While many people think of British Military Fitness as a boot camp, we don't think of BMF in that way. Why?
The term boot camp can conjure up an image of a scary military man shouting at you to do more push ups or run faster. Our instructors aren't like that at all. However, it is true that our classes are led by former or serving members of the military, and they deliver classes to you based on how they were trained in the military.
Also, our classes are different because we don't stop after a week, or a month. We run seven days a week, all year round. Many of our members have been with us for years and have made massive changes to their health and fitness.
Table of contents
- Military-style fitness
- The Benefits of Boot Camp
- Boot Camp basic: The sit up
- What should I eat and drink before, during and after Boot camp?
- 5 Boot camp games to try at home
- How do Boot camp help with fat loss and weight loss?
- What are the health benefits of Boot camp?
- Boot camp basics: The press-up
- How does Boot camp help to improve strength and muscle mass?
- 10-minute home Boot camp circuit
- Boot camp basic: The burpee
- How should I recover after Boot camp?
- Sign up for a free class
British Military Fitness has developed a ‘civilian friendly’ version of physical exercise (‘phys’) used to improve and maintain the fitness levels of the British Army, Navy and RAF - some of the fittest individuals on the planet.
As the military need to conduct ‘phys’ wherever they may find themselves, it has evolved highly effective group fitness training programmes. Very little equipment is required other than body weight (either your own or that of a partner) to perform a wide range of individual, partner and team speed, strength, agility and stamina exercises – all tried and tested by the military.
The types of exercises we will ask to you to do are bodyweight exercises like push ups, squats, star jumps and burpees, interspersed with running and competitive games. It will be a lot like the PE classes you did at school.
We want everyone taking part to be involved and work at their own ability level.
Every session is different to the last. Working to the same high standards, every BMF instructor has their own unique way of delivering a highly effective outdoor training session.
British Military Fitness is a whole-body workout which; through team and individual exercises, circuits and games, is designed to improve speed, agility, strength and stamina.
All our instructors are highly trained, experienced, and up to date with the latest fitness techniques and developments. We can't promise that their sense of humour is up to quite the same standard, but they try their best!
You'll experience an enjoyable, effective workout through team games, paired exercises, and group activities.
With an average ratio of 15 members per instructor, British Military Fitness delivers a personal group fitness experience.
While sit-ups might be only part of the equation for a flat, lean stomach, it’ll be even harder to get if you can’t perform one correctly.
There’s nothing quite like trying to get out of bed the morning after your abs have had a tough workout. When your core doesn’t want to give any help and your attempt to soldier on regardless makes you look 30 years older - that’s a sign of a quality abdominal session. A session that’ll make your stomach muscles stronger and, in the long run, potentially more defined.
However, you won’t get any of that from a set of sit-ups if you don’t do them perfectly. Poor practice in pursuit of washboard abs is rife. That’s why Mark Wood and Garry Kerr, British Military Fitness Head Training Tutor and Head of Operations and Training respectively, have come to the rescue. In the video here, they run you through how to do a proper sit-up. No rounded backs or half reps here.
Should you be after a variation that’ll ramp up the difficulty at your next boot camp or gym session, Mark and Garry suggest a simple change, which, combined with employing perfect technique, will have your abs burning in half the time.
The Perfect Sit-Up, Step-by-Step:
- With your rear on the ground, a bend in your knees and your feet flat on the ground in front, place your shoulder blades on the floor and cross your arms over your chest.
- Back straight, engage your stomach muscles to raise your torso off the ground until your elbows touch your legs.
- Lower your upper body under control to the floor, keeping your torso straight and engaged.
Advanced: To make the exercise more challenging, place your fingers on your temples and perform the move as above, making sure you raise your torso to your legs.
While someone else takes care of how you work out at boot camp, what you consume so you’re prepared and fuelled for each session is up to you. Here, we take out the guesswork.
Throwing a water bottle into the car is often the extent of many boot camp goers’ entire consumption considerations, which is short-changing not only their capabilities for that session but likely to be holding back their long-term physique and fitness goals. We know, because there are a wealth of studies supporting the idea that what you eat and drink before, during and after exercise directly affects how you perform and the amount of fat you burn.
From why you might consider chugging chocolate milk to clueing you in on the importance of plain old H2O, prepare yourself for a better body and more reps simply because of what you choose to put to your lips.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
Boot camp sessions are hard work. Hard work makes you sweat. Sweating means you lose the water that powers you through your workout. So, it’s not a good idea to turn up to an outdoor fitness class with less water than your body needs sloshing around inside your bloodstream and cells.
“We do recommend people turn up really hydrated,” says Mark Wood, Head Training Tutor at British Military Fitness. “I would say probably 30 minutes prior to a session they need to get through at least 500ml water. But throughout the day they need to have consumed a good two litres before they’ve turned up to a session. We do supply them with water but if they turn up in a dehydrated state that water’s not going to do anything for them. The idea of the water we give them is to maintain that hydration.”
While carbohydrates are what’ll push you through exercise, you can have too much of a good thing. Our training experts, who are insiders when it comes to boot camp-style fitness, discourage people from loading up on carbs, found in abundance in foods such as pasta and potatoes, before a session. Mark, a former Royal Marine, reveals: “When people consume carbohydrates, probably an hour to 90 minutes later, they release hormones that actually try to put you to sleep. So, people start to feel quite sluggish and don’t actually have that much energy. So, if you’re having loads of carbs before coming to exercise, you’re going to feel quite slow just as the session’s starting, which is obviously what we don’t want.”
