Boot-Camp Workout

Boot-camp-style workouts can help you build strength, burn fat, and connect with a community. Here are some expert tips for getting fit — and avoiding injury.

Gym members doing partner workouts

With an emphasis on multijoint movements and interval training, boot-camp-style classes are mainstays at health clubs and boutique gyms. The high-intensity strength-and-conditioning sessions combine challenging body-weight and weighted moves to create circuits that leave you breathless and sweaty.

What Is a Boot-Camp Workout?

Though the name harks back to the militaristic inspiration that originally spawned this type of group training, today’s classes run the gamut. You can still find a drill-sergeant trainer to motivate you through pushups and sprints, but the template has expanded to include Olympic weightlifting, kickboxing, and even activities that are traditionally more low-key, like yoga and barre.

What unites these disparate formats is the fundamental aspect of the boot-camp experience: circuit training that builds strength, conditioning, and mobility while also building camaraderie with your classmates.

“The sense of community is huge,” says Lindsay Ogden, a group training experience specialist and nutrition coach at Life Time. “Participants get not only accountability from their coach or instructor, but also from their peers.” Ogden helped overhaul the club’s GTX program, which includes boot-camp-style high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, classes.

“I’ve seen people achieve things in boot-camp classes that they didn’t think were possible,” she says.

Boot-camp experiences vary widely based on the participant’s mindset, class size, and instructor, among other factors. To reap the benefits, it’s important to recognize your tendencies and respect your body’s limits before jumping into an intense group workout.

“The pros and cons are the same — it’s the group dynamic,” says John Hayley, CSCS, a Level 2 Spartan SGX coach and owner of John Hayley’s Unbreakable Fitness in Forest Park, Ill. “The energy in the room helps you push yourself to a level where you wouldn’t otherwise go. But if you’re looking around the room too much and comparing yourself to what everyone else is doing, you can end up doing a movement that doesn’t fit your body.”

Our experts share their tips for avoiding injury, listening to your body, and getting the most out of boot camp.

is a personal trainer in River Forest, III.

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