The Simple Guide To Planning Sessions For Mixed Fitness Levels

The Fitness Variation Cure

When someone joins the Bootcamp Ideas email list they are sent an email with a question:

‘What is the number one thing you are struggling with right now as a bootcamp trainer?’

I keep track of what trainers write back to me in a spreadsheet. To date over 250 trainers have taken the time to respond.

The most popular response I receive is not surprising. It’s why most trainers come to Bootcamp Ideas in the first place, ‘to find fresh workout ideas’.

The second most popular response I get is:

‘I struggle creating workouts that are effective for all of the different fitness levels in my bootcamp.’


I’ve heard you and have put together this little guide with some different ways to have your groups of mixed fitness levels work together seamlessly.

Let’s start with some planning tactics and then I’ll go into how to actually put them into practice.

Four methods for handling various fitness levels

1. Exercise Variations

Plan out your workout as you normally would. Once completed create 1 to 3 additional variations of the workout by modifying the exercises.

Doing this before the workout, rather than on the fly, makes you look more professional and serious about your clients fitness. So don’t wait until the session to try and make these modifications.

Here’s an example of a drill modified for different fitness levels:

Original drill:

10 minute AMRAP

  1. 15x Push Ups
  2. 15x KB Goblet Squat
  3. 10/side Side Plank Hip Drops
  4. 10m Bear crawl

Modified for different fitness levels:

10 minute AMRAP

Beginner Intermediate Advanced Reps
1.  Push Ups on knees Push Ups HRPU 15
2. 8kg KB Goblet Squat 12kg KB Goblet Squat 16kg KB Goblet Squat 15
3. Side Plank Hip Drops Alt. Side Plank Hip Drops Side Plank reach throughs 10/side
4. Bear crawl  Bear crawl Reverse Bear crawl 10 m

Alt. Side Plank Hip Drops: alternate sides each rep without letting hips touch ground in between.

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Hardstyle Bodyweight and Kettlebell Interval Workout

This weeks workout is from Matt Shore of Train Strong Personal Training. This is a kick ass strength driven work out. Thanks for sharing Matt!


Interval Weight Training – The Hardstyle Way

Time: 60 minutes

Equipment: Kettlebells

This training session is uses Kettlebells to deliver a savage Interval Weight Training Workout that will increase Strength, Power and Speed while creating a huge boost to Metabolic Rate for hours after the session has finished. The session is fairly advanced and not suitable for beginners.

Warm Up

400m easy run followed by mobility drills including hip flexor stretches, glute bridges, prying goblet squats, Kettlebell Halo’s, Kettlebell Arm Bars and Beast Crawling.

Drill 1

  • Body Weight Squat 20 seconds – full range of motion
  • Slow Pulse Squats at half depth 20 seconds
  • Squat Hold at half dept 20 seconds
  • FAST AND LOOSE 10 seconds
  • Hardstyle Plank 20 seconds
  • FAST AND LOOSE 10 seconds

Complete 3 rounds.

Then Drill 2

In teams of 3-4 of similar strength/ability.

Each team has a pair of kettlebells.

  • Double Kettlebell Squat * 5 reps
  • Broad Jump * 5 reps
  • Sprint 50m out and 50m back.

Player 2 follows and then 3 and 4.

Player 1 should start the next set once they are 90% recovered.

Each team member completes 5 sets.

Then 400m walk – easy pace recovery.

Then Drill 3

In same teams:-

  • 5 Double Kettlebell Press
  • 6 Alternate Kettlebell Renegade Rows
  • Sprint 50m out and 50m back.

Each player to complete 5 sets (as above) and not start the next until 90% recovered.

Finish with

400m in a square – at each corner perform 10 burpees.

Loosen off with 10 minutes of stretching and mobility.


On paper this workout is fairly low volume. The key is in the intensity and weight selection. Kettlebells should be chosen that 5 reps is comfortable and 7 reps would be a max effort. It goes without saying that the sprint should be all out for maximal effect.

Lying down between sets is common on this workout to speed recovery and remove the exhaust from the legs!

Exercise explanations

Fast and Loose is a Hardstyle term used to mean just shaking out, shaking the legs, arms and becoming loose. The idea is that the hardstyle of kettlebells is maximum intensity, maximum tension – so the flip side is fast and loose.

Hardstyle is called the Martial Arts of Kettlebells and so like martial arts maximum strength is developed via being able to be loose then assert maximum tension in the blink of an eye.

Hardstyle plank – form a plank, elbows below shoulders, heels squeezed togther, glutes contracted, abs braced with maximum intensity. The fists should be clenched tight and the idea is to create maximum internal tension in the plank. Breathing is sharp inhale via the nose and then release pressure as a “Tsssssssss” through the tongue placed against the roof of the mouth. As you exhale you become tighter and tighter.

The purpose of the hardstyle plank is to teach people how to generate maximum tension in the body so that when they squat or press at the top of the movement they are essentially a tight, vertical plank = better for maximum strength development and power.

About Matt

Matt Shore is the Director of Train Strong Personal Training in Eastbourne, East Sussex. He delivers 1-2-1 and Semi Private Personal Training and Outdoor Group Training to people from all walks of life.