So, what should you put into your pie hole before getting to boot camp? It’s simple, says Mark: “A protein-based meal, some healthy fats, so maybe some nuts, and maybe even a banana literally just 10–15 minutes before because it’s quite fast-digesting if they do want a little bit of quick energy.”
You know that preconception you have that drinking water during exercise means you’re unfit or tired? Yeah, you should really be thinking twice about that. If it means anything at all, it shows you’re conscious that being even slightly dehydrated can make you work less during your session – in turn, burning less lard and not getting the same cardio benefits as your tap-happy counterparts.
Research has found even slight reductions in hydration can make you go through more energy and lower your stamina. One 1992 test found being dehydrated by only 8% dropped walkers’ endurance times from 121 minutes to 55 minutes. No one wants to be flat on their back doing their best starfish impression only halfway through a boot camp session just because they didn’t knock back a couple bottles of the wet stuff, so make sure you’re well hydrated before every session.
WHAT A RUSH
Intra-workout drinks and snacks? Our gurus at British Military Fitness say for the average boot camp goer, it’s overkill. “During a British Military Fitness session, they don’t need to consume anything other than the water we provide,” comments Mark. “It’s only 60 minutes. People don’t need to start consuming gels or anything else unless they’re exercising for longer than 90 minutes, really.”
But, if you do feel you need to be hitting the energy gels or tablets because you’re extending your workout, glucose is the ingredient you should be looking for. Also known as dextrose, it’s the exact fuel your muscles use. So, in the short break you’ll receive to consume anything at a boot camp session, it’ll digest quickly and is the best choice for making sure you’re ready to go ASAP.
Plus, it seems your body requires less oxygen to turn it into energy than other fuel sources, meaning there’s more of that precious air to go round the rest of your exhausted body.
If you’re sticking to an hour-long boot-camp, you don’t necessarily need to worry about extra energy boosts.
‘If you don’t burn off the energy provided by carbohydrates, they can cause you to gain fat.’ That’s the commonly held belief, and one which has led to the macronutrient being demonised. While it is true for excessive carb intake, your muscles need carbohydrates to properly repair and to stock up on the stuff they require to power you through hard exercise – just like the workout you get at boot camp.
“We recommend our clients do something called carb cycling,” says Mark, who’s been with British Military Fitness for five years. “A lot of the media now portrays that carbs are bad for you, people shouldn’t really be consuming them. But if people are doing British Military Fitness two, three, four times a week they’re going to need carbohydrates in their diet. So we do recommend they cycle it. Some days they’ll have higher carbohydrate intake, some days they’ll have a lower intake.
“Where we want them to have a higher intake is going to come primarily after a session. So that would be, as soon as they’ve finished their session, so probably their evening meal before they go to bed.”
For protein, Mark gives the ratio of 2g per 1kg of bodyweight as a daily guideline, adding: “The carbohydrate intake will be based on really how they feel. We do recommend they consume it first thing in the morning as a breakfast or last thing at night after the session."
These days you can’t research about fitness for more than five minutes without being sold the virtues of a post-exercise protein shake or high-carb recovery drink. The science behind the recommendation is sound (the amino acids do help repair and rebuild your muscles and the carbs will help them along the way, making you better prepared for that next session) but, for some, the associated price tag and inconvenience of mixing powder with water or milk after away-from-home workouts outweigh the benefits. But you can get all the good things about these tipples in a single carton that’s been sat on supermarket shelves for decades: chocolate milk.
According to research that compared the recovery abilities of chocolate milk with an electrolyte energy drink and a dedicated carbohydrate replacement drink after participants cycled to exhaustion, the chocolate milk performed just as well or better. That’s because the simple, off-the-shelf milk provides the same kinds of quantities of carbohydrate, protein and water as commercial sports drinks. It seems the answer to your muscle-repair problems was in the chiller all along!
Make fitness fun and you’ll cut fat and build power without even realising it. Take a tip from boot camps and try five of the best games done at British Military Fitness sessions across the UK.
As much as we all know getting a sweat on in the name of fitness is good for us, sourcing the motivation to give every workout your all can sometimes be one challenge too far. This is why we, as one of the UK’s biggest names in boot camp-style exercise, don’t only ask our clients to do sprints and push-ups.
We know that working physical games and activities into sessions can get participants to work flat-out, pushing their stamina to the limit while losing fat, without them noticing that workout-killing burn. Mark Wood, British Military Fitness Head Training Tutor, says:
“Especially with our beginners, we get them exercising without them realising they’re doing exercise.”
If you need a helping hand regarding the best technique for some of these moves, Mark has given a quick breakdown for every exercise you’ll need to do. They’re right at the bottom of the page.
We’ve selected five of our most popular boot camp activities you can do at home, some of them with a partner or a group, that are specifically designed to get heart rates up. Are you prepared to get stronger and slimmer and only feel like you’ve put in half the effort? We thought so.
DICE, DICE, BABY
You’ll need two things for this: a dice (or a die, if you’re a grammar hound) and a bench or step for one exercise. Essentially you’re going to do 10 exercises for one minute each – so 10 minutes of total work. How much of that minute you spend doing the relevant exercise is dictated by rolling the die and multiplying that number by 10.
“So let’s say you roll a four, you’re going to do an exercise for 40 seconds. You then have 20 seconds’ rest before the die gets rolled again,” reveals Mark. For every exercise, the die is re-rolled. When you’ve finished them all, rest for two minutes and do it again.
