// Make boot camps an integral part of your business

by Nathan Schrag

If taken seriously and not treated as a quick grab for cash, fitness boot camps can become an integral part of your personal training business. In the past, these camps and the instructors associated with them have come in for much criticism, both within the industry and outside it. Despite accusations of too many injuries, a lack of structured programs, too much reliance on cardio-based exercises and overly large group sizes, the growth of this sector continues. boot camps now play a huge role within our industry, providing a revenue stream for trainers and allowing recruits the opportunity to train outside in a diverse, exciting environment. 

To avoid the accusations levelled at some boot camps, you must take the time to create and implement your program. Training groups in outdoor settings requires additional thought and planning, compared to regular indoor training sessions. consider all safety concerns, instructor experience and qualification, variety, environment, lesson plans, instructor-to•recruit ratio and differing fitness levels of participants. 

To start and maintain a successful boot camp program, certain basic knowledge is required in the areas of safety, words of command and instructor technique. These will make the difference between you, the personal trainer and you, the instructor – the person whose passion and enthusiasm constantly keeps a group of five, ten, twenty or even fifty people completely engrossed and focused on intense, results-driven and safe training. 


Boot camps can remain a major part of the fitness industry provided instructors conduct themselves appropriately and make safety their number one priority. If safety is first and foremost in your mind and the ‘quick buck’ mentality gets pushed aside, your programs will produce a happy, healthy and very talkative recruit who cannot tell enough people about your fun and effective camp that is affordable for everyone. 

To run a safe outdoor session, you must: 
• Know your training area. if it is new to you, visit beforehand or arrive early to ensure you know the terrain 
• Never instruct exercises that you have not safely performed yourself 
• Ensure your insurance covers the activity delivery and group size
• Keep the instructor-to-recruit ratio at a level that you can handle. it may be 1:20 ratio or it may be 1:10 – go with what makes you feel comfortable and safe 
• Ask recruits whether they have any injuries at all before they start – otherwise some people will not let you know 
• Instruct recruits to remove watches, rings and jewelry prior to the start of the session 
• Conduct a thorough warm up specific to the session planned 
• Conduct a thorough cool down incorporating stretching of the muscles used in the session 
• Ask recruits, upon completion, whether they have suffered any injuries during the session 
• Log any injuries in an ‘incident log’. this is important in case data is ever needed for support of your recruit. additionally, those with injuries will henceforth be known to any instructor who happens to take your class. be aware that there is a higher risk of injury in boot camp activities, so you need to cover yourself. 

Assets of a great boot camp instructor

Always aware of safety able to think on feet constant fault correction or praise confidence, which breeds confidence strong voice that people listen and respond to able to facilitate maximum participation while allowing for peoples weaknesses.

Words of command 

After the all-important safety aspect, ensure that ‘words of command’ become your second priority. understanding basic ‘command and control’ voice procedures will allow you to control the group effectively and will differentiate you from other boot camp providers. The seven words below can take your class-conducting skills to the next level. If you feel more comfortable substituting some of these words with others of your own choice, by all means do so – just make sure that there is consistency among your trainers. 

1. Go – used to begin activities or move groups around; e.g. ‘on the command go, you will run around the tree. reaDy… go’ 

2. Begin – used to start exercises; e.g. ‘Push up, 10 reps. exercise… begin’ note: the difference between go and begin is the type of start you want. A command of go is used to instigate an enthusiastic start, such as exploding out of the blocks like a 100 metre sprinter, whereas begin is used for a controlled/steady beginning. 

3. Ready – used to tell recruits to assume the starting position for an exercise; e.g. ‘Push up position ready’. Once in the ready position the following command would be ‘exercise… begin’ 

4. Stop – is only used to immediately cease an activity for minor/major safety issues and is rarely used. when the command is used it must be loud and sharp; e.g. ‘stop!’ Note: Do not overuse this command. Ensure every recruit knows that when the command is given it is compulsory to stop what they are doing, ensure they are safe and pay attention to their instructor. 

5. Steady – used to cease an activity; e.g. counting down push ups, ‘10, 9, 8, …3, 2, 1, STEADY’ 

6. Rest – used to let recruits know that they can switch off and rest, e.g. push ups ‘10, 9, 8, …3, 2, 1, STEADY’. They may then drop to their knees, and if you are not continuing you would say ‘rest’. this allows recruits to relax, stretch or take a drink. 

7. Change – used when moving from one exercise to another or to change something; e.g. changing from push ups to squats, ‘3, 2, 1, squatting… eXercise… change’ or swapping teams from two different activities, ‘teams change’ when using the ‘words of command’ it is important to allow recruits to take in what you are explaining. A small pause should be used when using command words. For example, if a group is jogging and you want them to walk, the command should be ‘walking… (pause 1 second) change’. This pause allows them to register what the exercise or activity is that you wish them to do, then on the change they all swap from a jog to a walk – all controlled, all moving as one. 

The only way to become better at ‘command and control’ is through practice. This may involve practicing with small groups or even finding a quiet spot and talking loudly to trees. As your confidence increases, use other trainers to provide feedback on your skills. 

Your recruits should get it into their heads from the very first session that they don’t do anything until instructed to do so (unless they need to suddenly cease an activity due to personal safety concerns). If you tell them to jump, they should start jumping and not ask you how high, because you will tell them how high. 

Motivational instructor technique 

Any fitness professional can take a group out to a field and give them a range of exercises to do in a controlled and (hopefully) safe manner, but if you cannot ooze the necessary enthusiasm and personality to motivate the recruits then you will find it very hard to hold onto them. you should: 

• Aim to be the best at what you do. recruits recognise dedication, and this will play a major role in your success. 
• Be able to instruct something as seemingly unexciting as a game of ‘chess’, for instance, and still be able to make it exciting to watch and learn. 
• Always be saying something; always talking, always giving advice and never being monotone, dull or boring. 
• Never have recruits facing the sun when explaining something or briefing them, and keep distractions to a minimum. 
• Always try to help or improve recruits technique through ‘coaching’ them. coaching can be general, specific, or targeted at the group or an individual. 
• Use pitch, tone and key words to control the level of intensity within the class. 
• Use short, sharp and clear direction to make life easy for you and your recruits. 

If your boot camp has more than one instructor, it is useful to participate in a session, view your trainer’s instructor qualities from a recruit’s perspective and critique them according to the points above. you may be surprised to see how others view your session. 

The information provided here is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conducting successful boot camps, but having even this basic understanding of instruction is a great way to start becoming renowned for your sessions. now, have fun, remain focused and let your happy, healthy recruits sell your services for you.

Nathan Schrag
Nathan has been involved in the fitness industry for 15 years and currently runs his own group training business, Consort Fitness which specialises in Boot Camp training and providing health and fitness programs to the corporate sector. A highly regarded military physical training instructor, he has trained everybody from troubled youths to Olympic athletes and Special Forces. For more information call 1300 NAVY SEAL, visitwww.consortfitness.com.au or e-mail info@consortfitness.com.au