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Updated February 4, 2021
Boot camp fitness classes are trending. There’s something about pushing oneself to the limits that appeal to many on a deep level, tapping into a desire to be all we can be. Before you write boot camp workouts off as just another fleeting fad, know this. They can be an extremely effective way to up your fitness game—fast.
What are boot camp workouts?
Boot camp workouts have been popping up in parks and gyms all over the country, engaging small groups to use their body own weight and to run and jump their way to better fitness—all under the supervision of a drill sergeant-esque personal trainer. The routines are inspired by the workouts that whip military recruits into muscle-clad soldiers. The exercises tend to be on the intense end of the spectrum, combining different exercise elements for a full and comprehensive fitness routine.
To many, a boot camp class might sound pretty brutal, begging the question of “why do it?” The short answer is that boot camp classes work. Health experts say they can effectively help participants get in shape fast (in conjunction with proper nutrition), and give them a challenge that kills the boring old workout routines and busts through fitness plateaus.
Why do boot camp workouts work?
Drill sergeant-esque trainer aside, how are these workouts really different than any other fitness routine? Is there real science behind the popular trend? And what benefits do they have over a typical class, solo gym session or any number of branded workout routines? We’re glad you asked.
- They’re relatively affordable
While other extreme branded workouts like Barry’s Bootcamp or Crossfit can tend to be costly, nondescript boot camp classes offered by trainers at local gyms, parks or other public spaces offer a more affordable (yet usually just as challenging) workout. Plus, you’re getting the expertise and benefits of having a personal trainer at a much lower cost.
- They get your body working efficiently
Getting your body working on all levels with intervals, weights and cardio will get you burning more calories. The HIIT aspect of the boot camps is a major bonus for people short on time. It allows maximum caloric burn in less time as compared to something like running or yoga. This enables people to lay the old “I don’t have time to workout” mantra to rest for good.
- They never get old
Boot camp workouts are all about keeping it fresh so that you and your muscles stay challenged day after day. Muscle memory can quickly bring you to a fitness plateau but mixing it up creates muscle confusion—which makes muscles work hard to achieve your goals.
- Groupthink motivates
As epitomized by army training, working out as a unit provides the motivation (and pressure) to keep up with everyone else. With the “pack mentality,” and energy of your fellow participants you’ll feel driven to work your hardest.
The science behind the trend
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, high-intensity training burns more calories than slower, endurance-based exercises. These short 10 second to 3 minute bursts challenge you to work at maximum capacity before enjoying a short rest period and repeating.
Though the term may sound a little outdated, calisthenics are a vital component of the boot camp workout. They rely on body weight to build strength and endurance and can include a variety of tried and true exercises like jumping jacks, squats, pushups, burpees, planks and dips. Calisthenics can be done virtually anywhere (and anytime) that you have a bit of space to move around. When done in a boot camp setting, the instructor will generally spot you to ensure you get the right form down to minimize injury and optimize the burn in the most efficient way.
- Weight training
Weight training is another key aspect of boot camp fitness. But that doesn’t always mean barbells, as trainers will often utilize machines, free weights and resistance bands as well. Strength training provides a number of benefits, including boosting metabolism and reducing the risk of bone fractures. Building muscles can also increase the number of calories burned both during workouts and when you’re at rest. It also helps increase your endurance so that you can do more and push harder as you progress in your fitness regimen.
Should you join a boot camp class?
While it’s hard not to love boot camps for the way they push us to the max, the group dynamic they offer, and, of course, the “affordability factor”, it’s recommended that participants be generally healthy adults already in good shape. Anyone pregnant or with any kind of health condition should consult with their doctor before signing up for a boot camp fitness class.
Ultimately, boot camps are effective because they engage you in a full-body workout that gets you in shape fast. And like the military, the discipline they teach can help you move forward in other areas of life too.