Bashing the Bootcamp…

Getting the form of an exercise to look right is a lot of the time the primary role when coaching. Indeed there are some great personal trainers, strength coaches and programme designers who in principal write good training regimes; a good programme though can be made great by informed coaching.

This is part of the job in my mind that is starting to be missed out on. With the advent of boot camp style fitness, the rise of methodologies such as cross- fit, fitness pilates and other mass forms of exercise the time for fine tuning and making sure things look right seems to be getting even smaller. Indeed if personal training and small group fitness coaching are the equivalent of fine dining then boot camp fitness is the equivalent of fast food- easy, cheap and although it cures hunger  there will be complications down the line if you do too much.

This does not mean I am anti-boot camps (or indeed fast food), I think that when you do this type of training it can be done in a more considered fashion. Take for instance most park based bootcamp workouts, they include excessive amounts of press ups, sit ups and dips. All these exercises can help aggravate shoulders susceptible to impingement or instability related issues. Twinned in with shed loads of running jogging you have some of the most aggravating methods of exercise for beginners.

Most beginners (male and female) are not functionally strong enough to handle excessive training volume, indeed after 20minutes good form may go out the window as another 200 press ups have to be performed.

The key is education: while I believe you can train a large group of exercisers I don’t think you can train a large group of beginners well. Coaching good form in large groups becomes more like a forest fire- once you put one fire out another three have started behind you.

My recommendations are quite simple if you are a beginner don’t join a bootcamp; invest in a fitness professional who makes sure you are doing things properly (this doesn’t mean sitting on a bike for an hour). The teaching of foundational moves such as squats, lunges and press ups are a start. Master 3 sets of ten, add some weight and then progress. Focus on developing basic strength levels before adding in higher repetition based workouts at least if you have a good foundational strength level then you know you will not be doing any structural damage to your body. Most over use injuries are related to poor movement dynamics and incorrect form, for example, your knee is a hinge joint- if it is not stable enough in time you may suffer from injury, time and time again we also see this with amateur joggers.

For intermediate exercisers and indeed the guys who consider themselves “expert” get some advice from someone who has been training more people than you. Indeed if your own training programme is built purely from your own experiences then you need to look elsewhere for advice.

Ask yourself what you goal is and get fit in a smart way! Don’t smash yourself in to oblivion- it’s progress you can’t maintain… and down the line you may find yourself suffering from a few injuries.

Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST ( in Ware, Hertfordshire. Specialising in athletic development, physique improvement and injury rehabilitation he provides personal training, strength and conditioning and nutrition coaching for motivated exercisers and those looking to make a long term change to their health, fitness and performance.

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