Boot Camp


A boot camp in the area of fitness is a type of physical training program usually conducted by a personal trainer or other such fitness expert; however, it is usually not held within a traditional fitness center, gymnasium, or other physical fitness area but instead generally outdoors and oftentimes in a militaristic environment. The concept of fitness boot camp is based on the military's basic training, which is commonly called “boot camp.” It generally involves a mixture of traditional calisthenics and body-weight exercises, along with interval training, strength training, and other exercise training routines.

A trainer instructs his class in kettleball exercises during an outdoor boot camp.

A trainer instructs his class in kettleball exercises during an outdoor boot camp. Traditional boot camps generally combine a mixture of calisthenics and body-weight exercises, along with interval training, strength training, and other such routines.


The purpose of fitness boot camps is one or more of the following: to become physically fit, participate in a regular exercise routine or program, burn calories to lose weight, increase muscular strength, or improve cardiovascular efficiency. Many fitness boot camps also offer advice and information in nutrition. They are often provided for people who are not motivated with working by themselves or using routines, programs, and exercise equipment offered at fitness centers and gymnasiums and need the camaraderie that comes with group participation but also need to be forced to do such workouts. As such, they provide social support for those participants, and during the classes, members may becomes friends with each other as they exercise. They learn to regularly exercise and to attend each class because the team benefits from their participation.

In addition, the main point of fitness boot camps is that they are based in part on the physical fitness training offered in military boot camps, and the basic training (sometimes also called recruit training) that soldiers go through when first being inducted into the U.S. military. People who are not motivated to exercise often need such discipline offered by such regimented workout programs. Such workouts are very efficient because participants work the entire body by going from one exercise to another with little or no rest in between.


Fitness boot camps began to develop in the last quarter of the twentieth century. In 1998, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) reported that fitness boot camps were becoming more popular across the United States.


Fitness boot camps are conducted by personal trainers or other such fitness experts who are called trainers or drill instructors. They vary in style, but most consist of various types of exercises such as running, weight training, and interval training. Most classes last from four to eight weeks. The training usually involves a group of people and it is usually conducted outdoors, such as in parks, in any types of weather. Although not a requirement, it may be similar to a military basic training course. The exercises found within fitness boot camps are centered around squats, pushups, pullups, lunges, and other calisthenics and exercises that only use the weight of the body, along with suspension training, plyometrics, kick-boxing, burpees, jogging, sprinting, running, hiking, interval training, obstacle courses, and competitive games.

The first day of boot camp is reserved for evaluating the participants with regard to their fitness levels. The classes promote teamwork, while emphasizing that individuals work at their own pace for the overall goal of the group. Often people work in pairs, or small groups of three or four. Sometimes teams compete against each other. At the end of each class, individual members are retested for their fitness levels.

The basic style of fitness boot camps offers many of the following features:

Many fitness boot camps are offered across the United States. For instance, the SWAT Fitness, located in Arizona, provides a four-week outdoor fitness program that offers fitness instruction, motivational training, and nutritional counseling. The company states that its boot camp, lead by fitness experts Ron and Jan Holland and their team of personal trainers, will help people reach their fitness goals while having fun doing energizing activities. Its website (

Biceps brachii (or biceps)—
The two-headed muscle located on the upper arm, both heads weaklyflex the arm at the shoulders; and it also flexs and supinates the forearm at the elbow.
A full-body exercise that consists of aerobic exercise and strength training; its basic exercise is beginning in a standing position, dropping into a squat position, kicking feet back while lowering body with a pushup, and returning feet to squat position with arms overhead.
Calf muscle—
The fleshy part of the back side of the leg, located below the knee.
Commonly called delts or shoulder muscle, the muscle that forms the rounded contour of the shoulder, the anterior part of the deltoid muscle flexes and medially rotates the arm at the shoulder; while the middle part abducts the arm at the shoulder.
A two-dimensional shape similar to a circle (with only one length for its axis) but with a major axis and a minor axis, which makes it longer on its major axis and shorter on its minor axis.
Latissimus dorsi—
Abbreviated lats, the broadest muscle within the back, it adducts, medially rotates, and extends the arm at the shoulder.
Pectoralis major—
Sometimes called pectorals, pecs, or chest muscles, the thick, fan-shaped muscles located at the chest of the body; the clavicular part flexes the arm at the shoulder; the sternal part extends the arm at the shoulder; both parts (heads) medially rotate and adduct the arm at the shoulder.
Abbreviated plyos, a type of exercise training designed to produce powerful and fast movements by loading muscles and then contracting them rapidly, which improves the capabilities of the nervous system and improves abilities within athletic competitions and sporting events.
The large muscle located along the back of the upper arm, sometimes also called the traps.
An exercise machine that contains a wide moving belt on which a userwalks, jogs, or runs.
Triceps brachii—
The muscle positioned atthe upper portion of the inside of the arm and consisting of the long head, lateral head, and medial head, it extends the arm at the shoulder; it also extends the forearm at the elbow.

