Monday, September 13, 2010

Using Bootcamp Fatigue with Purpose

Brian, who happens to be an avid reader of this blog and happens to be a trainer located on the West Coast, popped a very good question regarding my group circuit classes.
You already know I don't like to call them "bootcamps" because I don't wear a whistle and I've never served in the Army, but's all in the marketing, right?

Here are Brian's comments followed by my rationale:

"I think its great that you are FINALLY venturing into the world of bootcamps (stupid name, I think, but unfortunately we seem to HAVE to use it) You know me...I have to know why everyone does what they do...especially because you posted the workout. Would you mind spending some time and walking readers through your rationale for choosing each exercise in the workout portion? I see a lot of bootcamps that are simply designed to make people tired and not really accomplish anything else."

Answer: I like the aspect of bringing people to fatigue in a group setting. I think it makes it more difficult for people to quit when they are around others that WILL push through fatigue. With general population clientèle, mental toughness "comes to life" when they are around others that are suffering the same. The only thing that differs is each person's "interpretation" of pain and fatigue. I think that in a group setting, people begin to self-evaluate their own interpretation of it, and second guess the limitations they pose on themselves. They begin to think, "maybe I can give it a few more reps", or "I can squat lower than the girl behind me". It is an awesome display of competitiveness and motivation that we, as trainers, conjure up in a group setting. Sometimes it is so thick in the room, that you can slice through it with a blade. Now please note...I do encourage all participants in my class to "modify" an exercise if need be; pause for a breath, and take water breaks. So...its not strictly about fatigue.

About the chosen circuits:

Because fatigue is a huge factor with my class participants, I need to understand what movements will begin to break down. With that, I plan each circuit with a compound exercise like a squat (triple extension) and follow it with an antagonist movement that can be a single joint movement or an active recovery. The circuit is usually something like:

compound = Squat, Curl, Press

antagonist/active recovery = Oblique Twists

compound = Squat with Med Ball PNF Pattern

antagonist/active recovery = Prone Floor Cobras

Now I don't always look at it as "which" muscles will fatigue, but I look at which sequencing movements will break down. So with that I also plan the circuits based on plane of movements:

Squat, Curl, Press = Sagittal

BOSU Lateral Step = Frontal

Woodchops = Transverse

I think the thing to remember with circuits is that the predominate source of fatigue people experience is neuromuscular--not necessarily all muscular. With the various movements; lack of adequate rest; loads; and repetitiveness, the nervous system becomes overloaded...but there is still "gas in the tank" for the muscles.

However, the only way to determine that is if the circuit is designed correctly. I hate boot camp classes that just strive on beating the crap out of you without any reasoning behind the chosen exercises. I like to think there is a reason for the exercises I choose. In my opinion, when I meet trainers that like to just "beat the snot" out of clients, they are really telling me they lack an understanding of movement efficiency. Trust me, its easy to simply tire people out.


  1. nice explanation. lets not forget tho, that there may be something to say for "beating the snot outta people"

  2. Great article! ..from my experience most bootcamp trainers are following the above...the beat the snot out of you trainers are in the minority....let's keep it that way with good articles and info like this:)

  3. Thanks Georgette! Many bootcampers follow the same creed: "All maddness and no method!"


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