Which exercises? Mark recommends the following: squat, press-up, tricep dip, lunge, on-the-spot high-knee sprint, squat thrust, plank, star jump, crunch and burpee. For tips on exactly how to do these, see the bottom of the page.
Should you be mad enough to make it more difficult, or just quite fit, you can do an exercise during your rest periods in the circuit. This will really up your muscular endurance and stamina, which is great for those physique goals.
DOMES AND DISHES
The great thing with Domes and Dishes is it’ll make you move explosively and dynamically, while testing your coordination and awareness. It’ll seriously boost agility, too. It’s generally a team game, but you can do it with just two people. Around 20 people is probably the max.
You’ll need 20 cones, the kind you use in football, laid out with 10 of them the right side up and the other 10 upside down.
Split the participants in half. One group’s mission will be to have all the cones facing up, the others’ aim is to have them upside down. Let battle commence for 90–120 seconds. The only rule is that people can’t stand by one cone and flip it in their preferred orientation the whole time.
“After the two minutes is up, whoever has the least cones, that team will be given an exercise,” says Mark. “They might have to do 10 press-ups, or something, as a forfeit.” Repeat the game two to three times to really get your pulse racing.
There’s a mix of strength, cunning and flexibility required here. You and a partner compete to get the other’s tail (aka bib, towel or T-shirt tucked into the back of their shorts or trousers), while being restricted by gripping each other’s right wrist.
“You stand opposite each other and interlock your right wrist with their right wrist, so it’s right hand to right hand. The bib or towel is tucked into the back of your shorts or trousers with enough sticking out so someone can grab it,” explains Mark.
“You need to stay interlocked at all times. The idea is basically, with the left hand that’s free, you need to try and grab the other person’s bib. If you lose your bib, so the other person grabs it, you have a forfeit exercise.” Something like five push-ups.
When you’ve done it on one side for 45 seconds to a minute, go left hand to left hand and try to grab with your right.
If you happen to be accompanied by a platoon of pals, you can instead team up in pairs and go after other duos’ tails. Although, Mark advises you to set out an area people have to stay inside, “otherwise people just leg it.”
If at the end one person has lost a tail, you both get five reps or squats, or similar. If you both lose them, it’s 10 reps. Did you go out of bounds? Five reps, please. You and your partner break your link? Five reps. Do it for 90 seconds to two minutes, playing two or three games.
HORSES AND JOCKEYS
There’s no equipment needed for this intense fat burner; all you need is two people. If there’s a group, though, get into pairs and form a large circle.
You start with one partner holding the other on their back – like a piggy back. The person being held starts by jumping off their friend’s back and doing two reps of three exercises (say, sit-ups, press-ups and burpees). Then they dive through their partner’s legs, spin 180 degrees and crawl back through.
From there, it’s time to sprint. If you’re doing this in a group, run around the large circle everyone formed at the start. If there’s only two of you, you might have to get creative. Try sprinting 15 metres out and heading back. When you’ve jumped back on your partner, you’ve finished. It’s over when you’ve both done it twice.
Should you want to make things for difficult, Mark suggests adding in runs around your partner before you do the longer one, and switching up the directions.
It’s like the baton-exchanging leg-killer you remember from school, only with a boot camp twist. This one does require a group, but there’s nothing to say you couldn’t try it with fewer people.
Divide everyone into teams or four or fewer. Place the same number of bean bags in piles for every team 20 metres away. “The first person would run out, pick up a bean bag and, as an example, might throw it up in the air and catch it four times, do five star jumps and sprint back,” says Mark.
“They’ll high-five the next person, who would go out, grab a bean bag and do the same. It’s just turning a relay into something a bit more fun.” And significantly more powerful when it comes to shifting those extra few inches from your waist.
Foxed by the squat thrust? Perplexed about whether your press-up is perfect? Don’t be. This is the British Military Fitness quick-start guide, via Mark Wood, for doing all the exercises you’ll need for these games the right way.
“Feet shoulder-width apart, chest is high, back is straight,” advises Mark. “You want to try to get your hips as low as possible. Ideally you want to break parallel, so if you can get your hips lower than the knee. Probably the most important point is the heels need to stay on the floor.”
Laying in the ground with your hands directly underneath your shoulders, press your bodyweight up until your arms are fully extended. Keep your elbows tight to your torso, body in a straight line and core tensed. Lower yourself until your chest almost touches the floor. We’ve done a video guide if you need more info.
You’ll need a step, a bench or even a sofa for this one. Mark explains: “As a guide, if you sit on the step, just place your hands either side, pretty much touching your hips. Lift yourself off and bring yourself away, then you’re just going to drop your rear towards the floor. Try and keep the elbows pinned together behind you – imagine someone’s behind you squeezing your elbows together.”
“You want to take a big step nearly as long as you are tall,” says Mark. “Then drop straight down so you’ve got 90 degrees in both knees, so the rear knee goes a centimetre away from the floor. Back is straight, chest is high. Push back through the heel of the front foot to go back to the start.”
ON-THE SPOT, HIGH-KNEE SPRINT
“A lot people will try and do this without a lot of movement in their arms. Your arms will dictate the speed of your legs. If your arms are going fast, your legs will go fast. And try and get the knee in-line with the hip,” describes Mark.
Explains Mark: “Your start position is a press-up position: the shoulder wants to be right on top of the wrist in a straight line. When you’re doing the exercise, you want to get your knees as close to your elbows as possible, then kick back out into a press-up position.”
