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What is Cardio Boot Camp?

By T. Alaine
Updated May 17, 2024
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Cardio boot camp is a type of fitness plan or exercise class featuring fast-paced combinations of high-energy exercises. The workouts can be designed to use exercise equipment such as dumbbells, exercise balls, or weighted bars, but they can just as easily be adapted to purely body-weight exercises. The types of exercises and combinations of moves used in cardio boot camp classes or regimens are almost limitless, which makes boot camp workouts highly adaptive and very versatile. Regardless of the exercises employed, a cardio boot camp workout will operate at a high intensity, moving quickly between exercises.

The term “cardio” generally refers to an exercise that elevates the heart rate to an aerobic level and sustains that level continuously over the course of the workout. So, while cardio boot camp workouts can certainly improve muscle strength, the ultimate goal is to elevate heart rate and improve heart and lung capacity. In order to accomplish this, cardio boot camp routines usually utilize explosive, high-energy exercises such as squat-thrusts, pushups, abdominal exercises and lunges. Jumping jacks, and short bursts of running or jumping rope might also be involved.

Typically, a cardio boot camp workout will also incorporate stationary, strength-focused exercises such as bicep curls, tricep curls, or overhead presses as well. There is a difference, however, between traditional weightlifting methods and the boot camp approach to using weights. Traditional weight-room training usually focuses on the amount of weight being lifted, and the goal is to increasingly lift heavier weights and add significant muscle mass. In cardio boot camp, strength training focuses on lighter weights and higher, faster repetitions in order to increase endurance and keep the heart rate elevated.

Group fitness boot camps are considered by many a good way to stay motivated because they usually feature a drill sergeant-style instructor yelling out rapidly changing-sequences of exercises. Even though this might sound intimidating, the usually callisthenic-style exercises of a cardio boot camp class can be adapted to all levels of fitness. An independent boot camp workout is easy to plan, but requires a lot of personal motivation to get the same benefits as a cardio class. Working individually, the key to a successful cardio boot camp is to keep pushing hard enough that the heart rate stays elevated. It is also helpful to know the routine by heart to avoid having to stop in between exercises.

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