By: Darrell W. Butler
ACE, NFPT, ISCA Certified Personal Trainer
Despite being around for decades, boot camp classes remain as one of the hottest trends in fitness – and with good reason! Military style workouts simultaneously provide intense cardio conditioning and dynamic strength training within a short period of time, allowing you to burn fat and build muscle quickly and efficiently.
Most gyms now offer this style of circuit training, but if you can’t make it there, all is not lost. Here is how you can create your own dynamic boot camp class within the comforts of your own home!
The first thing that you’ll need to do is to clear an open space, so if you’re using your living room for example, you may need to push that coffee table aside. You can also utilize your backyard, or any common area with enough room to move around without worrying about tripping over a lamp or a vase!
Next you’ll need either a stopwatch or a clock, ideally with a “seconds” display. If that’s not possible for some reason, you can always try and keep count in your head, however as you grow tired, it may be harder to avoid speeding up your counting so you may need to use the old “sandlot football” technique of adding the word “Mississippi” after every number (ex: 1-Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, etc.) to stay on pace.
I’d also recommend locating some upbeat music. Rock, pop, dance or Hip Hop tend to work the best, but choose anything that motivates you – so long as it has a tempo that will keep your heart rate at a heightened pace. This may not be the best time to break out the smooth jazz and love ballads, so if that’s your style, try and save that for your stretching routine after you’re done working out!
Next you’ll need to identify any fitness equipment that you might be able to incorporate into your routine. For example if you own an exercise ball, dumbbells or exercise bands they might be useful here. Or if you’re working out with friends, have them also bring over a few portable items to increase your options.
Of course if you don’t own any of these pieces of equipment, that’s okay as well, because there are hundreds of exercises that you can perform simply using your own body weight!
Now that you’ve determined your equipment options, try and think of exercises that you can perform using what you have available. Generally speaking, you’ll want to come up with exercises that will affect your cardiovascular/aerobic system, your legs, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps and your abdominals. The goal is to hit as many of these muscle groups as possible, so that by the end of your routine you would have worked your entire body.
If you’re stuck for ideas, refer to the instructional guides that came with any of the equipment that you might own. Fitness magazines, videos and websites (Darrell Butler Personal Training DBPTonline.com coming soon!) are also great resources.
Your final step is to determine how long you’d like your workout to last (30 minutes? 45? 60?) and group the exercises you’ve come up with into segments that will fill that amount of time. Don’t forget to work rest periods into your routine, as you’re likely to need a sip or water or a moment to recover after a particularly demanding exercise circuit.
I know, it sounds like a lot… but honestly it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Here is an example of a 30 minute boot camp workout that you can try at home, utilizing only your bodyweight and no equipment! Before you get started, grab a towel and some water – and it’s always recommended that you first consult with your physician to ensure that you’re healthy enough to workout before participating in any fitness activity. With that said, here we go!
Circuit A – Perform each movement for one minute before moving on to the next exercise.
1. Full Lay and Stand – Literally lay completely flat on your back. Okay, now stand up. You can literally get off of the ground however you can, anything goes, but if you tend to collapse to one side or use one particular hand to boost yourself off of the floor, make sure to try and use the opposite side when you attempt it again so that you develop your muscles evenly.
Once you’ve stood up to a fully upright position, lay back down and repeat for the entire minute. This sounds a lot easier than it actually is, but will be a great way to challenge your entire body with one simple movement!
2. Squats – If you’re unsure how to perform these, sit down on a chair and stand up again. Now repeat that continuously for a minute! To make these harder, jump into the air and land with soft knees before lowering yourself back down each time.
3. Alternating Lunges – Take a big step forward with your right leg. Hold that position as you bend your left knee towards the ground creating a 90 degree angle with your right knee. Hold this position for a second and then return to back to the starting upright position. Now repeat with your left leg. Continue to alternate legs for the entire minute.