Get into a push-up position with straight arms and stay there. Sound easy? You might not think so when you try it. Says Mark: “The biggest key point is you just want to make sure there’s a straight line from your ear, to your shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. Try and suck your belly button toward your spine and squeeze your glutes. It’ll stop you sagging, giving yourself back pain.”
“We do these a bit different,” explains Mark. “You’re going to squat down, touch your ankles, from there you’re just going to jump out to the side with your arms and legs.”
These aren’t the same as sit-ups, clarifies Mark. “Your feet need to go flat on the floor, the knees are bent. Fingers on the temples, keeping a gap between the chin and the chest, you’re going to crunch up, bringing your shoulder blades off the floor. You don’t need to go any higher than 30 degrees.”
Remember, these are different to sit-ups, but if you’d rather do those instead we have a video step-by-step. “A little tip is if you push your tongue to the roof of your mouth, it will relax the muscles in your neck, so you don’t strain the muscles in your neck when you do it.”
From standing, place your hands on the floor near to your feet, kick your legs out behind you, putting yourself into a press-up finish position. Thrust your feet back to your hands and jump up. For more detail, check our video guide.
Spare tyre around your waist? Too much thunder in those thighs? You won’t find unhealthy quick-fixes at boot camp, just a tried-and-tested route to long-term weight reduction.
Boot camps, like the outdoor fitness classes run by our locations across the country, have been getting people slim for years. That’s simply because the foundation – regular high-intensity exercise – is proven to burn fat. Match that with the social, group environment that’s known to improve motivation and it’s almost fool proof.
Looking great is fantastic but looking fantastic feels brilliant. Because boot camps will both burn blubber and build a good helping of size (and strength), pushing down your body-fat percentage can be that much easier with this type of exercise.
What’s different about this route, as opposed to one-off dieting or attacking the gym and starving yourself for months, is it encourages healthy weight loss. We want you to reach your physique goals quickly, too, but when you’ve upgraded to that slim and sleek new body, we want you to keep it, not bounce right back to where you were. Based on our experience and the research, boot camp might be the best way to go.
Whatever your fitness situation, boot camps and the outdoor fitness approach championed here at British Military Fitness hang with the health world’s heaviest hitters when it comes to ridding yourself of extra pounds and ounces. How do we know? Because we’ve got proof.
LEANER FOR LONGER
It’s just like they say: losing weight is easy compared to keeping it off. But, if you choose a route to the slimmer you that’s easy to maintain (so, not a crazy, seven-day-a-week workout) and doesn’t require an entire life revolution to implement (see off-the-wall diets), you can tear down some of those barriers to sustaining your lean look. Boot camps fit that bill.
“We did a bit of research into people who lost weight and we did notice people were losing weight but they weren’t making drastic changes to their diet,” says Mark Wood, British Military Fitness Head Training Tutor, of boot camp-type exercisers.
“People aren’t going to have to go on some crazy diet along with British Military Fitness. If people just start making more manageable but more sensible choices along with British Military Fitness, they are going to get sustained weight loss.”
Just for eating fewer treats and getting to boot camp sessions a couple of times a week? That’s a pretty good deal, we reckon.
DEEP FAT FRYER
Fat has a sworn enemy. It’s not some mystical berry from the Amazon, or even a Hollywood cosmetic surgeon; it’s high-intensity interval training (HIIT). By which we mean bursts of all-out, 100%-effort, full-body exercise followed by short rest periods.
It’s been proven to be more effective at burning fat than steady-state exercise, such as jogging. And on more than one occasion (in 2010 and 2014, for starters) as a powerful fat burner it its own right. Want to hazard a guess at which workout banner boot camps stand under? High-intensity interval training.
So, what’s the reason? “High-intensity interval training has been shown to use a higher percentage of fats for fuel,” says Mark Wood, Head Training Tutor. “So you’ll be using fat as a fuel during the session and post session. So that’s obviously going to help with the fat-loss process.
“If you look at the difference between a 100m sprinter and a marathon runner, a 100m sprinter is a lot leaner, they’ve got much more muscle tissue and you’ll rarely find them going out for a jog for an hour. They sprint. They work at really high intensities. We don’t train as a 100m sprinter would but we train with similar intensity."
Mark points out part of the reason for HIIT’s fat-burning ability is that it increases growth hormone production. “Growth hormone is one of the biggest fat burners in the body,” he notes.
As 28-year-old Mark testifies, losing weight is an equation of calories in to calories out. If you burn more calories than you consume your scales will show lower numbers. So, how many calories do you send to the furnace during a boot camp session? Well, if you do an hour of things such as push-ups, squats and sprints with us, you’ll kill a massive 650 calories.
For the average British woman (40 years old, 5’ 3” and 11st, according to the Office of National Statistics) 60 minutes of jogging will only shift 490 calories. Surprised? Well that could be because it seems even science has been underestimating the calorie expenditure caused by anaerobic work, like the sort of high-intensity interval training you get at boot camps, suggests one study.
“If they’re burning 650 calories in an hour and they’re only consuming 1,600–1,700 calories a day, depending on how heavy they are, obviously that’s a massive dent in their calorie intake,” comments Mark.
DO NOTHING, SHED FAT
As we’ve said before, bodyweight training, like the kind done at boot camps and our classes, isn’t the best route to getting mad muscle mass. And, for plenty of people, especially those with a ‘lanky’ physique, it will help.
