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Supernatural, the VR workout app, adds boxing for more variety

Supernatural, the VR workout app, adds boxing for more variety


The workouts are brief but brutal

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You will punch your way to a much higher heart rate.
You will punch your way to a much higher heart rate.

Supernatural, the Beat Saber-like VR app for the Oculus Quest and Quest 2 that gets you to work up a sweat by beating targets with virtual bats, has added another way to wreck a target: your fists. Boxing is the latest workout introduced on Supernatural and like the original bat-oriented “Flow” workout, it works up a sweat while being fun.

Supernatural Flow is sort of like Beat Saber crossed with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Each workout can last from seven minutes to an hour, and there’s an enthusiastic coach shouting encouragements in your ear and guiding you through the session as you dance, lunge, squat, and murder targets with your VR bats.

The problem with Supernatural, at least for me, is that you can plateau. The workout, like HIIT, is hard on the knees and it's easy to get stuck doing workouts that get the heart rate up but don’t actually build your cardio health or muscle. I started cycling and lifting weights to push myself more and give my knees a rest.

Crucially, neither of those things were happening in the Supernatural app. Since Supernatural launched in April 2020, it’s added two additional workouts — Guided Meditation and Recover (stretching) — but they felt less like a reason to strap on the headset and dive in than the original Flow workout. Boxing, which launches today, is the third new workout and the first intended to get the heart pumping like the original.

VR boxing to get buff isn’t new. Thrill of the Fight and Knockout League on Oculus Quest both have enthusiastic fans who use them for cardio. But like Beat Saber, those are games being used for working out. Boxing in Supernatural is very much a workout first. Black and white targets fly at your face and you’re meant to hit black targets with your left hand and white ones with your right. The targets look different depending on if you’re supposed to jab, uppercut, or toss a hook at them. Glowing bars twirl toward your face to force you to tilt left or right or do a full bob and weave to avoid them. The coach has you stretch for about thirty seconds to a minute both before and after the core workout. They also tell you when to change up your feet position to ensure you’re working out your left and right sides equally, and they tell you when to get ready to block a blow with both hands.

The workouts available before launch were limited to just 13 minutes max. After that first one, I told my co-workers it had given me a good sweat but hadn’t done much else due to how short the workout was. Then I woke up the next morning and my arms and shoulders called me an idiot. Heart rate-wise, the average beats per minute in the boxing workout were about 10bpm higher than in the regular Supernatural workout — and my knees didn’t get as angry with me. I could definitely see using this regularly as a warm-up before weight training.

But I don’t know if this would be a good supplement for people who regularly box to keep fit. When I did a slower-paced low-intensity workout, I had no problem keeping great boxing form, but faster-paced workouts absolutely wrecked it. I went from feeling like I knew how to throw a punch to flailing like I was in a fight with my brother when I was 10. I didn’t miss a lot of targets, but I’m also positive my punches would have landed on a heavy bag like the gentle flutter of a butterfly wing.

Thankfully, I have no interest in going to a boxing gym — heck, I don’t really want to go to a regular gym either. And Supernatural, despite its inability to stop bad boxing habits, gives me the feeling of a gym without all the smells and potential for COVID-19 exposure.

Boxing is available on Supernatural starting today. Supernatural is available for a free 7-day trial if you sign up to pay monthly, or a 14-day trial if you sign up to pay annually. After that, you’ll either need to pay $18.99 a month or $179 a year to get access to new workouts, which are available daily.

Correction November 15, 10:53 AM: This piece originally said the free trial lasts a month. It lasts 7 to 14 days depending on the type of subscription.