Fit Body Boot Camp has numerous locations in 44 states within the United States, including numerous locations in the state of California (as of 2017). Fit Body also has international locations in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Its website ( ) states that it is “The original indoor boot camp that burns fat, gets you fit and challenges you every time.” It further states, “Because Fit Body Boot Camp is an indoor based fitness program your results will come faster due to our scientifically proven break-through system that incorporates suspension trainers designed to combine core strengthening and body toning, our safe ‘joint friendly’ triple bonded foam flooring, battling ropes to maximize fat burn and boost your metabolism, and resistance training to firm, tone, tighten and sculpt your entire body all in under one hour.

Based in New York City, Warrior Fitness Boot Camp is based on the principles of the U.S. Marines Corps. The Warrior physical fitness program includes calisthenics, free weights, an obstacle course, running, jumping jacks, pushups, jump roping, sit-ups, abdominal work, core training, agility drill, stretching, circuit training, and other exercises used by the Marine Corp to train their recruits. Warrior states on its website ( ) that when attending the Warrior Fitness Boot Camp participants will “Train like a Marine, with real Marines. Become a Warrior.” The Warrior website also says, “This cutting edge and creative style fitness guarantees results.” They also promise “a lot of sweat!”


  • Am I in good enough physical shape to take a fitness boot camp?
  • Is a boot camp the best way for me to become physically fit?
  • Will I lose weight using the techniques involved with the fitness boot camp?
  • Where can I learn more about the various types of boot camp?
  • Is there anything that would physically prevent me from going to fitness boot camp?
  • What types of lifestyle changes will help while attending a fitness boot camp?


Not everyone likes the semi-militaristic-styled programs used by fitness boot camps. They challenge individuals to do more than individuals would normally do themselves. However, because of the military style offered by these programs, some people are not suited to this type of exercise program.

For the most part, programs in fitness boot camps are not modified for individual fitness levels. That is, if one cannot keep up, the rest of the team will not wait. Thus, people who probably should not participate in fitness boot camps are pregnant women, inactive older adults, and anyone with injuries.

It is especially important to be completely checked out by a healthcare professional, such as the family doctor, before starting a fitness boot camp program. A medical professional will be able to assess if one is physically and mentally healthy enough to participate in a fitness boot camp.

See also Age and exercise ; Calisthenics ; Calories ; Circuit training ; Core training ; Interval training ; Metabolism and energy ; Stretching .



Cook, Gregg, and Fatima d'Almeida-Cook. The Gym Survival Guide: Your Road Map to Fearless Fitness. New York: Sterling, 2008.

Lundeen, Richard, ed. Duty Bound: A Guide to Navy Boot Camp and to Basic Military Skills, Chicago, Norfolk, New York. Seattle: Create Space, 2011.

Plowman, Sharon A., and Denise L. Smith. Exercise Physiology for Health, Fitness, and Performance, 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.

Schoenfeld, Brad. Women's Home Workout Bible. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2010.

Sutton, Amy L, ed. Fitness and Exercise Sourcebook, 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2007.


Meheen, Colleen. “How to Get Fit for the Army Basic Training.” . (January 6, 2016). (accessed January 13, 2017).

Samataro, Barbara Russi. “Fitness Boot Camps: Should You Enlist?” WebMD. (accessed January 13, 2017).


American Council on Exercise, 4851 Paramount Dr., San Diego, CA, 92123, (858) 576-6500, (888) 825-3636, Fax: (858) 576-6564, support@acefitness. org, .

National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity, 1150 Connecticut Ave. NW, Ste. 300, Washington, DC, 20036, (202) 454-7521,, .

President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, 1101 Wootton Pkwy., Ste. 560, Rockville, MD, 20852, (240) 276-9567, Fax: (240) 276-9860,, .

SHAPE America, 1900 Association Dr., Reston, VA, 20191-1598, (800) 213-7193, Fax: (703) 476-9527, .

William A. Atkins, BB, BS, MBA

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.