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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.