Drop and Give Me 20!

popular boot camp–style workouts

By John Porcari, Ph.D., Kirsten Hendrickson, B.S., and Carl Foster, Ph.D., with Mark Anders


Fitness fads come and go, but boot-camp workouts are still among the most popular.

Back in the spring of 1998, the American Council on Exercise first spotted the rapid growth of instructor-led workouts based loosely on the calisthenics used (like push-ups, squat thrusts, punches, kicks, etc.) to whip new recruits into shape in the U.S. Army’s basic-training program. Ten years later, take a look at the class schedules of gyms and fitness centers across the country and you’ll still find boot camp. According to recent stats from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, a trade organization for health clubs, 955 of its 3,306 member clubs offer boot camp–style fitness classes. And it’s not just hot in the gyms. A quick scan of the exercise videos offered on Amazon.com yields more than 30 different boot-camp videos.

“There’s a certain element of getting back to the basics and a more functional-training approach,” says ACE’s chief science officer Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D. “People are looking for different experiences. With boot camps, you’re giving them something outside the traditional club environment.”

Maybe the boot-camp trend is still going strong because it’s not really trendy at all. The workout is simple and not tied to a single piece of equipment. Or maybe it’s the motivating team-oriented atmosphere that’s created as fellow exercisers ‘survive’ the workouts together.

Whatever the reason, boot camp remains wildly popular, yet surprisingly its efficacy has never been formally studied. “Boot camp is becoming more and more popular in the health club setting so obviously people want to know if they’re really going to get something out of it, and if it’s going to be worth their time,” says Kirsten Hendrickson, a graduate student in exercise and sports science at the University of Wisconsin. “So we decided to take a look at it.”

When inneractive FITCLUB started as a church-based aerobics program the idea of doing a Christian boot camp seemed odd. However, it the women in the program started seeing the changes and were up for the challenge. inneractive FITCLUB wasn’t like other fitness programs, since its start in 2005 capitalized on the boot-camp format adding the often talked about but rarely applied element of spiritual training.  We started including daily devotions at the end of each workout, “nuggets” of spiritual nutrition that related to whatever sequence of exercises we were doing at the time and helped each participant begin modifying their thought life, which ultimately started to show more tangible results.

Do you need a revamp from your workout? Perhaps your workout brings visible results but the unseen still seems a bit flabby? Join us for the next inneractive FITCAMP: One Body begins Feb 1st. Sign up today!