There's a pretty good chance that you've heard of a boot camp workout. This exercise regime is extremely popular among all age groups. But what exactly does the workout consist of, and why are all these people doing jumping jacks in the park? Here's just about everything you'll need to know before diving into your first boot camp workout.

What Is a Boot Camp?

Building off the tough, calisthenic-centric style of training that's traditionally used in military boot camps, these routines are designed to provide a highly intense workout. That being said, the exact method can vary widely. In general, you can expect most boot camps to take place in a class setting and include a fair amount of movements like push-ups and pull-ups mixed in with sprints and other drills. Occasionally, pieces of equipment, such as weights and sandbags, are also worked into the routine.

The Benefits of Boot Camp

Boot camp workouts are pretty tough and usually fall under the umbrella of high-intensity interval training. Because of the fast, circuit-style combination of strength training and cardio, you can expect to burn a lot of calories in these classes. You'll also see improvements in both strength and endurance, which can be challenging to accomplish at the same time.

Boot camp classes also have the advantage of being fast-paced, varied, and as a result, exciting. It's likely that each class you attend will be a little different. Plus, because you'll be following an instructor, you won't have to worry about coming up with your own workout routine. Of course, if you're not into classes, you can also build your own boot camp routine at home—especially since these workouts typically use little to no equipment.

Picking a Class

Aside from the physical benefits, boot camp classes come complete with a motivating sense of camaraderie—and a touch of helpful competition thrown in, too. There are tons of different boot camp workouts out there, so how do you pick the one that's best for you? Before signing up, answer these questions:

  • Does this class match your current fitness level and abilities?
  • Is this class targeted toward your personal goals?
  • Does the workout include a balanced mix of strength and cardio?
  • Is the instructor qualified?
  • What do other clients have to say about the workout?
  • Will this class work with your schedule?

Some Things to Consider

As with any other workout, it's important to make sure that you are physical capable of keeping up with the boot camp class you plan on attending. It's not uncommon for boot camp workouts to include plenty of plyometric movements, such as bouncing and jumping. If you have any joint problems or are recovering from an injury, you should avoid this type of activity.

When determining how often you should participate in a boot camp workout, it's most important to listen to your body. You'll see the most improvement in your fitness and physique if you give your body enough time to rest and recover between workouts. However, you should also keep in mind that most adults need at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week. If your classes are an hour long, going once a week will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you're trying to lose weight or get in shape, consider attending a few classes a week.

Whether you work out regularly, or you're just getting started, boot camp classes are a fun way to break a sweat. Start with these tips, and look into the different types of boot camps in your area. If you're lucky, you might even be able to find a unique niche class, such as one that incorporates dog training into the workout.