As a personal trainer, VR fitness apps are usually not something I gravitate towards. However, for Quest users looking for an introduction to strength training, the new weight-based training mode in Litesport (formerly Liteboxer) may have something to offer.
When playing VR, I’ve always enjoyed the passive fitness provided by games like Defeat Saber And explosion. I see the appeal of good VR fitness apps, but when I’m actually working out I tend to prefer picking up weights or boxing. However, after trying out the newly updated Litesport (previously Liteboxer) app on Quest 2, that could soon change.
The reason for Litesport’s name change is quite simple – this isn’t just a blasting app. The name change brings with it a new strength training mode, where you actually use weights while exercising in VR. Real weights, by the way, not virtual ones.
Many people will undoubtedly be concerned about the safety aspect of training with real weights in VR. Before trying out the new modes I had two main concerns, the first being about shape. Anyone who has experience lifting weights knows that improper form can easily lead to injury. Litesport solves this problem with a pre-recorded virtual coach that guides each strength training session. Not only do they set the rhythm of each movement, which is essential, but they also demonstrate each exercise as you go. The coach will also point out common mistakes, such as swinging the elbows when doing dumbbell curls.
Even if you’ve been lifting for decades, it’s hard to check your form during a normal workout, let alone while in VR. A virtual mirror would be the ideal solution, but the guidance of the virtual coach helps me a lot in that area. It also helps that the movements aren’t the big compound movements that can throw someone’s back out.
My other concern was pretty simple, and probably shared by most VR users: what if I hit my headset with a dumbbell? The app uses two key features to combat this: hand tracking support and passthrough mode. For Quest 2 users, you’re limited to the black and white passthrough of the headset, while those with Quest Pro can train in higher resolution and with color. By using hand tracking and passthrough, the workouts feel less like lifting in virtual reality, and more like using mixed reality to provide support for newer lifters.
That last point is also important. I have been a personal trainer for over 13 years now and after trying Litesport’s new strength modules I was quite impressed. While it’s not a complete replacement for weightlifting, I see Litesport’s new modes as a great boon on those days when going to the gym isn’t viable or just when you’re lacking motivation. This is especially true for those of us who not only work from home, but also train at home. I could definitely see myself relying on Litesport a few times a week for that extra bit of motivation, while also taking the stress out of planning a training session.
But in the end, this isn’t really aimed at me. These new strength training modes feel much more aimed at those newer to strength training, either looking to build some confidence or simply those looking for an additional boost to other training methods. That’s why the coaches are constantly correcting standard errors, why they set the pace and why they are so optimistic about everything, which is important when you start lifting weights.
You’ll need some real dumbbells to get involved, but even without those and just using the controllers, the app offers a good chance to get more familiar with some classic weightlifting moves. If you do have weights, you can indicate how heavy they are at the start of a session. You will then get a summary of the total weight lifted at the end, as well as an overview of which muscle groups were trained and how intensively. It’s a nice bit of statistical validation after a lifting session, and a good way to figure out which muscle groups are likely to be a little sore the next day, especially for those not used to the constant companion that is delayed-onset muscle soreness.
There is also a small icon for each exercise that shows which muscle groups are being used. This isn’t just for informational purposes though, because something any trainer will tell you is that if you know which muscles you’re supposed to be working out, you can actually use them when you’re working out. In some fitness circles it’s called the mind-muscle connection and it basically makes you think actively about what you’re doing, something the app constantly inspires.
I’m really quite impressed with it all. The fact that Litesport’s new modes make use of so many excellent Meta Quest 2 features is a big part of its appeal, but it’ll probably be even more impressive if you’ve got a higher-end color pass-through headset like Quest Pro. Litesports says more workouts will be added in the long run, and they’re even considering adding some kettlebell exercises. I’m definitely a little more nervous about doing kettlebell swings in VR, but I’m still curious to see how it turns out.
For now, I’ll stick to improving my form – both in and out of VR.