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Boot Camp 101: What You Need to Know About Boot Camp Workouts

Killer workouts for maximum results


Updated June 10, 2014

Boot Camp Workout
Mike Powell Collection/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Some years ago, I remember walking through a park in California and seeing a group of people doing what looking like some type of Medieval torture, if the tears, sweat and heaving were any indication. After some study, I realized I was witnessing the latest trend in exercise:  Boot camp workouts.  Real boot camp workouts.  As in a man wearing camouflage screaming unintelligible commands at the top of his lungs.

These days, boot camp workouts have evolved into something a bit more user friendly and we've realized we don't have to train like a soldier, or get yelled at like one, to lose weight and get in shape.  Find out what makes boot camp workouts so effective and how you can make your own.

Boot Camp Basics

Boot camp workouts come to us, of course, from the military and the very intense training soldiers have to go through to prepare for the difficult task of defending our country.  Boot camp training traditionally involves all the classic exercises we may remember from gym class:  Pushups, pullups, crunches, burpees and other intense, body weight exercises designed to build endurance and strength.

Boot camp workouts are much like other circuit training workouts in that you move quickly from one exercise to another, keeping your heart rate elevated and scorching tons of calories.  What makes boot camp a little different is that it's typically done in a group setting, since it's easier to experience torture when you're doing it with others.

The Pros and Cons

Boot camp workouts have a number of benefits, including:

  • They burn more calories than the average workout.
  • They're more efficient - you work your whole body in a short period of time.
  • They're fun - There are a variety of exercises and a competitive atmosphere that makes you forget you're working out
  • As challenging or as easy as you want them to be.  You can always modify exercises to make the workout fit your fitness level.

On the other hand, boot camp workouts aren't for everyone.  Some of the drawbacks:

  • They're advanced and intense, which may not work for every exerciser
  • Can put you at risk for injury - If you're not used to working at that level of fitness, it's easy to get sore or injured if you don't ease into it
  • Classes can be expensive, depending on where you live and how many sessions you have to commit to

Get Started with Boot Camp

If you do decide boot camp is for you, make sure you do your homework before signing on the dotted line.  You want to make sure the classes are safe, the instructors are certified and that you're getting the kind of instruction you need to do the exercises safely and correctly.  If they're making you flip tires on your first day, that may be a sign that this isn't the class for you.

And don't think you have to join a class or pay money.  You can easily set up your own boot camp workout by putting together your own exercises. 

  • Choose a variety of body weight exercises 
  • Alternate exercises so that you're resting one muscle while working another.  For example, a set of squats for the lower body followed by a set of pushups for the upper body
  • Order the exercises so that the intensity is manageable.  For example, a minute of burpees is intense, so you wouldn't want to follow that with another very intense exercise if your body isn't ready for it
  • Focus on time rather than reps - It's often easier and simpler to do each exercise for an interval of time rather than counting reps, say for 30-60 seconds
  • Insert rest periods every few exercises to avoid overdoing it


For more, check out this Boot Camp Workout to see what it's all about.

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