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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Indoor Partner Pyramid Workout

This week’s work out comes from Andrea Garcia of Longmont, CO. Thanks Andi!

P.S. This work out may seem complicated at first glance, but read it a couple of times. It’s a really great workout and simple for clients to follow once they get started.


Waste Time

Time: 60 minutes

Equipment needed: Cones, jump ropes, dumbbells

Here’s a class I did that that my bootcampers and I enjoy. I’ve set this up indoors in the recreation center I teach classes at. I’m confined to one full basketball court and usually get anywhere between 16-26 attendants.

This is a partner ladder or pyramid workout. I let my folks pick their own partners, similar fitness levels works well.

Warm Up

For a warm up I usually run the group through some plyometric moves, like jog in place for 10 sec, 10 but kickers, 10 high knees, 10 jumping jacks, 10 jump squats, 10 skaters, 10 push-ups, 10 plank jacks, 10 reverse plank jacks.

Partner Circuit

I divide the basket ball court in half, using cones or some other way to mark off the halves. One half of the court belongs to the partner who is wasting time (cardio related exercises) while the other partner is on the other half doing a station or stations pyramid or ladder style.

There are 4 different ways to waste time on the designated half of the BB court. On the other site there are 7 stations (any strength exercise will work, I like compound or full body ones) to do the ladder/pyramid. It’s the partner that’s on the station side doing the ladder/pyramid piece that determines when partners switch.

The idea is partner A does one station, while partner B wastes time. The after partner A is done with one station, they switch with partner B and partner B does one station while partner A wastes time.

Then they switch again, this time partner A does 2 stations before switching with partner B. Partner B does 2 stations and switches.

Partner A then does 3 stations and switches, then partner B does 3 stations, etc.

So you can see that at first, it’s not going to take long for your partner to do one station and thus you only have a short amount of time to waste time on the wasting time side of the court.  That time increases as your partner has to do more stations.

Here’s the choices for wasting time:

  1. Burpees: 10 reps
  2. Jump Rope: 75 jumps
  3. Inch worms: using towels or paper towels or gliders under your feet, move your hands out into a plank and tuck your knees in. Then move your hands out further and tuck your knees in again, inching your way along.
  4. Carry a med ball around while you jog 2 laps around the track.  (note:  we have an indoor track.  ~12 laps = 1 mile, therefore 2 laps = ~1/6 of a mile)

7 Stations:

You can have more or less than 7, but 7 is a good number for about 40-45 minutes or work.

  1. 15: chest press with pelvic thrusts
  2. 20: plank rows
  3. 10 each side: oblique lifts with exercise ball
  4. 10:  pull ups
  5. 10 each side:  Bulgarian hop squats holding a med ball and hoping on your leg.
  6. 20:  jumping jacks hold a weight.
  7. 6 box jumps and then 6 tricep dips

bb court wasting time



If there’s still time left in the hour, then I’ll do some running relays. Then cool them down and stretch them out.

About Andi

I work for the city of Longmont, Colorado. I’m a group fitness instructor of about 4 years (bootcamps, cardio kickboxing, sculpting). I grew up playing soccer most of my teenage years and early adulthood until about 27 years old.

I’ve done the tough mudder the past 2 years with some members that take my bootcamps.


Thanks again to Andi for sharing that workout with us this week. I’m always looking for new workouts to share, if you feel like sending one in just email me or use our cool submit form. I bet you run better workouts then you think, we’d love to see them!


Original Images: Vit HassanDavid Jones (CC)

Bodyweight Partner Circuit Workout

Just a heads up. Later in the week I have something pretty cool to share with you all. It involves some new tools to help you get your work done so stay tuned for that.

Somehow, I have been able to get some work done between flights, exploring the UK, dinner and lunches with family, visiting Leon and camping. I must admit though, I had some seriously high hopes for getting more stuff to you guys that I just haven’t been able to meet.

For those who are interested I am now in Corfu, an island off the west coast of Albania and Greece. We are fortunate enough to have friends who are loaning us the use of their holiday house.

I have seen one small fitness centre that offers Karate and fitness classes. It’s situated above what looks to be a no longer used car garage. Other then that just walking up and down the hills each town is built on will keep you plenty fit.

I’m really excited to meet up with 18 trainers in London next week to exchange ideas and take them through some new drills. England was just a fantastic place and I can’t wait to meet some more of it’s people.

Now onto today’s workout.

This one is great partner workout.

The concept is simple and can easily be modified (via exercises or reps) for beginner to advanced clients and everyone in between.

Yea High Five

10 to 2 to 10

Type: Strength

Equipment needed: None (maybe just some mats and cones for the finisher)

How it works

Clients will be in pairs of similar fitness levels for this workout. Assign each pair as a beginner, intermediate or advanced pair (you could also call it level 1, 2 and 3).

One partner will complete the circuit as fast as possible while the other rests. Then they will swap roles.

After the second partner is done, the pair moves on to the next round. Each round they continue to take it in turns.

  • Round 1 – 10 reps
  • Round 2 – 8 reps
  • Round 3 – 6 reps
  • Round 4 – 4 reps
  • Round 5 – 2 reps
  • Round 6 – 4 reps
  • Round 7 – 6 reps (beginner pairs stop after this round)
  • Round 8 – 8 reps (intermediate pairs stop after this round)
  • Round 9 – 10 reps (advanced pairs stop after this round)

Each circuit should take around 15 minutes – including rest time.


Circuit 1

  1. Marine Push Ups
  2. Jump Squats
  3. Side Plank Elbow Touches (gravediggers) (full reps each side)

Take a 3 minute rest after circuit 1, then begin circuit 2 back at round 1.

