VR fitness gaming is one of the most attractive ways to quickly burn some fat and gain a little muscle. But what if I told you that it’s possible to get a complete workout that covers each major muscle group—including your legs and forearms—by mixing different games and fitness tools (such as wearable weights) into your rotation?
I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: a VR headset you take home, like an Oculus Quest or a Valve Index, will never give you the same range of options or equipment that you’d get when training in a gym.
We don’t expect you to quit your gym membership or quit other forms of exercise in lieu of a home VR workout, as there will always be massive fitness benefits to (for example) mixing contact sports or deadlifting heavy weights into your rotation in addition to fitness boxing and squatting with a VR headset on your face.
This means that you can give yourself a decent bit of fitness conditioning and see gains inside of VR, just as long as you select the right combination of intense games that attack each muscle group, switch things up and add weights as needed, and stick to a good routine of working out at the same times each week. Don’t believe me? Take a look at our collection of case studies. Bonus points for staying on a good meal plan and supplementing your nutrition as needed!
Choose the Best VR Workout by Muscle Group
Before coming up with an effective VR workout, it’s a good idea to step back and look at what other fitness lifestylers and bodybuilders are trying to accomplish in the gym. In order to build the perfect workout, you need to optimize your rotation around each of the six major muscle groups (Chest, Back, Shoulders, Arms, Legs, and Calves) plus the Core, which can get indirect exercise when you target the other muscle groups—or it can be targeted on its own—and tends to help you maintain a higher level of stability and endurance overall.
With the addition of a weighted vest, arm weights, and ankle weights, you can feasibly tag several muscle groups inside of just one VR game, especially when that aforementioned game forces each of your muscles to work together in unison over a long period of time. For example, intense shadowboxing sessions in The Thrill of the Fight can target your Chest, Back, Shoulders, Arms, Legs, and Core if you really exert yourself.
When you wear weights, you get the added benefit of resistance on top of the aerobic workout. If you don’t want to do that, and you’re not already engaged in other fitness activities, it’s a good idea to throw in some supplementary workouts outside of VR that cover the muscles you ignore in your VR workout. Here’s a great source of muscle group information from Legion Athletics that can help you do exactly that.
Disclaimer: Weighted gear can cause (or exacerbate) health problems—in any form of exercise—if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you have health issues that involve your joints, heart, or respiration, then you should talk to a doctor before attempting to add weighted gear to your workouts. Pay attention to and respect the correct precautions, as explained in this article, to exercise safe and play safe. All advice given in this article is that of an individual’s opinion, and not that of a licensed medical practitioner.
That said, you can at least see gains in the Chest, Arms, Core, and Legs departments when relying on nothing but your VR workout and no additional gear. Here are my suggestions.
Working out your Chest, Shoulders, and Back in VR is as simple as choosing the right shadowboxing and fitness boxing games. These types of VR workouts will give you fitness benefits in other muscle groups as well, but especially in your Chest and other upper-body muscle groups.
The Thrill of the Fight
The Thrill of the Fight is still the single most intense and hardcore shadowboxing simulation game in virtual reality. Opponents are incredibly tough to defeat, potentially taking thousands of punches from you while you duck and dodge incoming blows.
Each of several opponents has vastly different fighting styles, each of which forces you to become acquainted with entirely different sparring tactics to keep you on your feet. If that’s not enough intensity, there are several different difficulty modes to choose from. Alternatively, you can get surgical with a suite of customization options that let you create a truly impossible-to-defeat opponent if you wish.
The Thrill of the Fight is the only VR workout game to make me spit up blood (true story!) after a particularly intense session. For comparison, I used to take fitness conditioning courses in college that had me running several miles uphill each day.
Second to The Thrill of the Fight in terms of potential fitness boxing intensity, FitXR allows you to get a much more structured upper body workout that also includes squatting and lunging which help your Legs and Core muscles as well.
FitXR is a rhythm boxing game, but it doesn’t really play around with the “rhythm” part, focusing much more on just the boxing. It is far more deadpan than its counterparts (Audioshield and Soundboxing come to mind), with a stronger focus on delivering the workout first and the fun second.
Don’t get me wrong, however: each workout is balanced around different themes and intensity levels, and the soundtrack is absolutely killer, including performances from artists like The Seige and Valley of Wolves.
When working out your Arms in VR, it’s important to play games that require you to use surgical, repetitive motions that target the muscles in your Deltoids, Biceps, and Forearms. For Arm workouts in VR, you’ll also get a benefit out of wrist weights and a weighted vest that provides resistance to those aforementioned repetitive motions.
While the Chest exercises listed above can also work out your Arms, there are some games on my list that potentially do this even better.
Holopoint is the kind of intense archery game that surprises you at first. You’re just shooting targets with arrows, how difficult can it be? The answer is: very difficult, actually.
Not only do you need to reach behind your back and physically drag an arrow out of your quiver between shots, but enemies and targets also spawn all around you in all 360 degrees—often faster than you can shoot at them. Making matters worse, hitting an opponent or a target often reflects your shot back at you, forcing you to duck or roll away from the incoming projectile while readying your next shot.
From personal experience, my Arms were the most tired part of my body after a 30+ minute session in Holopoint, though it’s worth noting that VR Fitness Insider reviewer Kevin Brook believes that his Legs and Core got a better workout, but that his Arms definitely got a significant amount of use as well. Either way, Holopoint will target at least your Arms and then some.
