As someone who runs bootcamps or group fitness sessions outdoors, one of the biggest hassles is bringing equipment to and from the sessions.
When I was starting I didn’t use much equipment, mostly because I couldn’t afford it, so I ran a lot of bodyweight sessions.
Running bodyweight/no equipment sessions is great in the beginning. (You absolutely do not have to outlay a bunch of money on equipment when you’re just getting started.) However, it is important that over time you do invest in new pieces of equipment.
In this article I’ll explain how this can help grow your bootcamp and which pieces of equipment are worth getting.
Why you shouldn’t just do bodyweight workouts
I’m a big fan of clever workouts that use little or no equipment. They do however work best for your camper’s fitness when combined with equipment based workouts.
1) Bodyweight workouts make it hard to include pulling exercises (I’m assuming you’re not using any straps here). Humans are designed to lift things, carry things and pull themselves up on things. Keeping your camper’s joints and soft tissue healthy requires these movements.
2) Using a new piece of equipment is great mental stimulation. Just think of what goes on in your client’s brain when learning a new movement. This gives your bootcamp variety and stops your workouts from getting stale.
3) When you bring along a new set of equipment to your sessions it shows your clients that you are investing back into their workouts. It’s a great way to show them you’re as committed as they are.
How to use a little equipment with a big group
As I mentioned at the start, one big problem with buying new equipment is the cost.
I’ve got some advice on that below, but for now just know you don’t need to go out and buy a tonne of equipment if you plan your workouts smartly.
Let’s say you want to include Rope Slams in your workout but you only have 2 ropes and 15 campers.
What do you do? Buy 13 new ropes?
No. Instead just have a small group of people using the ropes at once.
Another option is to have multiple people on each rope.
To start with you can put one person on each end of the rope as a good size battle rope is too big for most people. Now you’ve doubled the number of people per rope.
Next up is the drill. Have you ever gone hard out with Rope Slams for 20 seconds? It leaves you gasping for air. So what about campers doing 20 seconds of slams with 40 seconds rest. During the rest two other groups of 4 (2 per rope) clients can have a go. That’s 12 campers using just 2 ropes and you are giving them some awesome interval training.
So don’t feel like you have to go out and buy 15 of everything, you can just buy a few to start with and work your way up.
But which equipment should you buy?
The best bootcamp equipment to buy
There is so much equipment out there and there are always new pieces coming out. It can be hard to pick what you should spend your hard earned cash.
Speaking of which, here’s a tip if you struggle to save money for buying new equipment:
I’m going to give you my recommendations below of equipment, but you’ll need to decide for yourself.
There are 3 things you need to consider:
This is an obvious consideration as how much money you have will limit what you can buy and how much. Early on look for bang for your buck.
For example: You can spend $100 on one kettlebell or you can spend $15 on an exercise band with handles. If you have only $100 to spend, you’re probably best getting more pieces of equipment by getting the bands.
a.k.a. can you even get what you bought to where you’re training?
If you keep equipment where you train, this is a non-issue, but for those of you that have to drive and unload you need to make sure it will fit in your vehicle and that you can then carry it to where you train.
I recommend picking up some heavy duty plastic crates/boxes to stop things from rolling around in your boot (that’s the trunk for those of you in the US).
This is something that caught me off guard at first. I thought that once I bought a piece of equipment it would last forever.
Then a client snapped an exercise band. And another made a big crack in a medicine ball while slamming it. And a dead ball exploded doing the same thing.
If you buy equipment that will break eventually you’ll need to budget to replace your equipment. The brand of equipment can effect this too (more expensive is not always better).
Other equipment though like a kettlebell will last forever. Well it should anyway, if you manage to break a kettlebell you’re probably kettlebelling wrong.
Some equipment you may need to replace are medicine/slam/dead balls, bands of different types, dumbbells if used outside in wet conditions, battle ropes if used outside in wet conditions.
Now you know what to consider when spending your money here’s what I recommend stocking up on.
I’ll recommend some weights for some of the equipment but as in all cases you need to pick what works for your clients. Lean towards heavier if you’re unsure and limited on budget as clients will progress past light weights very quickly.
Great one-time purchases
This list is what I would consider getting first. Most are pretty cheap and all of these should last pretty much forever.
- A big ol’s stack of Cones – get at least 50
- Some big Dice – often found at discount stores
- A Deck Of Cards – get 2 or 3 cheap decks
- A Laminator – great for making your own workouts and keeping them in good condition
- A few quality Prograde Kettlebells – expensive but easy to handle and transport and should last forever. Get 2x 8kg and 2x 12kg to start.
- White Board – so handy for writing workouts and drills on
Other early buys
These are pieces of equipment I recommend getting early on due to price and versatility but you may need to replace these once and a while.
- Exercise Bands with handles – forget lugging around dumbbells, you can do most of the same exercises with these
- Medicine Balls – great when you’re starting out and should last forever if you don’t slam them. Get 1x 3kg, 2x 6kg and 2x 9kg to start with.
- Slam/Dead Balls – same as above, great for slamming and throwing
- Battling Ropes – so awesome for such a huge range of drills. Go big with these ones, at least 15m long.
Once you have the basics you might want to buy something a different to really spice up your groups. Things like:
- Portable benches
- Skipping Ropes
- Agility Ladders
- Olympic Rings
- Suspension Trainers (eg. TRX)
Using ‘free’ equipment
You may find yourself wanting to make your own equipment or using things like car tyres as a way to save money. This can be a great way to get some gear in the early days.
A couple of things that you need consider is ‘Is it safe?’ and ‘Does my insurance cover me for this?’. If it’s no to either of those, don’t use it.
Same with using playground equipment, it’s not really designed for adult body weights so steer away from them for safety reasons. On the other hand go for it on sturdy railings, steps and hills.
Now it’s over to you. Did I miss any equipment? What do you like to use?
Share with us in the comments below.
Kyle Wood created Bootcamp Ideas in 2010 when he was hunting around on the internet for workout ideas. He ran a successful bootcamp in Victoria, Australia and spends his spare time managing this site, adventuring (or lazying) with his wife and find new ways to make bootcamps even better.