Hykso Boxing Sensors Review: Wearable Technology And Fitness Collide

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Introducing The Hykso Punch Tracking Sensors

Update: We have reviewed the final, shipping version of Hykso's Punch Trackers.  You can see the newer, shipping version here.

We promise, this is going to be a review of some upcoming wearable technology from Hykso, designed specifically for punch tracking, but before we dig into the product a bit of backstory is in order. There are reasons why this particular product is so interesting to us, and we want to lay some groundwork to help you all better understand where we're coming from...
hykso sensors
Hykso Punch Tracking Sensors
 
The fact that I’ve been working at HotHardware for close to two decades should be evidence enough to prove that I’m a technology enthusiast. Whether it’s a brand new processor, graphics card, slick mini-PC, or the myriad of other pieces of cool gear that we cover, I still get a little giddy every time something new hits the lab. There’s just something awesome about cracking open a box and holding a piece of cutting-edge hardware that I love. I can’t help it. I’m a geek and have been for as long as I can remember.

Evaluating tons of hardware year after year, and then sitting in front of a PC editing pics, crunching numbers, and writing about it for hours on end -- without moving much -- came with an unwanted side effect, though: I got huge. The midnight pizzas, Swanky red hots with chili and fries, Buffalo wings, and countless bags of chips probably contributed too, but my (mostly) sedentary job and poor diet ultimately resulted in my weight ballooning up to almost 340lbs.

I was never a small guy. I had size 13 feet in 8th grade and was over 6 feet tall and 230lbs by my sophomore year in high school. But it was still jarring to get on a scale and come to the realization that I was closer to 400lbs than I was to my prime (relatively speaking), high school-self. Making matters worse, I got on that scale and saw that big number in a doctor’s office because I was dealing with the repercussions of a nasty E.coli infection that had almost killed me twice before. And being so heavy made it difficult to treat properly.

marco and dave
Dave And Marco, June 2014

It was in that moment that I made the decision to get healthy. I needed to make a major lifestyle change, not only for me, but for my kids. I’ve got two little girls and plan on being their Daddy for as long as humanly possible.

Once I started feeling better, I cleaned out the fridge and pantry, tossed out all of the crap, and immediately began eating clean and counting calories. Of course, I turned to technology for a helping hand as well. I installed some apps onto my smartphone to track my weight and meals and to help set goals, and like millions of others I strapped a Fitbit onto my wrist to track my steps and make sure I was moving around enough. A couple of my friends were also trying to lose weight and get healthy at the time, so I leaned on them for guidance, motivation, and support too.

I made good progress, very quickly. By simply walking around my neighborhood in the mornings before work and eating a well-balanced diet, I quickly lost 30lbs. I wanted to step things up with some more vigorous workouts though, and fortuitously stumbled upon a place that would literally change my life – Title Boxing Club in Norwalk, CT.

title boxing

Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee

I have been a boxing fan for ages. It is the only sport I care about. Team sports have never been my thing. The only football game I watched last season was the Super Bowl, and even then it was only because I used it as an excuse to throw a party and make some chili. I think I watched the last couple of outs of the World Series. And didn’t intentionally watch more than a moment of hockey or basketball that I can remember. But I didn’t miss a fight. Watching a true master of the sweet science is a thing of beauty in my eyes. Roy Jones Jr. dominating James Toney, Oscar DeLaHoya and Sugar Shane duking it out, Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward going to battle – those are Super Bowls to me. I love many of today’s top fighters too – Canelo, Kovalev, Crawford, Pac, Chocolatito, Ward – I could name drop for hours, but I digress.

I hit its website and sent some questions into Title Boxing Club as soon as I could. One of the trainers there, Troy, responded to my inquiries and suggested that I come in for a free class. I took him up on the offer and confidently walked into the place a couple of days later ready to emulate some of my favorite fighters. “How hard could it be?” I thought. I found out soon enough when I gassed-out after a few minutes and had to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else complete the class. I was so heavy and out of shape that I just couldn’t make it through an entire class. Talk about a humbling experience.

sensors in boxing gloves
The Hykso Punch Tracking Sensors

I walked out of Title after that first class and told Troy I’d be back when I was in better shape. I’m sure he’d heard “I’ll be back” a thousand times before, but I was determined and promised to return. It was late August 2014 at the time.

It took a couple of months, but by mid-October I had dropped another 20lbs or so and had been feeling much better. Troy checked on me regularly, and I periodically asked him various health and fitness questions, which helped me stay on track. After a while, we both felt it was time for me to give boxing another shot. So, I went back to Title and did much better than I had on my first trip. So I tried again. And again. And eventually grew to crave the workouts and I made some awesome new friends in the process.

before and after
Before And After...

Quantifying My Success

While I was clearly feeling better and able to do more and more in the gym, I didn’t have any real data to quantify my successes (or failures), and that just wasn’t going to work for a geek like me. I eventually upgraded my Fitbit to a Microsoft Band, which has a built-in heart rate monitor and an elaborate companion app that offers up a ton of useful data regarding workouts. I could track calories burned, average, peak and ending heart rates (with a graph that covered the entire workout), the cardio benefits, and recommended recovery times. The app also estimated the number of calories burned from fats and carbs, which inspired me to experiment with my pre-workout meals.

As time went on, the data provided by my Band helped me improve my performance in a number of ways. By tweaking my meals to ensure I had enough fuel, I was able to push myself harder and harder. On the days I didn’t eat quite as well, for whatever reason, I could actually feel it in the gym. By periodically checking my heart rate in real-time, I also learned when I was pushing things a little too far and when to pace myself. Ultimately, the technology and data was helping me improve my performance and fitness level. It was also a strong motivator. Not only would I try to one-up myself form workout to workout, but on days when I slacked off, there was evidence of it in the numbers. You can’t lie to yourself and claim you had a good, hard workout when the data says otherwise.

Enter Hykso – Narrowing The Focus

The general data provided by fitness wearables like the Fitbit and Microsoft Band can clearly be helpful and motivating. But they couldn’t tell me anything specific about boxing. They couldn’t track the intensity of my punches, the types of punches I threw, or my actual punch output. As a result, I couldn’t set real goals or quantify how much I’d improved, or if I’d improved at all. I also couldn’t compare and contrast any boxing-specific data with my club-mates.

It turns out, I’m not the only person looking to track these things. Boxing workout are increasingly becoming more popular. And a company named Hykso – which was recently backed by Y-Combinator – has developed a set of wearable sensors that are targeted specifically for punch tracking and boxing. The Hykso Punch Tracking Sensors are designed for both professional boxers and fitness buffs that box as their preferred workout method. The sensors are still in the prototype phase, but we had a chance to experiment with them and are quite pleased with what we learned.

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