4. Jumping Jacks – remember these from gym class?
Once you’ve completed circuit A, take a sip of water and rest for a minute if necessary, then repeat the entire circuit from the beginning.
Circuit B – Perform each movement for one minute before moving on to the next exercise.
1. Jog in Place – This movement is as simple as it sounds, but try to keep your pace up. You can also ramp up the intensity by bringing your knees up as high as you can.
2. Push-ups – If you’re a beginner you might want to use your knees for leverage, just make sure to lean forward so that you still have to support the majority of your body weight on your hands. If you need to take a break, hold yourself in the top position until you’re ready to push again so that you still have to support your bodyweight.
3. Plank Jacks – Holding yourself at the top position of a full push-up (not on your knees) and supporting your full body weight with your hands once again, jump your feet in and out as though you were doing jumping jacks. Warning, these are tough but do the best that you can!
4. Diamond Push-ups –Keeping your hands on the floor, connect your thumbs and index fingers to create a diamond shape and perform push-ups from that position. Once again, you may need to use your knees for leverage, especially since your arms may be pretty exhausted by this point. Just do the best that you can once again and expect to feel this a bit more in the back of your arms (triceps) more than the first set up push-ups that you performed.
Once you’ve completed circuit B, take a sip of water and rest for a minute if necessary, and then repeat circuit B from the beginning.
Circuit C – Perform each movement for one minute before moving on to the next exercise.
1. Crunches – I’m sure that most of you are familiar with this movement. I’d recommend folding your arms across your chest, but if you prefer to place your hands behind your neck, make sure that your fingers are simply resting there and not forcing pressure on the back of your head. Remember, it’s not a test to see how high you can lift your neck off of the ground; you should be aiming to tighten your abdominal muscles!
2. Leg Raises – Lie completely flat on your back with your legs straight. You can either stretch your hands out to the side of your body or for additional spinal support, you can make that same diamond shape that you created for the push-ups and sit on your hands (in this case, your tailbone should be in the center of the diamond). Now keeping your legs as straight as possible, raise them until your heels are pointing towards the ceiling, then without ever letting them touch the ground, lower them back towards the floor.
Typically you’d want to stop when your feet are 3-6 inches off of the floor, however if that places too much stress on your back, stop lowering your feet just before your back begins to arch. Everyone is built differently, so make sure to honor your own particular body here. Repeat this movement for the entire minute.
3. Bicycle Crunches – Place your hands behind your neck as though you were doing a regular crunch or sit-up. Draw your left knee in towards your right elbow. Now draw your right knee in towards your left elbow as you fully extend your left leg without allowing it to touch the ground. Keep alternating between your right and left legs as though you were riding a bike. Try to keep a nice slow and steady pace on these, since rushing the movement will make it less effective for developing those coveted abdominal muscles!
4. Center Plank – Beginners should perform a full plank, in which you’d essentially hold yourself at the top position of a push-up while keeping your abdomen tight. If you’re more advanced, support your bodyweight using only your toes and your forearms instead of your hands. Make sure that your arms form a 90 degree angle with your shoulders in-line with your elbows. Your back should be completely flat (a plank is a board right? Remember the phrase, “walk the plank”?…) so that if an object were placed on your back it would balance.
Many people tend to bring their rear into the air when performing this movement in order to transfer the pressure to their shoulders instead of their stomach, but try not to cheat yourself on these and be sure not to hold your breath! If you need to touch your knees down to give yourself a break, do so for a second, but go back into the movement as quickly as possible until the entire minute has passed.
Once you’ve completed circuit C, take a sip of water and rest for a minute if necessary, and then repeat circuit C one more time!
Congratulations! You’ve just worked your entire body in only 30 minutes! Of course the workout provided was merely a sampling of what you can construct using a little creativity, so feel free to substitute any of the exercises provided with some of your own.
Also, make sure to allow a few extra minutes to stretch after you’ve finished your workout to help ease muscle soreness. Follow up your workout with a quality meal to help replenish depleted nutrients.