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How to Teach a Boot Camp Class

By M.L. Rose

Boot camp classes get their inspiration from military boot camps. The classes last about 45 to 50 minutes, and during this time, your students stay in almost perpetual motion as they move from one exercise to another. Potential class structures have no limitations, other than your imagination, as you create a mix of stretching, strength-training and plyometric and cardio exercises.

Assess Your Students

To help plan your class, perform physical assessments before the initial session. Weigh each student and perform other baseline evaluations, such as measuring waistlines and body-fat percentages. Then, adapt your program to the fitness level of your class. If most participants need to lose weight, for example, increase the time spent on cardio. If some participants are very obese, offer non-weight-bearing cardio activities, such as riding stationary bikes. The knowledge you gain from spending one-on-one time with students can help you motivate your students during classes. Repeat the assessments weekly. This helps participants see their progress and helps you judge whether or not your students are on target to achieve their goals and then adjust your remaining classes if necessary. Do a check at the end of the last class so everyone can assess their accomplishments. You can also use the data to assess your own performance as an instructor.

Structure a Class

Begin the class with at least five minutes of light cardio exercise, such as jogging in place or jumping rope. Follow this with dynamic stretches, focusing on the major muscle groups your class will work on during the workout. The main portion of your workout will be a long circuit made up of a series of exercises performed with little or no rest between activities. End the class with a five-minute cool-down that can be similar to the warm-up. Follow this with static stretches of the muscle groups trained during the main workout. Think about adding some fun touches during class. Play fast-paced music. Have your students wear military-style attire. Include competitive exercises, such as relay races.

Get an Attitude, It Counts

Just because it's called "boot camp" doesn't mean you have to be a drill sergeant. Instead, focus on being positive and encouraging your students. Make a positive comment to each individual at some point in every class. This lets your students know you care about their progress and helps establish a welcoming atmosphere. Watch students carefully and make corrections when they use improper form. Offer praise when they begin using the correct technique. This can help you maintain an upbeat, non-judgmental tone. Encourage your students to share their fitness goals with each other, either before or after class. If you help your students develop group camaraderie, they can motivate each other to succeed.

Take a Look at a Sample Class

You can include virtually any exercise in a boot camp circuit, including body-weight calisthenics and activities using free weights, exercise bands or machines. For example, fitness instructor Leigh Crews suggests a 10-exercise circuit performed twice within 25 to 27 minutes. Spend one minute on each activity and take no more than 20 seconds to move between stations. Timing exercises rather than measuring them by repetitions lets participants work at their own pace, doing as many reps as they can during one minute. Crews’ exercises include straddle runs over small platforms; kettlebell get-ups; fast step-ups; side planks; machine single-leg squats with rows; resistance band wood chops with reverse lunges; pushups with feet elevated, combined with crunches; kettlebell swings; jump-overs; and side lunges performed on gliding discs. The workouts should become more challenging as the class progresses and participants improve their strength and conditioning.

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