Mark confirms the notion and points out that added armour has a fat-burn benefit. “Muscle, other than organ tissue like liver and heart, is one of the most metabolically active tissues in the body. So people who hold more muscle mass and have more muscle tissue will just naturally burn more calories sitting down doing nothing.
Besides, there are few who will turn their nose up at more muscle. In turn, not only will better defined arms, stomach and legs mean you look fitter, more muscle mass will reduce your body fat percentage because a smaller proportion of your person is covered in fat.
Part of HIIT’s fat-burning effect can be attributed to something called EPOC (excess post-exercise energy consumption). It occurs after strenuous exercise, the type you’ll get at a boot camp-style session at BMF, and is your body trying to erase the oxygen deficit you caused in class.
Mark explains: “People don’t have to go spend two to three hours in a gym. They can come for an hour of really intense training at boot camp, enter into EPOC following a session, which means during that session their body couldn’t effectively get in enough oxygen to support the working muscles and to support the tissue, so they’re working anaerobically. Basically what has to happen after the session is we need to repay all that debt. People won’t be realising it, but following a workout they are starting to take in more and more oxygen.”
‘That’s great, but what does it mean for my waistline?’ we hear you cry. “When you’re taking in more oxygen you’re burning more fat. That’s why people say, ‘You get this afterburn effect,’ or, ‘You continue burning calories for up to 48 hours post exercise’. So, depending on the type of class they’ve been in, their metabolism could be elevated for up to 48 hours after. If someone’s training on a Monday and then comes again on a Wednesday, their metabolism will have stayed elevated between those periods.”
The bottom line: hard work gets you a hard body.
A SOCIAL NETWORK
It’s been found that overweight people have improved drive to slim down if they’re in contact with other people who have more mass than they want. The same goes if family and friends encourage them to shift extra size. Unlike going for solitary runs or doing home workouts, you’ll find that kind of social support in abundance at boot camps.
But, it isn’t just encouragement you’ll get; you may come away with a few new friends, too. Part of the British Military Fitness ethos is to hold monthly socials. “They will organise something as a group, whether it be a meal, bowling, or go-karting, or whatever,” says the Birmingham-based trainer Mark. “If you look at the healthy lifestyle side of things, we’re quite social rather than just being fitness orientated.”
So, if meeting new people, having fun or losing weight interests you (and we’re assuming we’ve captured the attention of a large percentage of the world’s population here), you might want to consider a boot camp.
The social boot camp set-up doesn’t just improve overall enthusiasm, the very act of doing exercise in a group increases performance during that workout. It’s called the Köhler effect, after German psychologist Otto Köhler found people were more likely to persist longer during exercise when doing it with one or two others than if they were on their own. That means more calories burned and more weight lost just by getting a sweat on with a pal.
British Military Fitness Senior Training Tutor, Andy Kay, says he sees it all the time at the sessions he runs. “The general consensus is that it’s more fun and you work harder than you would if you were on your own, because you’re being pushed through the workout,” reveals Andy. “You turn up and there’s a number of people there working with you and trying to get you to work harder and push each other. You don’t get that in a gym environment.”
COMPETITION MEANS LONGER WORKING OUT
So maybe you’re a seasoned gym pro. You’ve gained the all muscle mass boot camp is likely to offer, and you work high-intensity training into your weekly plan. The only thing you’re after is turning your slightly soft physique into one that’s sharp and shredded. What can boot camp do that your current routine can’t? It can provide competition.
Exercising in a group is prone to prompt just that. And it seems it could be the difference between owning a ripped torso the next time the summer sun shows its face or not, because a 2012 study found exercising competitively made people work for longer. More than going solo, or simply working out next to someone else.
While we don’t necessarily encourage competitive behaviour at our sessions, many of our clients regard trying to beat someone to the end of a set of squats, for example, as part of the appeal. While you could challenge your exercise bike neighbour to a race at a standard gym, don’t be surprised if people start giving you a wide berth when you get to the rowing machines. There’s strength in numbers at boot camp.
It isn’t just your scales that will thank you for doing boot camp classes. Your long-term health and general wellbeing will too.
Sure, you’re bound to look better after you’ve become a boot camp regular. You’ll be en route to getting toned up and slimmed down, after all. Not only does our experience as a leader in fitness tell us you’ll feel fantastic after exercising outside, but science has found it will benefit your long-term health, too.
We can’t make you join us for a boot camp-style workout in the great outdoors, but, as you’ll see below, we really think you’d get more than a need for a new wardrobe out of it.
LESS FAT, STRONGER HEART, BETTER HEALTH
As you might imagine, physical exertion has a habit of burning fat and improving overall fitness. Boot camp-style work is definitely a great form of physical exertion (just ask our many dedicated British Military Fitness followers). But, while fat loss and better stamina are great in and of themselves, they come with extra health kicks, too.
Improving your cardiovascular ability will lower cholesterol and your risk of heart disease, says British Military Fitness Senior Training Tutor, Andy Kay. Reductions in diabetes are strongly correlated with exercise as well, according to the former Royal Marine.
“Particularly with high-intensity interval training, which is what the bulk of BMF sessions are based around,” comments Andy, “You’ll work hard for ‘x’ amount of time, recover and then go again. That style of training is very, very useful for all of those issues. And obviously, reducing body fat helps as well, which is directly correlated with a lot of health issues.”
