Are you someone who wants to maintain a healthier lifestyle, but you can’t ever stick with a normal workout routine? Let’s be honest, heading to the gym to lift weights, run on a treadmill, or wait in line to use a machine can be a chore. Not only can it become derivative, which can lead to burnout, but it’s also just not fun.
Fortunately, within the ever-growing VR fitness scene, there are a number of different ways in which you can look to utilize virtual reality technology in the pursuit of staying healthy. While some of the simplest ways to use VR devices might just be to purchase a headset and use it from the comfort of your own home, other companies are looking to create experiences that can take your fitness habits to a whole other level. Black Box Fitness is just one of the most prominent programs of this type that is available and it looks to give you a workout routine unlike any other.
So just what is Black Box VR? And what makes it so unique compared to other VR fitness offerings that are available? Here’s everything you need to know about the program.
What is Black Box VR Fitness?
In simplest terms, Black Box VR combines Virtual Reality with a dynamic cable resistance machine. However, these two elements don’t just simply mesh to create a basic workout routine. Instead, Black Box VR offers a workout unlike anything else you have ever experienced, or likely ever will.
“The Black Box VR exercise program is a full-body workout where you’ll work every muscle group, intensely, 3 to 4 times per week, to get a well-rounded fitness program that will give you fast results,” explained Ryan DeLuca, CEO and Co-Founder of Black Box VR. “It’s a place where you go to get a really great workout, get in shape super-fast, all while having fun playing a game and being immersed in a virtual environment.”
Black Box VR was founded by fitness fanatics Ryan DeLuca & Preston Lewis. The team spent years building Bodybuilding.com into the largest online supplement retailer in the world (with nearly $500m in annual sales). With the collaboration of many talented individuals, they created some of the world’s most recognized supplement brands, chart-topping fitness mobile applications, were honored with award-winning health & fitness campaigns, and created the world’s largest online fitness social network (with over 3m members), while always holding true to the mission of changing people’s lives.
In 2016 Preston and Ryan decided to start their new venture, Black Box VR, with a mission to disrupt the fitness industry once again by creating innovative products and experiences that create lasting change in people’s lives. After trying virtual reality for the first time, Ryan and Preston knew they were experiencing a magically immersive technology that, if paired with resistance training, gaming principles and high intensity cardio, will be the winning combination for people trying to reach their health & fitness goals. Black Box VR is redefining fitness as we know it.
How Does the Black Box VR Work?
“You go to a Black Box VR Virtual Training Center and you’re immersed inside your own virtual reality system. You’ll walk into a private booth, put on the headset and you’re inside this big sports arena. That’s where you’re going to play a game, a video game, where you’ll actually use your actual body’s strength and power to do different resistance exercises,” DeLuca explained of the core experience that lies at the heart of Black Box VR. “As soon as you walk into the Black Box VR world, the machine starts to configure based on you. It’s completely personalized based on your height. It tracks everything you’re doing in minute detail to give you the exact amount of resistance that you need to progress in your fitness results.”
Speaking more to how virtual reality and this resistance machine, Preston Lewis, Co-Founder & Chief Design Officer of Black Box VR, described the process a bit more. “In the game, when you’re in the virtual reality environment with the headset on, you reach back, you grab a handle, you can feel the real handle. The handle is under real tension and can go up to 110 Lbs. per handle so this is real weight, perfectly calibrated to you,” Lewis said. “As you’re doing reps: chest press, shoulder press, squat, deadlift, all these different compound movements in a full-body workout, the game is actually responding to what the machine is doing. The stronger I am in real life, corresponds to stronger attacks in the game. The machine and the artificial intelligence behind everything is automatically progressing you to keep you in that sweet sport for maximum fat burning and maximum muscle building.”
And while that all might sound interesting and fun on its own, Black Box VR also makes sure to create a compelling situation for players so that they’re even more motivated to work hard than they might already be. “Users, when they play these games, they want to get straight into the action, but the narrative piece of that really plays a really big role in that,” said Colby Morgan, the director of VR development at Black Box VR. “For us it’s finding that good balance of having an immersive story where users feel like they can connect with these characters, it makes sense, but they’re also getting put right into the action, which makes a 30-minute workout feel like 10 minutes.”