Circuit 2

  1. Deck Squats
  2. Reverse Lunges (full reps each side)
  3. Plank with Reach (half reps each side)


Tabata sprints

If you don’t have room for sprints or it is too wet do a Tabata Medley of surfer jump squats and head banger push ups.


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Sprint And Chipper Bootcamp Workout

Last week on our Facebook page I shared a TED talk about how the fitness industry in general is failing and why introducing play to fitness is so important.

Here it is in case you missed it.

If you can’t see the video click here.

Following on from that here is a workout I did recently where I introduced a bit of fun contest into the sprints.

My clients flew up the stairs round after round with out even realising how hard they were working until they got to the top.


Run Don’t Walk

Type: HIT

Time: 45 minutes

Equipment: Mats, Bands, Cones, Stairs/Hill

Warm Up

Go for a 5 minute run with your group. We then played Peg Tag.

Main Bit

For this workout I split my group into pairs of similar fitness level. They will be racing each other at some point so they will want to keep that in mind.

I started half the pairs on the Sprints with me and I started the other half with my assistant trainer on the Chipper.

The time limit for each part is 15 minutes.

Part A – Sprints

This drill is adapted from one of the games we included in our new ebook Beyond Burpees.

You will need a set of stairs (60+ steps), a hill (40m or longer) or a stretch of grass (60m or longer). Half way up the stairs/hill/course place 1 to 3 cones per person.

I used cones easy to pick up like these ones.

Have pairs line up facing each other at the bottom of the stairs. These two lines are now the two teams. I called one red team and the other blue.

Pairs will sprint up the stairs attempting to score a point for their team.

To score a point:

Clients must attempt to get a cone to the top of the stairs. They can do so by being first to grab a cone and get it to the top of the stairs.

OR if their competitor grabs the cone first, they can still score a point by tagging their competitor before their competitor reaches the top.

So one can score a point by either getting the cone to the top uncaught or catch the other person before they do.

The pair returns to the start to race again (have other pairs race while they are returning) and the cone goes to the winning side.

To stop people waiting by the cones to tag the other person as soon as they grab a cone, set a short distance of immunity where you can’t be tagged. I used one 5 step flight of stairs.

Run through until all cones are used up or the other group doing the Chipper is completed. Add up scores and announce the winning team.

sprint game

Part B – Chipper

This part is much simpler then the sprint section.

Write on a whiteboard:

Normal  Advanced
  • 10 burpees
  • 20 push ups
  • 30 step ups
  • 40 box squats
  • 50 dips
  • 60 band rows
  • 10 burpee box jumps
  • 20 feet elevated push ups
  • 30 step ups each leg
  • 40 box squat jumps
  • 50 dips with legs straight
  • 60 band rows

Working by themselves, clients should aim to complete everything written on the whiteboard. Clients can choose between normal and advanced for each exercise.

Clients will need a bench or large step to complete exercises.


Stretch it out.


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Thanksgiving is coming up so be sure to send us your best Thanksgiving workouts to share with everyone. Submit them here.

A Slammin’ Bootcamp Workout

I ran a very belated Halloween workout with my groups last week. There was a lot of fun had and a good share of dramatic faces and hands. I really wanted to share it with you.

You could easily take the concept and rework for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Werewolf Burpees

Werewolf Burpees


Time: 45 minutes

Equipment: Battling Ropes, Cones, Mats, Dead balls (medballs will do)

Warm Up

Indian Runs and then a game. I played Rock, Paper, Scissors Sprint.

Main Bit

Clients will want to get into pairs of similar level.

These groups will move from station to station every two minutes (when the trainer calls out). If they finish the station before the two minutes is up they can have a rest. Some stations are purposefully unfinishable so participants should just get as much done as they can in the two minutes.


Complete 2 to 3 rounds of the circuit.

A. Zombie Slam and Run.

One person running to cone 40m away and back and the other zombie slamming on ropes (1 arm at a time like an exaggerated zombie walk). Slammers and runners swap when runners get back.

B. Survival Station.

Complete the following strength exercises twice:

  • 10x Frog squats
  • 10x Nightmare running high knees – high knees on spot, 10 per leg
  • 10x Mind bending staggered hand push ups – regular push ups with one hand slight forward and the other slightly back, 5 each way
  • (advanced) 5x Werewolf burpees – burpees with a nice big werewolf leap at the top

*The advanced exercises are some extra work for your fittest clients done in addition to the other exercises.

C. Pumpkin Smashing.

Take it in turns with your partner slamming the dead ball. Do 2 slams each, then 4 slams each, 6, 8,…, 20.

D. Survival Station.

Complete the following strength exercises twice:

  • 10x Coffin sit ups (hold each others legs if necessary) – lie completely flat with your arms across your chest and then sit up while keeping your legs down
  • 10x Spider push ups – aka spiderman push ups
  • 10x Frightening jump squats – jump squats like you are jumping out at someone
  • (advanced only) 5x Ghoul get ups – rolling get ups

E. Body Part Hustle.

Run bags of body parts (sandbags) in either a bear hug carry or  on the shoulder from cone to cone (cones 40m apart). Then bring them back. You can do this drill with another pair (in groups of 4) if you have a lot of sandbags. Once all are delivered clients can rest.

F. Monster Walks.

With a partner warrior walking lunge to cone 30m (40m advanced) away and back. Rest once get back.



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Pictures of some of the exercises.

Zombie Slams

Zombie Slams


Monster Lunges

Monster Walks

I set up the stations in a row.

I set up the stations in a row. Here you can see A, B, C, D and the sandbags are E.