THE (REALLY) GREAT OUTDOORS
Compared to exercising indoors, for example in a gym, breaking a sweat outside during a boot camp can leave you with a stronger sense of revitalisation, more energy and less confusion, anger and depression. That’s according to a 2011 analysis published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
While the idea of doing sit-ups in grass might not appeal to everyone, in Andy’s experience, even the most mud-shy people can come to embrace the dirt. The Twickenham-based instructor says: “If someone’s never done it before you get a lot of, ‘I’m a bit scared,’ ‘Are you going to be mean?’; that sort of thing. ‘It’s cold, it’s wet,’ ‘I don’t want to get muddy.’ But nine times out of 10, people will get involved, start messing around, enjoy themselves, have a bit of fun and it just kind of outweighs everything. By the end, they’re not really bothered.”
Any kind of exercise can be great for stress relief, but it’s been discovered that exercising in the midst of nature can be a particularly powerful antidote. In particular, Japanese researchers found walking in the company of trees meant lower concentrations of cortisol, aka the stress hormone, than doing the same in an urban environment.
What it all suggests is that getting your exercise on in the wild, like you do with us, could not only lower your stress levels but help fight against all the negatives too much cortisol is thought to cause. Things such as more abdominal fat and an immune system less effective at repairing injuries and fighting infections could be partially remedied.
It’s not just the odd nagging injury that can be helped by stepping into nature, like you do with a boot camp. It seems tumours and virally-infected cells can also get a kicking. Another Japanese research team discovered walks in a forest field (not too far removed from the lush, leafy parks that we call home up and down the country) upped a particular breed of cells in participants which are known to battle both of those things. This should tell you boot camp workouts might do more than just your waistline the world of good.
MORE WORK WITH LESS EFFORT
What if we told you that you could exercise harder and, in the process, burn more calories and build a better physique without feeling like you’ve spent the necessary energy? Sound too good to be true? Sounds like exercising outdoors to us.
A study by Oxford Brookes University undertaken in 2000 found exercising outside altered subjects’ perception of effort when it came to exercise. They apparently asked adults to “walk fast but without overexertion” both inside and out, discovering that heart rate was higher for outside, but perceived exertion was similar.
The lab coats weren’t sure exactly why, but whatever the cause, it could mean boot camps, which involve nothing but working out in the fresh air, may leave you feeling as though you’ve burnt fewer calories and shed less sweat than you really have. Science says that’s something that a run-of-the-mill stint at an indoor gym just can’t do.
It has sorted the contenders from the pretenders for centuries, but most people still do press-ups wrong. Find impeccable form with BMF.
Press-ups are easy, right? Get on your hands and toes, push your bodyweight up, lower it down and repeat. Well, that’s selling the exercise and yourself a bit short. By performing a perfect press-up, which involves a little more than the above, your muscles will get far more from the energy you’re wasting on that sloppy effort.
In the video here, Mark Wood and Garry Kerr from British Military Fitness, Head Training Tutor and Head of Operations and Training respectively, explain exactly how to do a press-up correctly.
Whether you do the exercise at a boot camp, at the gym or for a home workout, Mark and Garry’s instruction will mean you don’t waste your time on bad reps which won’t get you the same power gains. The right form might make it seem harder, but you’ll enjoy stronger joints from using the full range of motion and because you’re not cutting corners, you’ll burn more calories.
If you think you’re not up to hitting the deck and pulling off a picture-perfect press-up, Mark and Garry also demonstrate the very best way to do an easier variation.
The Perfect Press-Up, Step-by-Step:
- Lie face-down on the floor with your hands directly underneath your shoulders. With your weight on your toes and hands, press your bodyweight up until your arms are fully extended.
- As you do so, keep your elbows tight to your torso and have your body form a straight line from your shoulders through your hips and knees. Keep your core strong throughout, with your glutes squeezed and belly button sucked toward the spine.
- When at the top of the movement, ensure your arms form a straight line from the shoulder through to your wrist. From there, lower yourself to the floor until your chest almost touches the floor.
Beginner’s Tip: To make the move easier, perform it as above but with your weight on your knees and hands. Still maintain good form, however, by having your core engaged and keeping a straight line between your knees and shoulders, and from your shoulders to your wrists at the top of the exercise.
If you’re after more power, a toned physique and even improved performance, boot camp-style exercise can help.
Boot camps are great for improving strength. There’s the multi-joint bodyweight exercises that hit every bit of you and the varied quantity of reps that’ll build the perfect balance of endurance and power.
While British Military Fitness boot camp-type sessions aren’t optimal for fostering a massive and muscular physique (good news for ladies concerned about coming away looking like Arnie), it can help fill out your frame and even be adapted to encourage more mass.
Whether you’re after greater strength or more size, here’s exactly why boot camp-style workouts are just what your body ordered:
FIT TO FUNCTION
Boot camps use what the fitness world calls ‘functional’ exercises, meaning movements that employ several joints as well as muscle groups and translate to actions you might actually do in the real world. They’re something we here at British Military Fitness are big believers in.
It’s the difference between a push-up and a bench press. Both improve your pushing ability but the first readies your arms, chest, back and core and teaches them to work together. The second focuses on your arms and chest. Which would you rather have in your corner when you’re the only one around to give your best friend’s car a push-start?
Like boot camps, British Military Fitness’s routines use bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats and sit-ups – the sort of simple things that have been building strength for centuries. The muscle-isolating weight machines your average gym goers use do have their place (and we put our own spin on them), but they won’t always work everything together – like the small stabiliser muscles, tendons and ligaments – as effectively as functional moves. In fact, researchers at Pennsylvania State University, USA, concluded functional core exercises were optimal for maximising strength.
