Testing FightCamp, a smart fitness system with smart gloves, a real punching bag, and seriously killer workouts

Punching something is probably a good way of blowing off steam, as long as it’s an inanimate object and you’re not hurting anyone. It’s also a surprisingly good workout.

In this episode of TechFirst with John Koetsier I try out FightCamp‘s smart boxing fitness program and chat with the founder, former US National Team member Tommy Duquette … now co-founder and head trainer of FightCamp.

And I punch a bag 350 times and get sore hands 🙂

Scroll down for the video, to subscribe to the TechFirst audio podcast, and to get the full transcript. Or, read the story on Forbes

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Watch the video: Fight Camp boxing for fitness

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Read the transcript: my interview with FightCamp co-founder Tommy Duquette

(This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

John Koetsier: Can a digital punching tracker get you fit?

According to fight camp founder and former US national boxing team member, Tommy Dukette, absolutely. And apparently having smart digital equipment that tracks our fitness keeps 85% of us actually working out.  

Let’s start right at the very beginning. What is FightCamp? 

Tommy Duquette: FightCamp is an interactive home boxing gym that you put in your home. As of right now, we say it’s the biggest boxing gym in the entire world. 

John Koetsier: Why is that? 

Tommy Duquette: I think, you know, just the community that we have just spans all across the United States. Thousands of people taking workouts every single day, all across the U.S. right now. 

John Koetsier: So talk to me about the components. It’s not just a bag. It’s not just some gloves. It’s a bunch of other things. It’s an entire experience. Tell me about all the pieces. 

Tommy Duquette: Yeah, yeah. We keep it interesting.

We like to say that boxing is this like 3,000 year old sport that hasn’t changed in thousands of years, right? I saw a picture of a punching bag from Ancient Greece recently, and you’d be surprised how much it looks like a punching bag that you’d see today, right?

And with FightCamp, we have these interactive punch trackers that we custom developed — I’m holding one of them right here — they go on your wrist and they track your hand’s motion in three-dimensional space, a thousand times per second. And what we can do with that data is identify punch type, speed, punch volume, and things like that. And then we wrap it up into our program in a really gamified way. It makes it really fun.

So you can imagine you’re taking one of our workouts and on-screen there’s a trainer leading you through a workout, and there’s also other people that have taken that workout. There’s a leaderboard and your punch count is visible and your output and everything else. 

John Koetsier: In my first workout, I had about 350 punches. I had no idea I had done that many. I also had sore hands ’cause I hadn’t punched before. But it’s kind of interesting, I thought the workout — so the workout, I was watching the video, I was following along with the video and doing the workout.

I thought it’d be pretty easy, ’cause I’m not an Olympic athlete or anything like that, but I work out quite often — seven, eight times a week, or so, that includes some cardio, that includes weights, it includes stretching and other things like that — but it kicked my butt. It was harder than I thought it would be. 

Tommy Duquette: Yeah, boxing is a very, very difficult workout. And just to reference how old the sport is, you think back, you know, this is like we said, this is a sport that existed in the first ever Olympics, right? And it’s performed by people who are literally at combat with another individual. And these training methods have been refined over thousands of years.

So, you know, there’s no margin for error in a combat sport, so that’s why these training methods are so effective. And, for me particularly, when I do my … particularly my burnout workouts, right? When I lead those, I burn anywhere between — I wear a heart rate strap just to check — I burn like 80-100 calories per round, per 3-minute round, when I do those workouts. Which is … it’s intense. 

John Koetsier: 80-100 per 3-minute round? Wow! When I’m doing my stair runs I’m burning about 10 calories a minute, which would give me 30. So you’re more than double that, sometimes triple that. Wow.

Tommy Duquette: It’s crazy. And I got the data. I’m going to send it to you so you can see— [crosstalk & laughter]. 

John Koetsier: Awesome. I want that, that’s cool. That’s very, that’s interesting. Now, there’s something that’s been going on, obviously, in the last year and a half, that most of us haven’t been going to gyms the way we were, right? We’re not going in because of COVID, quarantine, lockdown. We just don’t want to be in a gym, we don’t want to be in a place where other people are breathing super heavily, hard, sweating, working out, so we’re bringing our gyms to home, right?

But you were saying that virtual gyms or just a workout on a screen is not enough. Can you explain a little bit about that? 

Tommy Duquette: Yeah, absolutely. When you have actual equipment as well. I think a lot of it is, you know, people, they become bought-in once they have equipment, and then the workout is more effective as well. So a lot of those streaming workouts, and, look, I commend the gyms for really rising to the occasion. It was a tough time for gyms and, knock on wood, I really hope that we can get back to where we were pre-COVID with the actual physical gyms, right, and that they can get business back to normal.

But, you know, a lot of these streaming workouts that became prevalent, they were everywhere. For boxing, in particular I’ll speak, there were shadow boxing, right? Which is … it’s an okay workout, but it’s not the same as you know now from hitting that bag. It’s not the same as really digging into that bag and doing the workouts in that way.

So there’s that, and then there’s also the technology aspect, right, the tracking. We say that when you take benchmark data — so whether it be the leaderboard of other people who are done the workout, or we have different components now, like versus mode you can challenge somebody directly, so it’s like you’re fighting with them virtually. Or you can go against yourself, you know, your past, prior benchmark — when you take that, and you put it right in your face as you’re working out and you compare it with your real-time output, your real-time data, that pushes you in ways that wouldn’t be possible without that tracking technology. 

