Boot Camp Exercise Routine

Boot camp push-ups

A good boot camp exercise routine is made up of tried-and-true exercises for building the strength needed in extreme conditions. Nowadays, these routines stretch far beyond the military, gaining popularity with exercise enthusiasts for their rapid results. Regardless of civilian or military status, boot camp programs promise impressive results.

Before You Begin

As always, it is wise to have a general health check-up with a doctor before beginning a new workout program; this is especially important for individuals who are currently inactive or have any kind of medical condition.

It is also very important to perform a thorough warm-up, raising body temperature and loosening up joints that may otherwise be subjected to risk of sprains. Finally, a thorough stretching session afterwards is important, as this helps flush out lactic acid buildup and decreases soreness the next day.

The Boot Camp Exercise Routine

NOTE: A boot camp exercise routine can be entirely equipment-free, but the following program requires a basic, straight barbell, allowing for considerable variation in exercises, and overall swifter progress. The number of sets and repetitions per set are general guidelines; increase the number of reps per set as necessary.


The basic push-up is a timeless classic simply because it works so well. This exercise hits the chest, shoulder and triceps areas. Remember to keep ab muscles tense and the body straight at all times.

Do three sets of as many reps as possible (beginners can start with three to five; athletes can go from ten to twenty), then do another two sets with hands closer together for extra triceps work. Form a triangle with the tips of your thumbs and index fingers, then do the extra push-ups, lowering the center of the chest to the triangle.

For more advanced athletes, change the reps structure to going 'to failure.' Perform push-ups until it's no longer possible; take a 15-second break, and then start with the next set.


As the name implies, pull-ups (also known as chins) require a bar, a branch, or any other object from which you can hang freely. Beginner weight lifters can let one foot rest on a box or similar to provide an extra push, while advanced trainers can use a weight belt to to make the exercise even more difficult by increasing the weight.

Do six sets, alternating every other set with thumbs pointing away from the body (close grip) and every other facing away from you (wide grip). Alternating the thumb direction targets different areas of the back, allowing for more well-rounded development. Beginners should start with two to four pull-ups per set; athletes can aim for ten to twenty.

Barbell Shrugs

This is a "short" exercise performed by grabbing the barbell and letting it hang down in front of the body (knuckles facing away from the body). The "short" movement is done by using the shoulders to pull back and up as far as possible. While the total movement is just a couple inches, it's a phenomenal exercise for building the shoulder and neck strength required for carrying heavy backpacks long distances. Do three sets of 10-12 reps, ensuring a good squeeze at the top of each rep.

Barbell Bicep Curls

This exercise is simple and straight-forward: Hold the bar with knuckles down, elbows tucked into the sides of the body and abs tensed. Keeping the body straight and immobile, curl up in a controlled fashion. Do three sets of 10-12 reps, ensuring constant resistance all the way down. It is critical to refrain from swaying in order to prevent back pain.


Squats are great for overall hip and thigh strength. One-legged squats without a barbell are a good option for every other workout, but for more resistance and fewer reps, use the barbell on alternate workout days.

Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart, back straight and the barbell balanced over the shoulders with hands gripping the far ends of the bar. Ensure that in the squat the knees come out over the toes of each foot to prevent wear and tear to the knees. Holding the head and chest facing forward, squat until the upper legs are parallel to the floor. Push through the heels and exhale to return to standing. Do three sets of 10-12 reps.


This is another great exercise for overall hip and thigh strength, with the added bonus of working the stabilizing muscles for better balance. The execution is simple: Stand straight and take a big step forward, then lower the rear knee towards the ground until it almost touches the ground, pushing back up and alternating legs. As with squats, ensure that the leading knee points out over the toes. For athletes who can do more than 12-15 reps per leg, add the barbell across the shoulders (or use dumbbells for balance reasons if available). Three sets of eight to twelve reps is a good goal for beginners.

Abdominal Crunches

Abdominal exercises are necessary to target the midsection. Lying on the ground with knees bent to a 90-degree angle and hips at a 45-degree angle, push back and down with the heels as the body rises from the floor, pressing the lower back into the ground. Alternate with side-crunches, where the hands are placed on the sides of the neck and the crunches are executed by twisting the right elbow towards the left knee and vice versa. Beginners should aim for 10-20 crunches per set, doing at least three sets per workout.

Boot Camp Results

In order to get the true boot camp experience, these strength exercises can be paired with endurance-style cardiovascular exercise. Focusing only on the exercises mentioned above will produce noticeable muscular results within two to four weeks for most practitioners, but pairing these with three cardio sessions a week can make the physical changes even more visible. Whether you want to lose weight, firm up, or both, this routine will help those who stick to executing it two to four times each and every week.

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Boot Camp Exercise Routine