PunchLab is a smartphone App for punching-bag training: when the phone is mounted on a punching-bag, PunchLab can detect, measure and react to any strike. Without the need for any additional electronics.
The punching-bag is the primary training tool for million of combat sports and fitness athletes. Yet, while gyms evolve and become digital, the bag is still stuck in the past. PunchLab connects punching-bags remotely to create online-classes, group workouts, and exciting 1vs1 challenges.
We sat down with PunchLab’s CEO Valerio Raco to discuss the future of smart boxing.
Boxing has it something more than other sports you can do at home?
Well, to start IT IS a sport! In fact, there is a big difference between fitness activities you can do at home like calisthenics, jogging, or spinning and agonistic activities like boxing and other combat sports.
It is a multi-layered activity that combines techniques, tactics, and strategies into a dynamic, action-packed workout. You can chain together thousands of different combos and each of them has its own context and reason to be. This richness keeps both your body and mind engaged, and plays a major role in increasing long-term retention. Our workout plans lead you through a journey that will teach you about all aspects of boxing. When every exercise is different from the previous one, you look forward to the next workout as it was a new Netflix episode.
Punch Lab, how did this idea (and company) come about?
I am a major fan of combat sports, I practiced them since I was little. Everybody in my family did. You can imagine that self-defense was a critical skill at Christmas dinner.
Once I moved to a small university town and I didn’t have a good gym near me, or the time to attend regular classes, I bought and mounted a punching bag in my garage. But as it happens often while training alone, the motivation to workout dropped rather quickly. That’s when I thought I needed a way to track my workouts and keep me accountable and motivated. Interestingly enough I couldn’t find what I was looking for on google, and while I tried to refine my search, I started to imagine what I was really looking for. I remember thinking, “it would be enough to put the phone on the bag, maybe there is an app that already does that”. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was looking for something that wasn’t invented yet, so I decided to build my own.
One of your brand’s pay-offs is “A STRIKING COACH IN YOUR POCKET” could you explain it?
PunchLab is the only boxing tracker that you already own, and chances are it is in your pocket right now. In fact, differently from our competitors that developed proprietary hardware to track the punches thrown by the user, we use the smartphone motion-sensing technology to get the same data. It is enough to secure the phone on the bag with a strap we produce and ship worldwide for Punchlab to start tracking, measuring, and reacting to the strikes thrown. Our smartphones are the most advanced piece of technology available on the market right now, and they improve every year. And they are not just tracking strikes, but they also have a screen, microphone, speakers, and a camera pointed at you while you train. All these advantages come for our users without the need to purchase yet another Bluetooth device that doesn’t pair, runs out of battery, and gets lost after a month or so.
We saw there is an impressive list of workouts hints in the app, how’s different from its competitors?
Not having the burden of our hardware, we can focus on what matters most: the software, we are investing a lot on this and researching a new way to experience fitness content. We fully bet on interactivity and gamification. While our competitors still prefer to use a passive video stream to show their workouts, we are building fully gamified workouts that can exploit the richness of boxing and feel a bit like a videogame. Also, we do create all our content remotely together with coaches spread all around the world, thanks to a “workout studio” interface. This allows us to iterate continuously on our content, without having to book expensive recording studios every time we need to rerecord a workout.
You’re going to approach the Italian market, what fascinates you about it? We naively started selling to the US market. Thinking it was one of the easiest to permeate. We are now following the opposite path of many European startups, we are trying to expand to secondary markets, including the Italian and other EU countries. In fact, while there are very strong players in the US home-fitness market other countries see almost no competition. Since we don’t sell hardware, we can scale our logistics to different markets and regions much faster than our competitors. Additionally, the remote approach to content creation we developed helps us create content in different languages without having to open recording studios around the world.
The “Punchlab journey”, how did you experience it as a combat sports enthusiast?During my PunchLab journey, I had the chance to meet and interact with athletes and coaches I used to be a fan of. We even closed a partnership with my all-time favorite combat sports equipment brand, Hayabusa fight gear, and co-branded our strap. But the biggest satisfaction that Punchlab gave me has been helping thousands of amateur boxers to improve their workout routine, train better, more, and feel not alone anymore while hitting a bag in their basement. Knowing I did something concrete to improve the community I was part of throughout all my life, is a great feeling. I am always extremely excited every time I meet someone that knows about PunchLab or even uses the app to train.
Vittorio Grasso – SportMarketingNews.com