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Boot Camp Workout 101

Group exercise classes tend to go in and out of style. From jazzercise to barre, trendy workout classes often pop up in the fitness industry. However, there’s one fitness class that seems to have withstood the test of time—boot camps.

Why? Boot camps are inspired by military training, so they use basic bodyweight exercises and interval training to get an effective and efficient workout. Of course, over time, many fitness gurus have adapted the boot camp style to cater to their clients’ goals. However, the overall experience remains the same, and people still swear by these workouts.

So why do boot camp workouts work, and why do people love them so much? Let’s dive into the science behind this timeless group fitness phenomenon.

What is a boot camp workout?

Boot camps stand out from other group fitness classes in a few ways. A typical boot camp workout uses interval training that combines bodyweight and strength training with aerobic elements. Participants get the calorie-burning benefits of high-intensity cardio, combined with strength training elements to sculpt muscle and build strength.

There are a variety of ways to structure a boot camp class, so the type of class you take will vary depending on the instructor.

“I focus on functional strength,” says Stephanie Fowler, owner of Edmond’s (em)POWERHOUSE Gym. “I structure my classes around four big moves: hip hinge, knee dominant, push and pull. I always include some kind of deadlift. I like to focus on strength training, with a high-intensity burst at the end.”

One key element of many boot camp classes is circuit training. Instructors can use a variety of circuits to keep the class upbeat and interesting. This leaves room for creativity and variety.

“Bootcamp classes are so much fun because there is endless variety,” YMCA Healthy Living Center fitness instructor and personal trainer Jessica Allen says. “In a 45-minute class with me, you’ll do a five-minute warm up, a circuit of 10 exercises twice and then core work. You really could use anything in class, but I like to focus on strength and conditioning so a kettlebell is great.”

Unlike most cardio-centered group fitness classes, boot camps incorporate challenge calisthenics, or bodyweight training, moves to both burn fat and tone muscle.

“We use the term ‘cardio integrated circuit training,’” says FitCamp 180 trainer Kiefer Rose. “The class is about 45 minutes. We use a lot of weight training and resistance training and do it at as a high pace, so you still get cardio benefits. It burns fat and builds muscle.”

Benefits of boot camp

In a recent study, researchers found that the average healthy person burns approximately 9.8 calories per minute during a typical boot camp workout—nearly 600 calories per hour.

“The major benefit that a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) boot camp has is the ability to burn more calories after exercise due to what is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC for short,” YMCA Healthy Living Center fitness instructor and personal trainer Deontae Mack says. “The body is using more energy after finishing a HIIT boot camp to restore itself to homeostasis, which leads to the burning of more calories post-exercise.”

In addition to burning calories and shedding fat, boot camps offer a variety of strength training exercises that help tone muscles and build strength. However, the physical benefits of boot camps are just the beginning.


Because boot camp classes pack high-intensity interval training and challenging strength moves, you can get the biggest bang for your buck in a short amount of time. “There are several benefits to a boot camp class, but the biggest has got to be time,” Allen says. “These classes can give you the best of both cardio and strength training in a very limited amount of time.”


Boot camps provide a unique environment that is both fun and motivating, powered by a quick pace, a variety of moves and group atmosphere.

“Because the variety in boot camp classes is only limited by the instructor’s imagination, you never know what you’re going to be doing, which will keep you from getting bored with your workout,” Allen says.

“The appeal of a boot camp is it’s a lot of fun,” Rose says. “It’s more fun to work out with people than on your own. At boot camps, you have experience, accountability and trainers there. They can show you how to do things right and demonstrate; you get a trainer included without paying.”


One of the best parts of a book camp class is the sense of community many people fill. Working out with a group of people is more fun than working out alone, and creates a sense of friendly competition that can push you to work harder.

“Studies show that group settings have higher success rates because of the healthy competition and support system it creates,” Oliveira says. “Boot camps are also safer than working out solo because of the instructor's 'hands-on' attention.”

Some instructors even encourage their classes to work like a team. “We all high five at the end of every workout,” Fowler says about her boot camp classes. “With a boot camp, we’re a team and we’re stronger together.”


Having a group of people who are counting on you showing up to class can help motivate you to be there each week. Many boot camp classes offer membership packages and small group settings, so you can bond with the people in your class. This helps build relationships and allows you to hold each other accountable.

“Boot camps have a built-in accountability factor along with an encouraging setting,” Oliveira says. “It’s much easier to make excuses or skip your workout when it’s just you. People want support, structure and motivation from others–boot camps provide that!”

Tips for boot camp beginners

For people who have never tried a boot camp, the intensity and fast pace of these classes can be intimidating. However, our boot camp experts urge people to branch out and try a boot camp class, with safety and precaution in mind.

“When people walk into the gym, they should know that you shouldn’t have to do every move. Your coach should offer modifications,” Fowler says. “The ideal class size is 12 to 15 people, for good coach-to-client interaction. Larger class sizes can be dangerous for beginners.”

If your instructor is pushing you to do moves that are uncomfortable, without offering any modifications, you might be in the wrong class. Look for an instructor who is willing to meet you at your skill level, and offer guidance along the way.

The great thing about boot camps is that the commitment is small. You can try a few different classes to make sure you’re with the right instructor and group of people for you.

“I want to encourage people who have never tried a boot camp or group training to branch out and give it a chance,” Oliveira says. “The exposure to something new is very refreshing, and the commitment (in my classes) is short—30 to 45 minutes for six weeks or month-to-month depending on the arrangement.”

“Try a boot camp! The benefit is you don’t have to do it all on your own,” Rose says. “At FitCamp 180, you get a whole group of people who want to see you succeed and it’s a journey. Once you start, you’ll be amazed at all the things that change. Take that step, it’s very possible!”

Boot camps in Oklahoma City

If you’re interested in trying out a boot camp, check out these great classes offered right here in Oklahoma City.

Stephanie Fowler, Owner of (em)POWERHOUSE Gym

boot camp workout

Boot Camp to Brunch | Sundays, 9–9:30 a.m. followed by brunch at 10 a.m.

“Boot Camp to Brunch is a 20-minute, free boot camp in the park, focused on functional strength,” Fowler says. You can find more information on Coach Fowler’s Boot Camp to Brunch here.

Erika Oliveira, Mind-Body Coach, Owner of 413 Fitness

boot camp instructor

“I host quarterly or private boot camps with small groups of 8-10 people. I keep it short and effective. People love the convenience of a quick 30- to 45-minute workout where they feel like they got their ‘butts kicked’ versus going to the gym alone and not being as productive.” To learn more about Erika’s boot camp training, visit


Kiefer Rose, Trainer at 180 Fit Gym

kiefer rose boot camp trainer

“What sets us apart, besides our awesome trainers and workouts, is the community we’ve created,” Rose says. “It is unlike any gym I’ve been a part of. At FitCamp 180, we know your names and you are cared for. If you take a couple weeks off, people reach out to you and ask if you are okay. It adds accountability. Also, we are all educated and can work around injuries and give modifications, regardless of where you are at in your journey.” For more information and FitCamp 180’s class schedule, visit

YMCA Healthy Living Center

High-Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) boot camp classes are offered Mondays and Wednesdays at 12 p.m., Mondays at 5:45 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. The YMCA offers a variety of instructors and class times, so you can find the perfect fit for you. Check out the full class schedule at the YMCA Healthy Living Center.