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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.