As you can see, Black Box VR is meant to give you the same high-intensity workout that you get by lifting weights and cardio activities. Thanks to the power of Virtual Reality, though, the experience becomes one that is more engaging, compelling, and altogether just a whole lot more fun.
How Can it Help You? What are the Benefits?
Naturally, the thought of playing a video game for fitness purposes often leads people to think that the workout they’ll be getting isn’t on the same level as the one they could get if they were to do their own routine at the gym. With Black Box VR, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only does Black Box VR match up with a number of other workout programs, but it might also just be outright better than many others that you’ve done before.
“In a lot of traditional fitness experiences, people go to the gym, they’re not really sure which dumbbell to pick up, what weight to do, how many reps they should do and there’s all this cognitive overload. In Black Box VR, we’ve really simplified that, you just go in there, you play the game and the weights will automatically progress as you get stronger, based on the artificial intelligence that is baked into the system,” Lewis said of how simple it is to use the system.
“We know at Black Box VR that you need resistance training,” DeLuca said of how the program truly looks to give your body the best workout possible. “Doing true strength training is actually going to transform your body, it’s going to shape your body, it’s going to give you strength, it’s going to give you functional fitness that you can take out into the world and they’re showing that it actually burns more calories.”
Watch a Black Box VR Fitness Workout and Gameplay
One of the most basic benefits of Black Box VR compared to numerous other programs comes with just how engaging it is. “When you go in for traditional workouts, it’s hard to be motivated every day,” DeLuca said. “But we all know, that working out really hard consistently over time is the secret to fitness success. The great thing about a video game and a sport is that even if you’re not in the mood to really push that hard, the sport environment challenges you to push as hard as you can to get those points. Nobody likes to lose and as soon as you see that you might be on the way to losing you’re going to push extra hard, get those points, and win your next battle.”
And perhaps the best part of all with Black Box VR is that it’s a routine that isn’t static whatsoever. The team behind Black Box VR is looking to continually improve the program by taking user feedback into account. “We’ve been doing it for a few years, it’s a product that nobody has ever seen before and because nobody has ever seen it before and because we’re developing it for the first time, it’s really really important for us to listen to our users,” said Jim Bradbury, General Manager at Black Box VR. “Their feedback is critical for us to be able to see how well we’re designing the experience, things that we need to improve, ideation for new features that want to put into the experience.”
While it might be easy to think that Black Box VR’s application as a video game could make the experience have fewer benefits than other programs, you can clearly tell that the benefits of this system are far more substantial than you might realize.
What is the Black Box VR Dynamic Resistance Machine?
While the VR headset might be the flashiest device involved with the Black Box VR setup, it’s the system’s dynamic resistance machine that is truly putting your body through its paces. However, this isn’t just any run-of-the-mill weight training machine. Instead, the dynamic resistance machine has been designed specifically to work in tandem with what’s happening within your VR headset.
Speaking more to the dynamic resistance machine and what makes it so special, Black Box VR’s director of engineering, Rich Reavis, has explained more about the equipment is constructed. “The dynamic resistance machine has a couple of really cool features about it that are automated which are the stabilization pad and the handles themselves,” Reavis said. “We’ve identified at least 20 or 25 exercises that you can do on this single piece of equipment. The stabilization pad is another automated feature of the dynamic resistance machine so it actually can move to a position that you need it to, say you’re doing standing row or chest press, it’s based off that information from the calibration sequence so we know how tall you are and roughly where that pad needs to be to give you the ultimate stability to be able to perform that certain exercise.”
Reavis also talked a bit more about how the machine also works in unison with the VR headset that users have to wear when using Black Box VR. “Oftentimes people ask us, how do you know where you are in VR when you’re using our system so when a user signs up and comes in for their first session, they get a pair of arm garments, that they actually put on their wrist, that’s what they put the arm shields on to do the workout and basically it allows us to know exactly where you are in VR,” Reavis stated.