The takeaway for you is we can guarantee British Military Fitness boot camps will properly prepare you for when you’re needing a little extra brawn, whether that be lugging in an extra-heavy food shop or scoring that winning goal or point.
The number of reps (aka repetitions) you’ll do in exercises at a boot camp is ideal for building up your muscle power. You see, how many reps you perform on something like a squat will influence what your leg muscles get out of it. For bodyweight work, repetitions of around 20 mean you’re priming muscles for endurance. Nearer 15, you’re giving them a growth kick, whereas you’re improving strength with reps of between four and eight.
With boot camp routines, like those from British Military Fitness, the amount of reps will depend on your level and the workout you’re doing, but often it’ll start at around eight and go up to 20 or more. They can tick all the boxes of strength, size and endurance, says British Military Fitness Senior Training Tutor, Andy Kay, “but we’re definitely more toward the endurance end of it.”
With BMF, if you’re among our newbie class members (we split trainees into colours - blue for beginner, red for intermediate and green for experienced), you might do fewer reps, which is better for strength. If you’re advanced, you’ll perform more reps, which ups your stamina, meaning you can be stronger for longer. Now, who wouldn’t want that?
LIGHT IS RIGHT
We won’t lie; boot camp workouts aren’t the optimal way to gain muscle mass, as such. You can breathe that sigh of relief now, ladies. Bodybuilders, who are the masters of getting big, will generally lift heavy weights for higher reps (around 15) to stack on size. Bodyweight work, like the stuff done during a boot camp-style British Military Fitness session, doesn’t count as heavy.
However, there are studies which say lighter can be just as good as heavier at encouraging muscle growth. Instead of a large number of reps, as used by bodybuilders, you have to keep going until failure. Researchers at McMaster University, Canada, found moving lighter weights a lot was better than shifting bigger loads a little. While not all boot campers will do push-ups until they can’t anymore, those that do could start seeing bigger arms.
BEST OF THE REST
The one-way boot camps certainly satisfy the size-building brief is in the circuit-based routine itself. According to some research, high-intensity exercise that allows only short rest periods, like a boot camp workout, improves muscle growth.
At British Military Fitness, our workouts will often involve going through a string of five or so exercises with a short rest afterwards before going right back into it. “Most of the sessions are based around blocks of high-intensity work followed by active recovery,” confirms Andy. Although some studies dispute it, there is evidence that this is great for upping hormones which increase muscle growth.
TIME IS MONEY
We understand the concept of drawing out sets of 12 squats might sound like hell to you, but it’ll be heaven if you want to build size, says former Royal Marine Andy. “If it is muscle mass you’re after, you’re going to want higher, 10–15 reps with short rest periods,” he states. “Lots of time under tension as well, so decreasing the tempo of each exercise, just taking longer to do the reps.” All of those things really tell the muscle to grow, with the latter being something you can easily employ in a boot camp class.
Unlike some boot camps, British Military Fitness knows using a partner’s bodyweight in addition to your own can provide that added load standard calisthenics can’t provide. Andy notes this type of work will give size-hungry physiques the stimulation they want. Sometimes, we’ll even mimic things such as a shoulder press by having a partner resist against you – which is why the British Military Fitness activities are often more effective than those isolated movements on a gym machine.
WHEN TWO BECOME ONE
Should boot camps not be your top choice for getting bigger guns, there’s no reason it can’t be your primary option for cardio, fat loss and real-world strength while you take care of the size with a separate gym routine. Andy notes: “It’s a bit of extra conditioning and it’s using your body as it’s meant to be used. Basically, I’m talking functional, big movements rather than just sticking to one plane in the gym and isolating joints. So it does lend itself well to living alongside a gym programme.”
When you take a session with us, there’s no reason you can’t ask your fitness-expert instructor what they’d advise you do in the gym to grow in size. Functional strength and a muscle-building routine all in one place? Sounds like a great fitness solution to us.
Get a taste of boot camp whenever and wherever you want with a 10-minute circuit from British Military Fitness.
Whether you’re wanting to try before you buy, or the worst has happened, and you can’t get to your nearest boot camp session, we have you covered. As one of the UK’s leaders in outdoor exercise sessions, we’ve come up with a simple, yet testing, 10-minute boot camp bodyweight circuit you can do at your convenience in the comfort of your own home.
Personally devised by British Military Fitness Head Training Tutor, Mark Wood, it’ll put every part of your body through its paces, cueing your muscles up for a strength boost and your fat stores for a kicking. All this, without the need for any equipment.
WHAT IS IT?
One of the simplest, yet most effective, fat-frying and power-producing quick workouts you can get your hands on, our 10-Minute Home Boot Camp comes in three flavours: beginner, intermediate and advanced. You do the same things in each one, but for fewer reps or shorter distances.
There are shuttle sprints involved, so – if you can find the room – mark out either 20, 30 or 40 metres (for beginner, intermediate and advanced). If you don’t have the room, sprint on the spot one second for every metre. So, if it’s three 20-metre shuttles that’s 120 metres (because you’re running out and back) so 120 seconds of on-the-spot action.
