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Blog / 2013 / October / What To Look For In a Bootcamp
October 31, 2013

What To Look For In a Bootcamp


Bootcamp workouts have increased in popularity over recent years, moving from outdoor spaces such as parks to specialized indoor boutiques and even big box gyms. Boot camps generally are instructed in a group class setting with one or more instructors and are typically composed of:

  • Cardiovascular/plyometric movements (running, jumping, rowing, etc.)
  • Strength components (weights, body weight exercises, resistance bands, etc.)
  • Flexibility focus

Boot camp classes can range from large class sizes (20+) to small groups (6+); require long to short commitment periods; give full body workouts each time or specific muscle group or cardio focused days; be conducted outdoors or indoors; cater to specific groups ("Women-only," "Kids," "Sport-specific")...just to name a few of the many options!

What makes a good boot camp? There are 7 main components:

1) Safety
2) Trainer Qualifications
3) Class sizes
4) Programming
5) Tools
6) Amenities
7) Price


Does the establishment have safety protocols in place to ensure client risk is minimized? Examples include initial questionnaires asking medical history, and suggesting or requiring doctor approval if certain items are a red flag (i.e. blood pressure/cholesterol). Are there modifications that will be given if an individual comes in with pre-existing issues or past injuries, such as knee, shoulder, or back pain? Are the expectations and safety protocols discussed up front with the clients and followed through with?

Personal Trainer Qualifications

The trainers, or people leading the boot camps should also be examined. Are they appropriately experienced and ACSM certified? Trainers should at minimum be continuing their fitness education. Are the trainers passionate about fitness "practicing what they preach?" What is their style of teaching? Do they conduct their sessions "in your face" like a drill sergeant, or are they more subtle with their motivation? Different clients prefer different styles.

Class Size

If a class has 20+ people and only one instructor, chances are the correct form of each exercise for every individual won't be addressed. This is important because without the correct form in a squat, for example, an individual could actually be causing damage to their knees, back, or both, especially if asked to perform a squat with an additional load, such as a back or front squat. A good trainer-to-client ratio in a boot camp class allows the trainers to modify each exercise depending on the individuals fitness level...one size does not fit all!


Programming is an important factor-every workout should be planned in order to maximize results while keeping the safety of each client in mind. Without planning, similar exercises might be performed daily, leading to possible overuse injuries and loss of interest, while quality programing will allow an individual to workout daily, safely and achieve results.

Class Tools

What tools do trainers or boot camps offer to help a client achieve their goals? Do they offer options for measurements; to determine body fat percentages; benchmark testing; nutritional tools or information; wellness coaching, etc. The types of tools offered shows that the trainer understands that being fit or getting in shape is more than just a one-hour workout, it is a lifestyle that impacts our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.


Items like showers may be important if a client wants to clean up after their morning workout before going into work. Some facilities even offer perks such as juice bars, client lounges, parking (in NYC, this is an amenity), restrooms and pro shops. If amenities are an important component, then you'll definitely want to ask about what else is offered. This is where an indoor boot camp can certainly differ and shine when compared to its outdoor counterpart.


It's important to not sacrifice quality (the first 5 components) for price - inexpensive does not mean poor quality, while a more expensive option is not synonymous with high quality. Prices for boot camps can range from $5/class up to $50/class, paid daily or even on a contractual basis. Clients seeking results should first identify whether their individual checklist items are met before seeing if it meets the budget. Clients will and do change their budgets as their priorities change, sometimes right on the spot if they find the right place.

As boot camps increase in popularity and become more mainstream due to their challenging workouts, camaraderie, and positive results, there may be other components to consider in the future. It's exciting to see so many people jumping in and working out regularly and having so much fun doing it! Share your favorite aspects of boot camp, or what you look for, in the comments below.

Joshua Votaw is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM Certified Group Exercise Instructor, and Triathlete (Sprint to Full distance).

He has also written for NBC owned iVillage.com and currently owns Urban Jungle, working as the head trainer, inspiring his clients to achieve their fitness goals. When Joshua isn't training clients he is busy either spending time with his family, training himself for the next challenging event, hiking, camping, rock climbing or reading!

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