Matt, a Strong First Kettlebell Trainer approaches fitness through the mind being primary and that strength has a greater purpose.


Kyle here again.

Thanks so much to all who downloaded a copy of Starting a Bootcamp Business. The response has been awesomely overwhelming! I hope you have been enjoying reading through it.

In the next couple of weeks you are going to see more changes happening here at Bootcamp Ideas I move this website into being an even better resource for bootcamp trainers. Stay tuned and make sure you are on the email list so you don’t miss out on all the awesome stuff going on.


Image: Andrew Malone (CC)

6 Mistakes Bootcamp Trainers Make When Planning Their Sessions

I think about workouts a lot running this website. I can’t walk past a group training session in a park without stopping for a moment to work out what kind of drill the trainer is running.

As a result I’ve started seeing some patterns between highly successful bootcamps and their workouts and other bootcamps that are struggling.

Now some bootcamps will do well in spite of how the trainer runs their session, but if you are struggling to get numbers then you are not one of these people.


So check below and make sure you are not making any of these common mistakes:

1. Using a stop watch all the time

You should not be watching a stop watch, you should be watching your clients.

Successful bootcamps feel personal to their clients. You want to be out there correcting technique and motivating.

Buy yourself a Gymboss if you need to or start planning workouts that don’t require a timer.

2. No session planning

Don’t just rock up to a session with no clue what you are going to do.

This is highly disrespectful to your clients as it shows you don’t value their time and results enough to actually think about what you are going to do with them.

If you have clients with injuries, different fitness levels or conditions (like being pregnant) then you must plan your session so that you can cater for them.

3. Don’t allow enough rest

Not every workout you run with your clients needs to leave them feeling like jelly on a plate.

In fact, my favourite sadist moment is when a client leaves one of my sessions saying that they didn’t feel like they worked hard enough only to come back to me two days later asking why they can’t sit on the toilet.

The body is made of different muscle types and energy systems. Including adequate rest in your workout plans and using other methods to vary intensity is essential in making sure your clients keep getting fitter and stay injury free.

4. Allowing too much rest

This was a problem I had early on as a trainer and I think other beginning trainers share the same problem.

If your clients have done other group fitness classes then they are probably used to an hour of non-stop exercising (which is why I think many of us make mistake number 3 – we try to do the same). So if they come to your workout with lots of long rest breaks they may start looking for something else.

It’s not your fault, it’s just the way they are used to exercising.

Here are some ways to reduce rest in your workouts:

  • Plan your sessions (see #2) so that you aren’t stalling while thinking of a new exercise
  • Include active recovery breaks of running, walking or core training
  • Don’t do too many different drills – this will result in too much time spent setting up and explaining new exercises during the workout. Ideally you want to do all of this at the start.

If you are running a strength or power-style workout that requires a lot of rest, you could just take a few minutes at the start of the session to explain to your clients why it is they will be resting a lot this workout.

5. No gamification

the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, to encourage engagement with a product or service.
“gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun”

A key element to any long running, successful bootcamp is the community that exists amongst it’s attendees.

Need proof? Just look at the Crossfit community.

A great way to build community in your bootcamp is to include games. Of course, you still need to train people, but adding games to your warm ups or point scoring to your workouts will build amazing camaraderie in your bootcamps.

6. The trainer joins in the session

I know for a fact that many trainers who read this website do this. This is going to piss you off but please don’t take it personally. I still like you and think you are awesome, we just disagree on this point.

This is a big mistake. One of the things that distinguished my bootcamp from a typical gym class was that it was not instructor led.

I was not up the front of the class where I can’t see you. I was by your side coaching you; correcting technique, encouraging you and making sure your partner was pulling her weight.

I have tried joining in with sessions before and it just doesn’t work. You can not effectively coach your clients and exercise with them at the same time.

Sure jump in with them for a few reps or a sprint to get them motivated, but just remember why you are there, to train people not to get a workout in.

No wars

I love this community and it’s acceptance of everyone’s different training styles.

I wrote this for beginners and people struggling as a way to avoid some common mistakes. I did not write it to start a war.

If you would like to comment politely below, please go ahead. I would love to discuss the points above with you.


Did you just happen on this website and really enjoy this article? Join our mailing list to get articles like this and workout ideas sent to you each week.


Image: Will Scullin

Starting A Bootcamp Business

Two months ago I got fed up.

I got fed up reading about trainers waking up at 5am to find to 2 clients at their bootcamp. I got fed up reading about clients who love what they do but were so disheartened that they were ready to quit. I got fed up getting emails from clients telling me they had left the industry to get a ‘real job’.

Why was I so fed up about these things?

Because I had been there myself.

I struggled with my first bootcamp and in the end had to shut it down. I know exactly what it’s like to stop the thing that you thought would change your life.

But I came back and tried again. Obviously – or this website wouldn’t exist today.

When I started again I took a different approach. I changed my attitude and started serving people instead of just running a bootcamp.

Here’s what I did:

Over the past 2 months I’ve documented exactly what I changed, along with other things that I perfected along the way.

I’ve tried to keep it interesting with a nice blend of stories and actionable tasks.