Everybody and their mother knows Beat Saber, but do they know that Beat Saber is a great Arm workout? It’s actually one of the best ways to work out your entire body in VR, but it especially does wonders for your Arms as you approach tougher songs and challenges.
While many casual players rely on their Shoulders to control the movement of their laser swords (I.E. the titular ‘Beat Sabers’) at lower difficulties, as you approach Expert and Expert+ modes, the trick is to actually rely on your wrists and Forearms to make rapid, precise slices.
Once again, each of the above games can provide a Core workout if you exert yourself hard enough. But if you’re looking to really stretch out and rely on that Core muscle group to do most of the heavy lifting, the following VR workout games do a splendid job of putting this muscle group to the test, forcing you to focus in on your center of gravity and keep your balance while you play.
Superhot VR is another tried-and-true classic VR workout game. We love to play it for fun first and foremost; it’s still one of the best “first” games to show off in a wireless headset such as the Oculus Quest or HP Reverb, and it’s secretly just slow-motion yoga with weapons.
As you move in Superhot, time moves with you. However, as you slow down, time also slows down, allowing you to stop and hold positions while you choose your next move. In doing so, you accidentally stretch out your Core and exert your balance while dodging bullets, striking orange baddies, and tip-toeing your way through Superhot’s virtual world.
Much like in Superhot VR, OhShape forces you to hold specific positions in order to circumnavigate a virtual environment. However, this is a much different approach, as OhShape is a rhythm game and instead of pretending to be Neo from The Matrix, you’re trying to pantomime certain shapes before time runs out.
If you really enjoy dance games like Dance Central or Synth Riders (both listed below), you’re certain to enjoy OhShape, which also taps into the same type of gameplay.
If you’re already a longtime fan of Dance Central for the Kinect, then Dance Central VR is absolutely as much fun as it sounds like. Plopping you directly into a packed dance club, you’ll find yourself dancing with different instructors as you explore the venue.
Each song from Dance Central’s great soundtrack teaches you entirely different dance routines that you have to mimic in order to get the top score. Of course, dancing is great for your Core and the routines you’re taught in Dance Central VR are no different. This can be a fantastic albeit less intense way to balance out your Core progress in a broader workout routine.
Dance Central VR even comes with its own built-in fitness app.
Audio Trip + Synth Riders
Both games take a slightly different approach, but both ultimately force you to use your entire body, resulting in a complete aerobic workout. While the intensity varies from song to song, both games force you to keep your balance at all times, thereby giving your Core muscles at least a decent workout.
Last but not least, you’ll need to keep your Legs and Calves in good order. Otherwise, you lose your balance, both literally—in the sense that being so top-heavy makes you easy to push over—and figuratively, in the sense that you’re not as able to work out the rest of your body without strong Legs and Calves to back up your Core and upper body.
Luckily, yes, you can even give your Legs and Calves a decent workout from home inside of a VR headset. And, of course, ankle weights can help you add resistance here—especially where your Glutes, Hamstrings, and Calves are concerned.
VirZoom – VZFit
If you own a fitness bike at home, you may as well check out VirZoom’s VZFit app. As long as you own just about any Bluetooth sensor that attaches to your bike and connects to your headset, you can play entire games and explore virtual worlds from the official VZFit app while you cycle. Of course, cycling is a great workout for your Legs, so it gets a recommendation from us!
If you love to play open-world PC VR games such as Skyrim VR, or even just online multiplayer games like Pavlov and Rec Room, then you may want to check out Natural Locomotion. NaLo allows you to move around in many different VR games by pumping your arms, but it also detects motion when you run or walk in place.
Running and walking in place can be a great workout for your Legs, and it can also make playing a large-scale VR game much more manageable if you deal with motion sickness caused by artificial movement. Besides, there’s nothing quite like going for a jog in Tamriel.
Hot Squat 2
Hot Squat 2 is exactly what it sounds like: Squats. Lots and lots of squats. Squats on squats, in fact.
Luckily, Hot Squat 2 is a ton of fun to play! Each successive squat brings you closer to a high score as fireworks explode above you and fill up the horizon with lights and color. It may be just a little hard on your Legs, but who’s paying attention to that when there’s fun to be had?
But seriously though, you won’t find a more fun Leg day game than Pistol Whip. As a matter of fact, if you’ve ever wanted to be John Wick in the Tron universe, that’s precisely the type of wish-fulfillment that’s delivered here.
Pistol Whip is a rhythm game that’s very unlike other rhythm games. As you run through levels and shoot baddies to the beat of the music, you also need to dodge incoming bullets and even the geometry of the level itself. Much like in Superhot VR, you need to be careful and precise about which targets you shoot first, but you also need to position your body so as to stay out of harm’s way as things come at you in real-time—a bit like in OhShape, actually!
Fortunately (and unfortunately) for you, that means doing squats, lunges, and even the occasional barrel roll, action-hero style. It should come as no surprise that Pistol Whip is a staple of many a VR workout routine in 2020.
That was our guide on how to make sure your VR workout covers each important muscle group!
If there’s something you think we should have added in, please let us know in the comments section below. Stay tuned with VR Fitness Insider for more of the latest VR fitness content!