Just as one might expect from a fitness regimen that derives its name from military training grounds, bootcamp workouts are a challenge. In fact, it’s fair to say that these calisthenic-centric workouts will burn your glutes—though, to their credit, they’ll shape them, too. Despite bootcamp workouts’ no-joke reputation, fitness bootcamps’ popularity has boomed in recent years. In the past decade, bootcamp classes have evolved from a passing fad into an all-out, boutique-fitness phenomenon, with studios specializing in bootcamp workouts popping up across major cities and suburbs alike.
But what, exactly, are bootcamp workouts? Are they workouts you can actually stick with? Is it possible for a bootcamp newbie to become a bootcamp champ? To answer these burning questions, we’re deep-diving into the mother-of-all, full-body workouts: bootcamps. Read on to get the sizzle on bootcamp workouts and discover everything you need to know before you get sweating.
Bootcamp workouts 101
Old school calisthenics—those building-block exercises that you likely executed back in gym class—such as sit-ups and jumping jacks—form the core of bootcamp workouts. Similar to how calisthenics are performed in militaries, bootcamp workouts are generally carried out in a group. They’re also led by a personal trainer who dishes out drills and varying degrees of motivation and emotional encouragement along the way. To ensure that bootcamps deliver a total-body burn, most include exercises beyond basic calisthenics, as well. Common additions include weight lifting, sprints, treadmill training, and resistance band toning.
Bootcamp workouts are generally an hour long (although they can be shorter). Traditionally, they follow a progression that’s similar to a HIIT workout. This means periods of intense exercises intercut with periods of light activity or rest. However, HIIT workouts can be self-guided or led by a personal trainer or coach, while bootcamp classes are almost invariably led by a personal trainer or coach.
While on the topic of class coaches, don’t let the thought of a tough-love-dishing trainer get the best of you. Bootcamp workout intensities will vary from trainer to trainer. While some trainers are definitely aboard the pain-is-the-name-of-the-game train, others are far more motivational with their mantras. Bootcamp classes are by no means one-size-fits-all. One bootcamp class might stress speed-building outdoors, while another might take place in a studio filled with treadmills and backed by a soundtrack of eardrum-pummeling beats. When you’re looking for the right one for you, keep your list of desires handy and invest in finding a class (and coaching style) that suits your unique needs.
What are the benefits of a bootcamp workout?
Laboring through those lunges, crunches, and sprints has a big payoff. Bootcamp workouts definitely don’t skimp on the health benefits. Most notably, bootcamps’ mix of high-intensity cardio and strength training is a tonic for increasing lean body mass. High-intensity aerobic bootcamp exercises also burn more calories in less time when compared with moderate aerobic activities.
They work every muscle group.
Another benefit is that bootcamps tend to use every muscle group in your body. Some bootcamp class enthusiasts even go so far as to denote certain days of the week for isolating specific parts of the body. For instance, you can allot Mondays to abs and arms and Wednesdays to lower-body workouts.
They’re easy to diversify.
Since bootcamps include a series of different exercises stacked back-to-back, bootcamp classes are easy to mix up day to day. Many bootcamp studios pride themselves on bootcamps that put fresh sequences into play every day. Have you ever joined a bootcamp series only to find it’s overly reliant on gym class basics like jumping jacks, class after class? Download the iFit app to access a variety of bootcamp workouts that can help break up the monotony. You’ll have a trove of different workouts hosted by various fitness personalities at your fingertips. Getting rid of workout boredom will be easier than ever!
They require little equipment.
Another perk of bootcamp workouts is that they require little equipment. Personal trainers who lead bootcamp classes know that bodyweight can be wielded as the ultimate tool. Following their lead, it’s possible to get an efficient, total-body workout without ever picking up a dumbbell or resistance band. Of course, if tools move your motivational needle, they can easily be integrated. Resistance bands and dumbbells are ideal for strength training and toning. They can also upgrade your home gym at a relatively low cost.
They fulfill suggested CDC exercise guidelines.
Another perk is that a well-structured bootcamp workout can help you knock out the exercise guidelines suggested by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine). Both recommend 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity or 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (or an equivalent combination) each week. Also recommended is strength training for all of your major muscle groups, performed at least two times a week. Hit two bootcamp classes a week, and you’ve knocked those goals out of the park.
Finally, bootcamp classes bring motivation. The fact that they’re led by a personal trainer and performed in a group atmosphere can foster a desire to perform your best. Some may be turned off by bootcamp workouts’ competitive aspect, but for those with an organized sports background—or those who simply thrive on a little friendly competition—bootcamp workouts can provide the invigorating push to go a little harder for longer.
Who will benefit the most from bootcamp exercises?
Even the most dedicated bootcampers often have a head-in-hands, first-class moment to share. Be it a final-stretch sprint that turned into more of a limp or a bout of couldn’t-get-out-of-bed soreness the next day, bootcamps definitely have a learning curve. Most personal trainers advise that first-time bootcampers start with a strong fitness foundation already in place. Clocking in at almost an hour long, it may be wisest to avoid bootcamps if it’s your first foray into exercise after an extended break from fitness.
Of course, there’s no reason to feel hesitant if you are starting at ground zero. Simply schedule a bootcamp class a few weeks into your fitness journey. This will allow time for your muscles to get back into the swing of things and build some endurance. Brushing up on a few common bootcamp exercises like burpees and lunges can also help prepare your body to do them in quick succession when class time arrives. Remember: If you aren’t acclimated to bootcamp workouts’ high intensity and fast pace, you’re at a greater risk for injury.
Beyond fitness aptitude, bootcamp classes tend to work best for those who thrive off of group energy. If you derive motivation through feelings of competition and camaraderie, bootcamps might just be your ideal workout atmosphere.
How do you get the best results out of bootcamp classes?
Knowing what to expect when you’re going into a bootcamp class can make all the difference. Unlike low-impact practices such as yoga, bootcamp workouts require a bit more discipline for you to make the most of them.
Since bootcamp classes tend to hone in on strength just as much as cardio, maintaining proper form is imperative. Take a moment to recenter if you feel yourself becoming so exhausted that your technique starts to falter. Often, bootcamp workouts focus on quantity over quality. Realistically, it can be difficult to execute some exercises, like burpees, 20 times in quick succession with proper form. When your form fails, your risk of injury increases. It’s important to remember that you know your body’s limits better than any trainer. Even if a trainer is encouraging you to power through one more rep, don’t jeopardize your own well-being. Taper off if you feel yourself tipping over your body’s max threshold.
How do you ensure that you’re getting a decent workout without the risk of injury? Modifications. Whether you have a preexisting injury or your endurance isn’t quite up to it, exercise modifications can ensure you get the most out of bootcamp classes in spite of potential limitations. Modifications can include altering full push-ups to half push-ups (on your knees) or changing full sit-ups to fingertip-to-knee sit-ups.
Get a bootcamp workout anytime with iFit!
Given that most people like to squeeze in a bootcamp pre- or post-work, most classes take place in the morning or evening. As work schedules become more flexible, however (and social distancing-friendly becomes the new norm), the demand for on-demand bootcamp workouts that can be completed at home is growing in leaps and bounds. Swooping in to accommodate the need is a fleet of bootcamp apps. With these apps, you can stream bootcamp series whenever you’re in the mood.
iFit offers a roster of dynamic bootcamp workouts, including our ever-popular French Polynesia Bootcamp Series. Looking for a bootcamp workout you can commit to memory? One of our personal trainers has teed up a bodyweight-centric bootcamp sequence. With iFit, you don’t need an in-person class to tackle a bootcamp workout like a champ!
Join iFit to start a bootcamp class today!