Exactly ‘how good’ are boot camps in relation to other forms of training?

Table 1 provides an overview of a number of different forms of training.

Table 1: Boot camps versus other forms of training[1]

Form of Training

% HR[2] Max

% VO2[3] Max

kcal/min[4]

Calories per Hour

Boot Camp

81

62

9.8

588

Cardio-kick Boxing

86

70

8.1

486

Spinning

89

75

9.6

576

Aerobic Dance

85

71

9.7

582

Curves

75

60

6.4

384

Power Yoga

62

46

5.9

354

Advanced Pilates

62

43

5.6

336

Kettlebells

86-99

67-91

20.1

1206

Cycling

(>20mph)

15.7

944

Cycling

(12-14 mph)

7.9

472

Running

(8 mph)

10.8

649

Running

(9 mph)

12.3

738

Running

(Upstairs)

14.7

885

House Cleaning & Gardening

3.3-5

200-300

Walking (pace dependent)

2.7-8.6

162-520

P90X

67-83 (male)

65-88 (female)

45-70 (males)

45-80 (females)

10.5-16.2 (male)

7.2-12.6 (female)

441-699 (male)

302-544 (female)

Source: Porcari et al., 2011; Woldt et al., 2011

Table 1 provides a guide on the likely energy expenditure for the various types of physical activity and exercise listed.  Based on research conducted for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) training using Kettlebells is the most effective form of exercise with regards to energy expenditure.  However, as is typical of this type of research, the number of participants ‘tested’ was low and therefore generalising the results to the wider population may give an inaccurate result.  As discussed in this section of the blog, there are a number of variables that can impact on the energy expenditures displayed in Table 1 and it is important to provide exercisers with accurate information so they can make an informed choice.

Although Kettlebell training appears to deliver exceptional energy expenditure compared to the other forms of training, exercisers had to train at or near to their maximal heart rates in order to achieve these levels.  According to recommendations set by the ACSM, to enhance cardio-respiratory endurance individuals need to exercise at 70% to 94% of their HR max (above 70% is considered moderate intensity exercise) and 50% to 85% of their VO2 max.  All participants in the research recorded heart rates over this threshold (remember dose-response relationships).

Porcari et al. (2011) suggest that boot camps are an excellent way to enhance aerobic capacity and help control body weight.  They provide a total body programme providing a good combination of aerobic exercise and muscle conditioning.  However, not all boot camps are created equally with some relying heavily on cardiovascular training, while others emphasise martial arts–inspired movements or basic strength-training exercises.

Finally, Porcari et al. (2011) state that if fitness enthusiasts “…are looking for something that’s fun and variable that will increase their adherence to an exercise program, and, most importantly, burn a lot of calories, boot camp would be a really great option.”

Consistent amongst various studies is the effectiveness of high-intensity interval training in which Woldt et al. (2011, p.4) noted “The muscle confusion – that’s one of the biggest draws because you don’t get bored, you’re doing a lot of different workouts in a different sequence and your body never gets a chance to plateau.”

Research for the Defence Research Agency (Legg & Duggan, 1996) suggests that basic military training has mixed results for body weight (lean mass), aerobic fitness and muscular strength and endurance due to factors such an individual’s higher initial fitness level, intensity and nature of training, changes in lifestyle during basic training, and possibly due to normal ageing.  For example, the British Army groups its recruits according to the service or arm they will serve with and are placed with the relevant training establishment.  Although training establishments follow a common training policy, implementation and delivery is determined by the individual training establishments.  As a consequence, fitness outcomes can and do vary (Legg & Duggan, 1996).

Many fitness professionals claim there is only one way to train, while others argue that no-one training programme is above another.  Notwithstanding the principles of exercise and training I would argue that it comes down to the individual’s personal preference.  Simply put, there are four questions that individual’s should ask themselves:

  • Do I enjoy this form of exercise?
  • Does it fulfil my fitness goals and aspirations?
  • Is the cost reasonable?
  • Do I get value for money?

If you can answer yes to at least three of the above questions then I would argue that you should stick with your training provider, and whichever training programme they endorse.

Personally, I champion press-ups, sit-ups and the burpee as the ‘only’ training programme for me.  However, I also take part in boot camp workouts, swimming and interval training (both classic and HIIT).

Whichever training programme you decide to follow: relax, have fun and enjoy it!

Definitions

[1] There are a number of variables (as discussed in this section of blog) that can impact on the data highlighted in the above table and, therefore, these data should be used for illustrative purposes only.

[2] Maximum heart rate (HR Max) is 220 minus your age.

[3] VO2 Max is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise, which reflects the physical fitness of the individual.  The term VO2 Max is derived from V – volume, O2 – oxygen, max – maximum.

[4] Kilocalories per minute.

References

Porcari, J.P., Hendrickson, K., Foster, C. & Anders, M. (2011) Drop and Give ME 20! Available from World Wide Web: <http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/study-bootcamp/default.aspx&gt; [Accessed: 10 November, 2012].

Woldt, J., Porcari, J.P., Doberstein, S., Steffen, J., Foster, C. & Anders, M. (2011) Does P90X Really Bring It? Certified News. Available from World Wide Web: < http://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/1865/&gt; [Accessed: 10 November, 2012].

Legg, S.J. & Duggan, A. (1996) The Effects of Basic Training on Aerobic Fitness and Muscular Strength and Endurance of British Army Recruits. Ergonomics. 39(12), pp.1403-1418.

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