The Fitness Boot Camp – Doing More Harm Than Good?
As a fitness professional, I have a lot of trainers, coaches and good old bros on my Instagram follow list.
In the process of going to the bathroom utilizing my Squatty Potty® (watch here), I have been known to browse my news feed. After perusing the pictures of bikini girls puckering their butts toward the camera to make it look 10x larger than it actually is (appealing to their 13-year-old male fan base), I see videos of these fitness boot camps.
People of all ages, genders, athletic abilities, and physical limitations being beaten to a proverbial pump by a fitness boot camp instructor – screaming at them and “motivating” them to push harder, go further, don’t stop until you puke, then go some more.
They give it their all. Sweat, tears, and sometimes even blood from that up-down they didn’t quite execute well.
They finish spent, broken, but full of pride for completing it. This is a good thing, right? The answer is, “yes and no.”
In this article we will start off with why fitness boot camps are awesome. Then I will dive into why they are terrible, and finally summarize with how to find the perfect fitness boot camp for you.
This article might anger a lot of bro-trainers and greedy bastards trying to find a way to charge 10 people for an hour of their time. Time that is usually only paid to one person, despite this individual lacking the qualifications to even train a gerbil.
Ticking people off has never stopped me from speaking the truth, or at least the truth as I see it. Be prepared to be whipped into mental shape, and to come out of this article with more knowledge than ever before on the topic.
Fitness Boot Camps – The Good
Fitness boot camps are physical activity. They get a person off of their butt, get them out on a field or in a fitness room, and they make them work. The main culprit in obesity is caloric balance, and by exercising, they are burning calories to get them into that deficit, so BOOM, love it!
People can enjoy getting the crap kicked out of them at a fitness fitness bootcamp since they are alongside friends and even family. It becomes social, it becomes competitive, it becomes fun. The social aspect of fitness bootcamps is an awesome thing.
Doing cardio is healthy. It improves cholesterol and lipid profiles, heart rate and even mood. The heart and health benefits of fitness bootcamps can be tremendous.
Fitness boot camps are both mentally and physically challenging. If you go 120 in the gym, imagine how that can translate to work, life and everything! Challenging your body in the camp makes challenging your mind in the world much more achievable.
How Fitness Boot Camps are Terrible
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Fitness boot camps do have their drawbacks. And I am not speaking about all fitness boot camps, there are some good ones like the group sessions coached by William Zardetto, a fellow EXOS Trainer, at Paradigm Performance in Elgin, IL.
I am speaking of MOST, yes MOST that I have seen. I’d say well over 90% of them. They are bad, detrimental, and downright dangerous and can lead to more harm than good.
For this example, I will use the hand on pavement analogy…
What would happen if you rubbed your hand on pavement for two straight minutes, hard? Skin would rip off, blood would be all over, and you would probably expose some bone.
Now what if we rubbed our hand on pavement for 10 seconds once a day for 12 straight days, equaling the two minutes?
You’d have a dirty hand.
This is the body in a nutshell. We went in, did the work, maybe built some callouses and then recovered. Fitness boot camps are akin to taking a non-conditioned, soft-as-a-baby’s-butt hand and rubbing it on pavement for two minutes.
You beat it up, and it will need so much time to recover that the benefits might not even be reaped. As trainers we aim to get the minimal effective dose, or the MED. What is this?
Imagine you want to get tanned. You go out for three hours in the Florida sun. what happened? Blisters, scaling, you cannot move and your vacation is ruined. But we know that in 10-20 minutes, it stimulates melanin production.
So what if we went out for 10-20 minutes 1-2 times a day for a week? Bronze god. This illustrates that the MED is much more effective that the “beat it up” approach in metaphorical style.
The Fitness Bootcamp Folly
You get out there, they might do some lackluster stretching and due to the large group, form cannot be corrected. This will exaggerate existing injuries, imbalances, compensation issues and also might lead to new injuries.
Then there is the lackluster warm up, then you beat everyone up the same regardless of their athletic development. So what do we NEED in a fitness boot camp compared to what they normally lack?
The most complete video on pillar prep and movement prep.
Pillar Prep aka Muscle and Movement Foreplay
Let’s assume you have a night with your dream girl, or for me, let’s go with Carrie Underwood. So there I am with Carrie, in a bedroom, my wife gave me a hall pass, and all is great. I walk up to her and then…
Do I just go balls deep?
NO! I have to get Carrie ready for the best 26.4 seconds of her life. That’s right, top to bottom foreplay. But for pillar prep, we will go bottom to top. Some moves that will facilitate this are in order:
- Lacrosse ball on foot
- Recoveroller on ankles
- Roller stick on calves
- Roller stick on hamstrings
- Roller stick on quads
- Recoveroller on IT bands
- Recoveroller on lower back
- Lacrosse ball on hip
- Upper body can have Recoveroller on lats and delt/pec insertion
That’s a sampling of what we can do. Then we have movement prep, or as Carrie would experience, 3rd base. Movement cunnilingus is what it shall be known as:
- World’s greatest stretch
- Linear and lateral band work
Then mental prep for the movements.
NOW we get down and dirty into the drills. But even then, it is progression. And that is the problem with boot camps, it’s just a standard People’s Elbow smack down from the Rock, there is no progression, just a beating.
Proper progression would take many, not just one fitness boot camps, or as it should be called, Group Training Sessions. And the transient nature of these camps make this difficult, but later on I will tell you how this can and will work.
But I Love This Stuff! What Do I Look for in a Fitness Bootcamp?
Proper progression of activity and energy systems developments
People go at their pace and there is a beginner and advanced option. For example, in hurdle drills as you will see my daughter do on my Snapchat (follow me @marclobliner), I use hurdles for intermediate to advanced and high-skill movements, like one-leg lateral hops. For beginners, I use no hurdles, just cones, and avoid high-skill moves until we progress to that or after my camp would theoretically leave their town, they progress to that on their own.
And Energy Systems Development (ESD) is done at the end of the session and can utilizes Tabata among other ESD’s. Click here to read more.
FORM Over Speed
I don’t care how fast you run if your gait is a mess and if it increases your risk of injury. A proper fitness bootcamp will review running form drills prior to pulverizing you into a pulp.
Such drills, like wall drills (practicing 45 degree running acceleration form against a wall or immovable object), can help a lot. But how many coaches and trainers even know what the heck that is?
Variety of Movements
Working plyometrics, medicine ball, linear, lateral and strength… That is how a PROPER boot camp should be setup.
Look, if you love fitness boot camps, and they motivate you, get you active, you don’t feel like death the next day, and you’re seeing visual and mental results, do not let me persuade you to stop doing them.
The best fitness program is the one that you enjoy and will adhere to.
But if looking to find an optimal program, your trainer is a jerk, your body hurts or you haven’t done a fitness boot camp yet, this article should help you beyond anything you can read online about fitness boot camps.
As for what to look for, I will recommend EXOS trainers since that’s my bias, But as long as the trainer, even without a certification (and no, a weekend personal training certification doesn’t mean anything here), adheres to most of these principals, including the foreplay and cunnilingus, then you are all good.
This is one of many movement-based articles coming to TigerFitness.com, so I hope you enjoyed this. Please comment down below on what you’d like to see next. Because not getting injured from a fitness boot camp yet still making gains, that’s not a game!