As for the workouts that can be done with the machine, users can harness six compound movements. “We have chest press, shoulder press, back row, lat pulldown, squat, and deadlift which give you the majority of your exercise training movements,” Lewis said. “We have the HIIT training which is the shadowboxing piece where you’re punching and slicing to keep your heart rate elevated and increase your cardiovascular health and then we also have supplemental workouts that we’ve been adding on and continuing to refine with bicep curls, tricep pushdowns. A lot of those are single-joint movements so we have the game and the AI gives you an incentive to do more of the compound movements so you can get the bigger bang for the buck with the actual fitness routine. But, the machine allows us to have all sorts of exercise movements that we can unlock in future updates.”
Tracking Your Fitness Results in the Black Box VR App
One of the biggest needs for anyone that’s looking to lose weight or stay in shape often comes in the form of an app or other device that allows you to track your progress. With Black Box VR being such a unique fitness program, though, it’s hard to know what to track on your own in order to see if you are meeting your goals. As luck would have it, though, Black Box VR comes with its own application so that you can see all of your results easily and directly.
The Black Box VR app is one that you can download onto your own mobile device so that you can see your progress no matter where you might be. While getting a look at your own goals might be nice, where the app gets even better is how it shows your own progress compared to others.
Since Black Box VR is a game, after all, the app includes an element of competition. You can not only see how you’re doing when compared to others who might be using Black Box, but you can look to beat the scores that your friends may have set. “Exercise is way more fun when it’s competitive and social, and so in the mobile app, you can see all of your friends, you can add friends, you can invite friends, you can share progress. It creates this community and allows you to see where you rank with leaderboards, we have quests, we have challenges, all of these things bring together a tight-knit community in the Black Box VR experience,” Lewis said of the app.
In addition to keeping up with friends, the app offers numerous other tasks for you to get lost in. This includes leaderboards, quests, and a ton of other cosmetic features that will make you feel like the star of your own video game. There is also a card system within the app that works in quite a unique once you set foot back into the world of Black Box VR. “The other cool thing about the app is we have all these different game mechanics that people resonate with so every workout that you do, you unlock a workout chest, in the workout chest, you have different cards. The more cards you get, the more you can upgrade your Champions, the stronger they get in-game,” Lewis said of this system. “You can unlock powerups, you can unlock different coins and purchase different items in the mobile app and as you’re unlocking all of these digital chests, you are leveling up your characters which give you a better chance of winning in the game. One of the cool things about Black Box VR is that we can bridge the physical and the digital worlds and so with that as you beat certain bosses you unlock certain pins or as you collect different gems you can redeem them for different event entries or physical goods.”
How Can You Try Black Box VR?
So at this point, you’re surely wondering how you can try out Black Box VR for yourself. As mentioned the program isn’t something that you’re going to be able to just set up in your own living room or run down the street and replicate at your own local gym.
At the moment, there are six Black Box VR gym locations within the United States. Most of these locales are in the western part of the country for the time being. The Black Box VR website lists all of their locations.
If you do happen to live near one of these virtual sports training centers and are looking to give the experience a shot soon, Black Box VR is absolutely free to try at first. “Come in for a 30-minute, world-class workout and honestly, it’s free,” implored Bradbury. “You get to try it for free, there’s nothing holding you back from changing your life and beginning a brand new fitness journey that you’re going to be on for years. “
As a whole, Black Box VR happens to be one of the most unique VR gaming experiences that you can find right now. Not only is it special purely because of how it combines VR tech and weight training, but it also pound-for-pound could be one of the most enjoyable fitness-focused video games around.
“Our core mission with Black Box VR is to help people transform their lives using addictive fitness experiences that leverage the power of immersive technologies and so everything that we do is with the customer in mind,” Lewis said of the program’s primary aim. “We want the customer to have the best time ever, we want them to have the most immersive workout experience. We want them also to be getting the real fitness results that are going to allow them to be a healthier human. It not about aesthetics and becoming a massive bodybuilder or any of that stuff. This is about functional fitness that’s gonna help people build lean muscle mass, burn calories, and finally stick to their fitness routine.”
Black Box VR Fitness is expanding across the US. To keep up with their growth and new locations, join the Black Box VR Fitness newsletter or follow them on social.