I know that my way isn’t the only way to a successful bootcamp so I reached out to several other trainers and asked them to share their stories too.

The result is the Little Bootcamp Book of Starting a Bootcamp Business.

I want to help you by learning from my mistakes and I don’t want money to get in the way so I’ve priced this book a little differently from previous books.

Learn how to get it for free and read more about what’s inside it.


How to Start a Bootcamp

I don’t want to take anything away from this story by Rob Jones. So I’m just going to hand straight over to him, I’ll see you at the end.

How I (terribly) found my location

Months before my bootcamp even began I was searching for the perfect location. Everytime I headed in, out or around town in my clapped-out van I’d be checking parks and green spaces, picturing myself working out with a group.

The problem was, there were already a ton of bootcamps in my town and they all seemed to congregate in the same parks and seafront spots. But I wanted to be something different. I even wanted to call myself something different from a ‘bootcamp’, but I’ll talk about that another time.

Part of me didn’t want to compete against the other established companies. I thought I’d embarrass myself bringing my tiny new group right next to their burgeoning bootcamps, which seemed chock full of bib-wearing types. The other part of me wanted to set-up somewhere new, untouched by fitness. I wanted to grab myself a niche.

So, I set up in a small park, away from the other bootcamps. In a location in my town I thought there was a need for a bit of outdoor fitness. Oh and it was right next to where me and my bootcamper friends lived – that always helps. I checked with the local council and there was no problem me setting up, so I set a date and it started.

Things went okay, of sorts. But the location just didn’t feel as fabulous as I’d kind of expected it would. Looking back with wisdom (not much mind) the park, although small and pretty, was missing some key all-year bootcamp elements. Plus, a really key one to think about when marketing an outdoor bootcamp, no one could see us – we were invisible to my key audience, bar dog walkers and a few crusty old park-dwelling types. I realised then why no one had set up there and why others had congregated elsewhere.

So, hesitantly, I upped-sticks and moved my bootcamp somewhere else. This time I properly evaluated the future location and it ticked all the boxes. It had space, was fairly flat with decent grassy bits, good street lighting for dark wintry nights and was beside a main thoroughfare so plenty of people could check out my fun sessions.

The location? That’s right, right next to the competition. Thankfully I had a few bootcampers by then so I could put up a good show. It was the best decision I could have made.

How I found my first clients

I made practically every mistake in the book when I started my first bootcamp. But through mistakes come great things, or so I’ve heard…

My group fitness classes began life whilst I was working both at a busy PR office and for the local University as a cardiac rehab coach. A few of the guys in the office had heard I’d just earned my fitness instructor and personal trainer qualifications so encouraged me to start teaching bootcamps after work. So I did.

Early workouts

When I think back at the workouts I created at the start I kinda cringe. They were all so basic and not at all inspiring – just simple circuits with some really strange exercises I’d dug up from old manuals. Week after week my workouts began to get stale and the size of the classes diminished. I was doing something wrong, but what?

I’d also deluded myself that I needed equipment to run a make a bootcamp great. So many people still think that. Purchasing the latest fitness kit doesn’t automatically translate into great class – in fact, in some cases, just the opposite.

Both experience and guidance is what I needed most. So when I finally stumbled upon Kyle’s website, his great books and Garry’s training materials I breathed a big sigh of relief. By that point I had kinda got my a** in gear and was running fairly decent classes, but these guys provided little tweaks and awesome team workouts that injected some serious FUN into my bootcamps – which now ROCK I might add.


Kyle here again. Rob’s story is one of half a dozen starting stories included in my new book, Starting a Bootcamp Business. Rob now runs his successful outdoor training business called StrideFit.

Portrait cover v2Starting a Bootcamp Business is a manifesto about, you guessed it, starting your bootcamp business.

I’ve compiled my experiences of the past 4 years of running bootcamps and deconstructed it into useful information.

The book is one part motivation, one part how to guide and one part mini business plan.

When I ran my bootcamp, I saw many other group training sessions start in the same park as me and then fizzle out.

I’ve distilled the bare basics of what you need to do to start a bootcamp that will not just be around in 12 months from now but will flourish. Then I’ve carefully edited in a bunch of personal business stories and stories from other trainers.

This book is not meant to cover every possible question that you will have, it’s been written to teach you how to ask the right questions and how to get answers to those questions. Along the way I will tell you what worked for me and what didn’t.

It’s coming out next week on Tuesday (15th July). It’s out now.

And you can get it for free.

Yes, there will be two options for you to get the book. On your Kindle via Amazon or in PDF format via Little Bootcamp Books.

The Kindle version is $1.99. The PDF version – which looks amazing – is Pay What You Want. That means you can enter a price you chose to pay between $0 and $1,000,000 (if anyone is feeling generous) when you get your copy.

Why have I done this?

I believe this book has an important message. I know there are trainers out there who are just starting or who are thinking about giving up and I don’t want price to get in the way of them getting their hands on Starting a Bootcamp Business.

This is the book I wish I had had when I started my first bootcamp.

Don’t miss out on it. Join the Bootcamp Ideas mailing list to be notified when it arrives.


Images: StrideFit Instagram