- 10 x press-ups, sit-ups and burpees
- 3 x 20m shuttle sprints
- Repeat the above five times with no rest
When complete, give yourself two minutes of rest and do it again
- 12 x press-ups, sit-ups and burpees
- 3 x 30m shuttle sprints (or 4 x 20m if you’re low on room)
- Repeat the above five times with no rest
When complete, give yourself two minutes of rest and do it again
- 15 x press-ups, sit-ups and burpees
- 3 x 40m shuttle sprints (or 6 x 20m if you’re low on room)
- Repeat the above five times with no rest
When complete, give yourself two minutes of rest and do it again
While these are, of course, no replacement for a solid boot camp session, if you manage this a few times a week (or, better, every day) the pounds have no choice but to make themselves scarce.
This all-body burner is a classic test of fitness. To get the most fat-burning and strength-building bang for your burpee, learn how to do it right.
The burpee is a boot camp staple. That’s because it’s one of the few bodyweight exercises that hits all the business areas in one go - your core, legs and arms. As the crouch, leg thrust and jump really asks a lot of the musculature around your joints too, it’s a great functional strength booster. This means it’ll make you more athletic.
But while it’s simple enough for more or less anyone to try, that’s no excuse for not using good technique. Struggling through a set of poorly performed burpees risks injury and reduces the fat loss and strength boost you’ll get.
That’s why Mark Wood and Garry Kerr, respectively Head Training Tutor and Head of Operations and Training at British Military Fitness, have made the video here that demonstrates the perfect burpee so you can master the move before your next boot camp session or workout
Even if after a few reps your shoulder muscles are screaming, and your legs are feeling like lead, it’s important you don’t lose form. As the saying goes for any exercise, one good rep is better than two bad reps.
The Perfect Burpee, Step-by-Step:
- From standing, place your hands on the floor near to your feet.
- Kick your legs out behind you, putting yourself into a press-up finish position – legs and torso straight and in line. Here, ensure you keep strong through your core, squeezing your glutes and pulling your belly button in toward your spine.
- Thrust your feet back to your hands and jump high, looking forward to getting full extension.
After a good boot camp session, you might think that you can’t even entertain the idea of moving a muscle. We explain why that’s the worst thing you can do and what you should try instead.
Boot camps are a fun, social and convenient way to get fit. However, they can also be the kind of hard work that can wreak havoc on your muscles the following day; the sort of sensation that can leave a spritely 30-something feeling double their digits. This isn’t conducive to your likely fitness or physique goals, both of which will involve getting to another boot camp session ASAP.
So, in the name of hitting your goals, here’s the British Military Fitness guide to getting back on the strength and conditioning horse.
DO IT AGAIN
No, we’ve not gone mad! The best way to make your aching, post-boot camp muscles feel better, the same ones that moan every time you have the cheek to walk up a flight of stairs, is to give them a quick workout.
It might sound nonsensical, but it’s backed up by science – honest. Researchers at the University of Glasgow found post-workout recovery was better in individuals who exercised while their muscles were still repairing. The effect was even greater the more intense their ‘active recovery’ was.
British Military Fitness Senior Training Tutor, Andy Kay, says for boot camp goers, it could be anything from a good walk to a light routine. It depends on which parts ache the most, but for legs, Andy advises “Some light bodyweight squats followed by some hip mobility work – so stretching quads, hamstrings, that sort of thing.”
He adds: “If it’s for mobility, what you could do is an overhead squat. So, grab some bamboo, or a stick, hold it overhead, squat to the floor and do two sets of eight reps, followed by some stretching.”
Giving your moaning muscles a rub-down by your own hand can sometimes demand the kind of flexibility not many can afford, and it’s not always viable to pony up the dough to have a professional masseur or masseuse do it for you. This is where something called self-myofascial release comes in. This basically means rolling yourself over a big foam massager.
It might sound weird, but top sportspeople have been doing it for years, so you know there’s a method to the madness. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found post-exercise fatigue was significantly reduced by using a foam roller. As the study speculates, this could mean being able to put in extra time and effort into the next boot camp session, potentially meaning that more strength is built, and more fat gets burned.
ICE, ICE, BABY
Immersing yourself in ice-cold water after exercise best reduced muscle soreness and improved recovery, according to research from the University of Western Australia. That’s compared to bathing in both hot then cold water, or not using any post-workout treatment at all.
The theory is that the freezing temperature constricts your blood vessels, which pushes out blood filled with the waste products caused by exercise (and that lead to post-workout pain). When you return to room temperature, fresh blood floods your muscles with nutrients. All you need to remember is that the days after a boot camp session don’t have to be filled with hurt.
What is long-time British Military Fitness instructor Andy Kay’s top tip for recovery? “Get plenty of sleep,” he insists. “Have an early night; eight hours of sleep.” There’s a chance that’s all you’ll want to do after a boot camp class, but now you can sleep soundly knowing hitting the hay is recommended by research.
A study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found having a nap after a 90-minute bout of endurance training was a valuable tool for physical recovery. This means that skipping your 40 (or more) winks after a boot camp class is likely to have you really feeling the effects the following day. As if you needed any more excuse to hit the snooze button!
WHAT NOT TO DO
British Military Fitness Senior Training Tutor, Andy Kay, explains the ways you shouldn’t be nursing your muscles after a boot camp session:
- “A lot of people do nothing because they don’t want to make it any worse. That’s proven to be the worst way to recover. You recover a lot slower by being static.”
- “Going for a single beer afterwards is great, but if you go for a drinking session after a BMF session, you’re going to undo all your hard work.”
- “Not eating food or having something like a protein shake after a session is really going to slow you down.”
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