weeks and months of boxing workouts.
In addition to the cost of the equipment, FightCamp requires a monthly membership payment of $39 to access the streaming workouts and tutorials.
As a former boxer, I’m simultaneously excited and dismayed about boxing’s demographic shift from battle-hardened warriors slugging it out to average Joes just trying to stay fit. While it’s great to see more people enjoying the fitness benefits and the fun of hitting a heavy bag, I would constantly worry about the poor quality of boxing skills taught in these cardio-boxing boutique classes.
My worry about FightCamp’s approach diminished as soon as I streamed my first workout. The trainer, FightCamp cofounder and former US National Team boxer Tommy Duquette, took me through the fundamentals of the four punches that would be in the workout: the jab, the straight right, and left and right hooks. His instruction mirrored what I learned when I fought, from planting the feet and twisting your hips to keeping your elbow level with your fist when throwing hooks.
What followed was a shoulder- and lung-burning 15 minutes of combinations and speed work as well as core strength and leg movements. The workout had plenty of variety, and the punch counter was a great motivator to move faster and put in more work.
The workouts had the feel of my two-hour workouts in a Virginia boxing fitness center condensed into sub-30-minute routines. Despite the shorter time, every part of my old workouts, from technique training to speed, strength, and core work, had some representation in every FightCamp session.
The workouts are highly motivating, and the five coaches (four male and one female) are excellent at doling out encouragement. In addition, the coaches project excitement about the workouts to the users, making the exercise feel much more fun than grueling. To obtain a taste, take a look at the free workouts FightCamp posts on its website.
Get in the Ring
Boxing can feel intimidating, even if you’re not facing off against an opponent. The terminology and proper form can seem inscrutable to someone new to it. FightCamp’s training simplifies the sport for beginners with well-explained movements taught by actual fighters. The workouts range in skill and fitness level from beginner to advanced, so you can grow your skills over time.
In addition to the pre-workout primer, there’s a whole category of short how-to videos that will walk a user through the finer points of boxing and kickboxing, from the proper form of individual punches and kicks to how to slip a punch. For example, in that video, coach Aaron Swenson says, “Make them miss, so you can make them pay,” which was one of my favorite adages from my own real-life boxing coach.
As of this writing, the FightCamp app is available only on iOS devices, so if you’ve got an Android phone, you’re out of luck. (However, iPhone owners can sync their FightCamp workouts to Apple Health Kit.) One other hiccup: To weigh down the heavy bag you fill its base with water, so if you don’t have access to a hose, your first workout will be a few hundred laps from the sink or bathtub with a bucket. Even when the base was full of water, I found that I was knocking it around quite a bit, but I’m a reasonably big puncher. Adding some sand to the base and then filling it the rest of the way with water provided enough weight to keep the bag steady, but it was a chore to set up.
When I was growing up, boxing was my primary way to compete and stay in shape for football and wrestling during the off-season. The workouts helped with strength and endurance, and the coordination and improved reaction time boosted my performance in every other sport. FightCamp manages to take my two- to three-hour training sessions and condense them right into manageable 15- to 30-minute workouts.
Most of all, the joy of pounding away at a heavy bag is cathartic in a way that can’t be matched with other workouts. After a few rounds with FightCamp, all of the aggression you’ve built up during your commute or workday just burns away. There’s also something very empowering about learning how to throw a good punch or kick as well as hearing the satisfying thwap when you land a solid hook. You don’t have to be a sociopath to enjoy knowing you can protect yourself, as well as even if you never need to throw a strike in protection, it’s great to recognize you can if you needed to.