Boot Camp

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on August 18, 2022
4 min read

To make it in the military, you’ve got to be tough. Recruits go through grueling workouts to get their bodies into top shape, doing drill after drill of push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, pull-ups, and squats.

The boot camp workout takes the military workout out of basic training and into gyms and homes everywhere. This program strings together circuits of intense exercises, which you do for about 30 to 60 seconds each, pausing for only a few seconds between exercises. The idea is to build strength and endurance.

Boot camp programs may be so popular because they work every muscle group, you can do them anywhere, and they don't require any equipment.

Because the boot camp workout involves a rapid-fire sequence of moves, it's fast-paced and pretty intense.

Core: Yes. The cardio portion of the workout burns fat, while exercises like planks, mountain climbers, and sit-ups work the abs and other core muscles.

Arms: Yes. This workout includes many different arm exercises. Some, like bicep curls and tricep kickbacks, can be done with hand weights or weighted balls. Others, like push-ups and walking planks, use your body weight to strengthen muscles.

Legs: Yes. Many boot camp programs include squats, lunges, and other leg moves.

Glutes: Yes. This program includes several exercises for the glute muscles, including squats and lunges.

Back: Yes. Boot camp targets every major muscle group in the body, including those in your back.

Flexibility: Yes. Boot camp programs typically include stretching. Some also include exercises borrowed from yoga.

Aerobic: Yes. Boot camp involves a lot of high-impact exercises, like jumping jacks and mountain climbers. And because you move through the sequence very quickly, you breathe hard -- and sweat hard.

Strength: Yes. The exercises are designed to strengthen muscles all over the body.

Sport: No. This is a fitness program, not a sport.

Low-Impact: No. Many of the exercises involve running and jumping.

Cost. Unless you're doing boot camp at home on your own, you will have to pay for a DVD to follow along with, or invest in a class.

Good for beginners? Yes, if your instructor shows you how to do the moves and lets you set your own pace.

Outdoors. Yes. You can do boot camp anywhere there's space, including the park, a playground, or your own backyard.

At home. Yes. Boot camp moves are basic enough to do yourself, or along with a workout video.

Equipment required? No. The exercises mainly use your own body weight for resistance.Some boot camp programs may use hand weights, medicine balls, or other types of fitness equipment.

Boot camp is a great way to quick start weight loss and fitness, but there are some things that you need to know before you enlist:

It's intense. It will work all your major muscle groups, including your core, and give you a great cardio workout to boot.

It's not for you if you don’t like to sweat. Although you can do the exercises at your own pace, you will get the most out of it if you really push yourself.

Take steps to avoid injury. Warm up first and cool down after boot camp. Do the moves exactly like your instructor says. If you're not sure, ask.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

You'll definitely lose extra weight and boost your cardio fitness. Before you start, ask your doctor if it's OK for you to do.

If you have diabetes, you will be burning calories and bringing down your blood sugar. Ask your doctor if you need to adjust your diabetes treatment plan. You may need to modify high-impact moves if you have any nerve pain or nerve damage from diabetes.

Do you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol? An aerobic workout like boot camp will help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, but you should start slowly if you have these or other risk factors for heart disease or other medical problems.

If you already have heart disease, your doctor may recommend starting to exercise in a cardiac rehab program.

Boot camp is not for you if you have physical disabilities, arthritis, or knee or back pain. Many of the moves are hard on your joints. Look for a low-impact workout instead.

It's also not a good workout if you are pregnant, unless you were doing a boot camp program before your pregnancy. Even so, you will have to make major changes in your routine as your pregnancy progresses.

When you're pregnant, your joints don't need the high-impact pounding that they will take. Moves like lunges are not safe as your belly grows and your center of gravity shifts. You will also be likely to overheat, and that can cause problems for your baby. A fitness routine like water aerobics is a safer way to stay flexible and strong while you're expecting.