This is an article from regular contributor Pat Carr.
A difficult part of running bootcamps (with limited equipment and multiple clients per trainer) is coming up with workouts that build strength, and in particular, having exercises that are high enough resistance to build strength.
Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘more is always better’ with your programming (in terms of training volume). While most of our prospective (and current) clients could definitely do with more training, this doesn’t necessarily mean more reps and sets.
There are definite advantages to high rep training, such as building muscular endurance, but doing it every session can actually hinder the results that our clients are after – namely fat loss.
I won’t go too deep into the science of it all, as most of you would already be aware, but continued high rep and/or low resistance training can lead to the body getting used to this type of training, and it tries to maintain it’s fat stores, and burns muscle instead. In the long term building muscle is the most effective way to lose fat, so we want to develop muscle in our body instead of burn it – and we do that through strength training!
If any of you have listened to a talk from Garry Robinson, he often makes a great point about your body resembling your training style. If you always do hi-rep, low resistance training, like an endurance athlete (e.g. a marathon runner), you end up looking like that, slim with very little muscle tone, and ironically, you can carry considerable fat stores. If your clients want a toned, lean figure you need to mix that endurance style of training with strength training and interval cardio training (HIIT). That way, you are training more like a sprinter than a marathon runner. For example check out the different physiques below.
Not only does strength training help our clients to get that toned look that many of them are after, but it also has many other benefits including improved bone density, reduced risk of injury and therefore a better quality of life. This can be particularly important for anyone who trains older clients, as making their muscles and bones stronger can have a huge impact on their ability to avoid dangerous falls in the future, as well as recovering from them easier when they do happen.
Examples of strength training you can use in your bootcamps:
Instead of whatever regular pushups your clients normally do, progress them to a more difficult version, like
- From knees pushups to toes pushups
- From toes pushups to decline pushups with feet elevated
- Progressing to plyometric pushups (raising your hand off the ground each rep) or pushup claps
- Simply slowing your pushups down, try a 5 second count down and 5 second count up
Once your clients have decided upon their progressed pushup level, give them this workout:
Start a one minute timer. Every minute, you must do 6 pushups, then rest for the remainder of the minute.
So the total will be only 60 pushups in 10 minutes, but if they have progressed to a pushup difficult enough, it won’t be easy to finish.
Instead of the basic bodyweight squats, you can progress your clients by:
- Turning it into a squat jump, or better still, a broad jump for a set distance (e.e. 40m of broad jumps)
- Obviously adding weights, and change the position they are held in (e.g. dumbbells/kettlebells by your side, at your shoulders in a ‘front rack’ position)
- Squat with box jump
- Single leg (pistol) squat – if these are too difficult initially (they are very advanced) you can single leg squat down to a bench, and change the height of the bench to alter difficulty
- Skater squats – a single leg squat variation where the other leg is in the air behind your body, and you squat down until the back knee touches the ground.
Instead of regular bodyweight dips against a step/bench, you can progress by:
- Straightening your legs (moving your feet further away from the base of the step)
- Elevate your feet up to the height of your hands
- Place a weight on your lap as you dip
- If equipment allows, complete bodyweight dips on a pair of gymnastics rings!
On top of these bodyweight examples given, the easiest way to build strength at your bootcamps is simply through increasing the resistance, like using heavier weights (if you use weights that is).
For someone who is doing 100 reps of an exercise (like in a 1000 rep workout, which you see plenty of), you could easily double the weight and do sets of 6-8 reps with a minute rest in between. This principle applies to all weights you would use; dumbbells, medicine balls, kettle-bells, sandbags, etc.
A good practical example is doing dumbbell shoulder press.
Split your clients into groups of 3 (of a similar strength) and give them heavy enough weights where doing more than 10 or 12 reps would be too difficult.
One partner goes for max reps (typically 6-8), then the second partner does the same and third partner. That way it will be a 1:2 rest which is plenty, and I am sure your clients will surprise themselves with how much they can actually lift!
There is a reason that bodybuilders have such muscular physiques and low body fat levels. Coupled with their obvious eating habits, it is also because they train with heavier weights, and aim to build strength.
Do you do strength training with your campers?
Share with us one way you bring strength training into your sessions.