At VR Fit in Columbus, Ohio, I do my best to label games as lower, more moderate, or higher intensity experiences, but always with a caveat. VR games can rarely push you to any given level of exertion. Instead, VR fitness will only push you as hard as you push yourself. One person could play a “higher intensity” game like Bitslap and another a “lower intensity” game like Fruit Ninja, and the person playing Fruit Ninja gets a better workout because the first person wasn’t pushing themselves and the second person was.

Here are three common do’s and don’ts that I see repeatedly.

Punch With Your Whole Body

Consider which punch delivers a more powerful blow: One thrown seated from a chair or one thrown from a running start? Compared to the legs, hips, and torso, the shoulders and elbows have much lower potential to generate force. You don’t need to be running to take advantage of your legs’ tremendous power, but your power does need to start from the ground and transfer to the knees, hips, and torso before culminating into a punch.

Is This You: In upper body focused games like BOXVR and Knockout League, when it comes to throwing punches, shoulders are squared, hips are squared, feet are neutral, and your hitting power originates in the elbow or the shoulder. You’re basically frozen from the chest down.

Do This Instead: In boxing/punching sims, have one foot staggered behind the other. Before striking, push off with the rear foot to initiate the movement. That force will channel up to your hips, which you’ll rotate forward along with your torso, then shoulder, and finally in extending your elbow and landing with your fist. In rhythm punching games, you can take a neutral stance, but try to use the same principal to generate power from the floor.

Use Full Range of Motion

Which results in greater work output, running half a mile or running a full mile? Executing movements in VR aren’t any different. Half squats, half punches, and half swings will get you half results.

Is This You: In games like Fruit Ninja, you take short swipes, or you just wriggle your sword at the fruit because it slices them the same regardless. In Racket: NX your racket is bunting more than it’s swinging. In Audioshield, you’re using your shields, well, like shields.

Do This Instead: Your arms and legs are capable of moving in wide arcs, and spanning long distances between retraction and extension. Use it! When swinging your sword or your paddle, swing it to the fullest extent possible. In punching games, deliver your punches with full arm extension (while avoiding overextending) and pull your arms back to your shoulders between punches. In squatting games, go deep in the descent and come back up stopping just short of locking your knees. In side lunging, fully extend your non-supporting leg and get a deep stretch in your supporting one.

Keep Your Elbows Up

How long can you hold your arms outstretched ahead for? 20 seconds? A minute? Who cares? Keeping our arms elevated for an extended period isn’t something we do very often, and we don’t realize how difficult it is until we’re hanging a curtain rod or cleaning out the gutters.

Is This You: In games you keep your arms down by your side, like two limp noodles, only to raise them when called upon to.

Do This Instead: In VR punching games, especially boxing games like The Thrill of the Fight, Kunlun Fight, or The Fastest Fist, we need our elbows up to block our heads and to be well positioned to deliver the next hit, but your shoulders can benefit by remaining elevated in almost any active VR game. Whether it’s GoalKeepVR, Fast Action Hero, or Holopoint, keeping your arms up and at the ready will make you more effective at reacting quickly, and it will deliver a better workout for your lats, back and shoulders too.

These three guidelines will make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your VR workouts. By engaging your whole body, moving your body through the greatest range of movement, and keeping your arms up and flexed you will be faster, more powerful, and get the biggest bang for your virtual buck.

Have any hot tips for maximizing results? Are you one of the “do’s” or the “don’ts?” Let us know in the comments below!

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Tim Donahey

Tim Donahey is an NASM certified personal trainer, former competitive powerlifter, VR fitness enthusiast, and CEO of VR Fit. After more than 10 years in the fitness industry, Tim discovered firsthand the profound impact of using virtual reality as a tool for athleticism and embarked on a 50 day experiment to test the benefits of a purely VR based fitness lifestyle. The overwhelmingly positive results of his experiment lead Tim to found VR Fit where he develops and implements VR fitness solutions for people from all walks of life.