John Koetsier: That is really cool. I wonder if you’d ever enable that for like celebrity boxers or something like that. I remember interviewing “Money” Mayweather one time and we took the stance, you know, and I looked like an idiot, but that would be cool to kind of compare your output and punch type and speed and stuff like that.

Tommy Duquette: Yeah. We might be cooking something up in that realm right now, you know, to be — you’ll be the first to know, I’ll make sure, but it’s definitely something we’re interested in. Our product, these punch trackers, they were actually developed first for elite athletes, and we just sold them as a pair of punch trackers. And, you know, we had Olympic teams and professional fighters using them … and that’s our roots. So we built this technology for elite athletes and then sort of adapted it to the fitness market. 

John Koetsier: We’ll talk about those roots, because you’re not just some guy off the street. What’s your background?

Tommy Duquette: So, my background is I was on the U.S. national boxing team. I had 136 fights, national tournaments. I qualified as the number two seed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials, and I lost in a tiebreaker to the Olympian for that year: my friend Jamel Herring, who’s now a world champion. He’s about to fight Carl Frampton to defend his title. So, good luck to him. Hoping he gets it. Yeah.

John Koetsier: Wow. 136 fights. That is not a small number. 

Tommy Duquette: Yeah, it’s a lot. Yeah, for sure. 

John Koetsier: I’m going to go ahead and say that I’d rather have 136 virtual fights than actual … [laughter]

Tommy Duquette: Absolutely. Me too at this point. Yeah. I’m retired.

John Koetsier: Excellent. Thanks so much. Anything else you can tell us about the product, or maybe — here’s what I wanted to know yet. I forgot about this, almost. What are the results? What’s happening when people use the program? 

Tommy Duquette: So it’s interesting. So people come into FightCamp as you can imagine, they say, you know, ‘I want this because I want to like get in shape or burn fat or get lean,’ or something like that.

And then once we have them for a month, two months, three months, that language starts to change and people start to say things like, ‘I feel so much stronger and I want to feel even stronger.’ Or, ‘Wow, like I can throw a jab now and I want to get better at boxing.’ Or, ‘I want my numbers to go up. I want my output to go up.’

So that’s definitely one of the transformations we see as people start to become a little bit more in tune with boxing culture and it becomes part of their identity. And there’ve been some amazing success stories — I’d like to highlight actually two of them.

One of which, I won’t reveal this customer’s name, but she got FightCamp in the summer I believe, early summer/late spring of 2020, and then unfortunately came down and she got Covid. Right, and it was a tough battle for her. And she wrote this heartfelt thing on the community after she got through it where she said, ‘My doctor said if I didn’t adopt fitness at that point in time, I might not have made it.’ 

John Koetsier: Wow.

Tommy Duquette: Right. So definitely helping people adopt a healthier lifestyle has been something that we take a lot of pride in, myself and my co-founders. That’s one of those stories that I think is amazing.

Another one, the one that I personally love, is a young man named Brody from Atlanta, Georgia. He was 11 years old. His dad bought him the FightCamp so that they could work out together at home. Just something that they could do, challenge each other on the leaderboard, that kind of thing. And Brody just was a natural, right? And he’s dedicated — he’s a hard-working kid. So he went and every single day his dad said he wouldn’t know where the kid was and he’d go in the garage and see him doing FightCamp.

And he’s studying all the videos, doing all the workouts, and then the dad posted a video on social media of him hitting the bag, and myself and the other trainers and my co-founder, Khalil, we saw this — we were like, ‘Oh my god, like this kid is amazing.’ I told the dad, I said, ‘You know, I think if he sticks with this, like he could really do this.’

So then they go and they find a boxing gym, and about two months ago he had his first ever competitive amateur fight, and he won by first-round knockout. And this kid— 

John Koetsier: Wow!

Tommy Duquette: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s one of the things that’s unique to FightCamp too, right? Is that it’s actually teaching you a skill as you do the program.

John Koetsier: I never heard a story like that from a spinning class [laughter]. 

Tommy Duquette: Yeah. I don’t think you will. But, you know, great workout in and of itself, but yeah, just fundamentally different. 

John Koetsier: Very, very interesting. I was almost going to ask, I had in the back of my mind to ask: does this have real world applicability for self-defense and other things like that? And obviously there’s going to be some component of it that it does, because you’re practicing a motion that you may need to use at some point … but that’s clearly not the intent. It’s a workout, right? But it’s nice to know that there is some real world value to it as well, if you ever need that.

Tommy Duquette: If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that it doesn’t hurt to know how to throw a good punch, right? [laughter]. And you know, a lot of people say that, they say, ‘Is there any real-world applicability?’

And I’ll say, look, if you want to box competitively, you gotta find a gym, you gotta do some sparring, you know, have a certified coach watching over you as you spar and everything. But for me as a competitive fighter, I learned a lot through video as well. Probably 40% of everything that I would apply in the ring I’d be studying video, saying, ‘Man, that move looked cool, like I want to try that.’ And then I’d go and practice it until I mastered it.

So there’s a lot you can do with video. And just look at the education space right now, right, and how everything’s shifting online the way that it has. I think it’s totally viable to be able to learn skills through video in that way. 

John Koetsier: Very, very interesting. Well, thank you so much for taking a little bit of time, Tommy. I do appreciate it. 

Tommy Duquette: Yeah. Thank you so much. Are you going to keep working out with us?

John Koetsier: I am. 

Tommy Duquette: I’ve got a new six-rounder for you, it was uploaded this week. Six-round burnout workout — that has your name on it. 

John Koetsier: Ohh, we’ll see. Six is a lot … we’ll see [laughter]. Thanks so much.

Tommy Duquette: Yeah, thank you, John.

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