Boot camps exercise – is it right for you?

boot camps

a soldier or drill sergeant blowing a whistle over a dark backdrop

Boot camps: HIIT taken even higher

Exercise “boot camps” seem to be really popular these days.  Typically boot camps are 60 to 90 minutes of high intensity burpees, jumping jacks, sit-ups, box jumps, sprints, and push-ups.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for HIIT, but there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing it.

Heightened risk of injury

Often boot camps are done in a large class setting.  This alone can be a recipe for injuries.  For one, the instructor only has one set of eyes and cannot watch each person to be sure form is correct.  2nd, it is impossible for an instructor to make adjustments for each person’s past and current injuries/issues.  3rd, many people don’t have the core, shoulder, and back strength required to do the movements correctly.  Lastly, exercise in a group setting can push people over their limit.  I’d recommend is starting out with a private or small group setting, so the instructor can watch closely and tailor the workout to your individual needs.

Over-exercising

60-90 minutes of high-intensity exercise (and as far as I know, there are not a lot of rest periods in boot camps…) is not only completely unnecessary, but a person will just end up burning muscle for fuel instead of body fat, in turn lowering metabolism, actually making one fatter in the long-run!  Again, I’m definitely not saying never have a killer workout that’s 60+ minutes long.  Unfortunately, a lot of individuals who attend boot camps go too often, do additional cardio, don’t rest often enough, and most detrimental to a fat loss goal: they don’t eat nearly enough to support such extreme exercise.  In addition, high intensity cardio in excess causes intense sugar cravings.  It’s a good idea to begin HIIT once a week, for 10-15 minutes.  Work your way up to 45 minute max.

Bad form

Bad form happens because of one or all of the following factors:  Insufficient exercise instruction, insufficient exercise, muscle imbalances, tight muscles, poor coordination, and weak/underdeveloped muscles/joints. In fast-paced boot camps, the tendency is for the body to just push through movements, with little regard to form. For example, using the neck muscles and small muscles of the shoulders instead of the pectoralis to get through umpteen push-ups.  This is usually done unintentionally.  It is important to learn proper body mechanics and have decent stabilization and strength skills before engaging in HIIT.

Why do people do boot camps?

The main reason people suffer through long bouts of painful and exhausting exercise day after day is because they are trying to lose weight.  If you can relate to this, I have great news!  You can end your suffering today.  Start strength training with a purpose.  Slow down. (Waaaay down.)  Include some low intensity cardio, yoga, and flexibility training.  And don’t forget to eat!

How often should HIIT be done?

Training needs vary from person to person.  For someone with a fat loss goal, the main focus of an exercise program should be strength training to build muscle (no, this does not entail getting huge…) HIIT should be done 1-2 times per week for 20-30 minutes each workout.  For someone with a cardiovascular-based goal, 2-3 times per week for 30-45 minutes.  This is a general recommendation, as training requirements vary from person to person.

Track-Intervals

HIIT done right