You learned in last week’s blog post that boot camps are terrible for your posture! Many fitness classes around you fail to focus on the long term physical ramifications of repetitive, “front-loaded” exercises in a competitive setting. The instructors probably have not been schooled in how this can wreak havoc on your posture. Rather than balanced workouts, the goal in a boot camp class is often to “burn out” the client with as many difficult exercises as possible. Weight loss…that’s really the bottom line.
What should you do instead? You might ask…
Before I recommend other exercise routines that help balance the body load (this will be featured in part 3 of this series), let’s brainstorm ways to make your boot camp experience better!
First and foremost, you could point out solutions to your current instructor. As a group instructor myself (on occasion), I always enjoyed feedback from clients. HOWEVER, it is always better received when in privacy and not in front of a large group of people. So, wait until most of the class leaves before talking to the instructor.
Second, you could actively seek out instructors who cue and correct proper form. What does this mean? When planking, instructors use their cuing to ensure you are bringing your hips down into a straight line and “pulling in your abdominals”. When you are doing lunges, they make sure your knee/hip alignment is correct and cue you to push through your heel. When you are doing squats, they making sure you don’t round your lower back and that you are properly hinging from your hips. You get the picture! If the instructor is standing next to you at 5am, don’t let them just get away with counting reps. You’re paying for their expertise and you should get it.
Finally, you can take a class and evaluate if they are properly “balancing” the workout. What does this mean? Here are some examples:
BALANCE THE PUSHING WITH THE PULLING
Pushing exercises require you to use your chest, shoulders and triceps to push things AWAY from your body. Pushups, planks, mountain climbers, burpees all follow in this category.
For every pushing activity, there should be an equal number of pulling activities. In fact, I prefer incorporating more pulling than pushing. However, pulling is very hard without gym equipment, hence the difficulty of muscular balance in a boot camp situation. So let’s aim for EQUAL to start!
Pulling exercises utilize the biceps and back and pull things towards the body. Ideas for boot camp pulling exercises include bent over rowing, pullups, band rowing, and tug a war.
As you can see, these are a little harder to implement outside with no equipment, but with some creativity and out of the box thinking, your boot camp instructor should figure out a way to get these in.
REQUEST THIS ONE EXERCISE TO ALTERNATE WITH A PLANK
This exercise is one of my favorite in the Pilates repertoire that works the back muscles quite well and isn’t quite a pushing or pulling exercise. It also opens up the chest muscles, which I love. It’s traditionally called “back support” but you can call it a “reverse plank.” As you can see, you only need your body and a floor, so it’s perfect for any class. So why don’t more boot camps feature this exercise? I h
ave no idea! But it’s a simple thing you can do to alternate with a face down plank. Let me warn you… the exercise is HARD! This exercise also is wonderful for working the posterior chain, including the hamstrings and glutes. You can perform it with bent knees as a beginning variation, then progress to straight legs, and then even progress to lifting one leg. It’s a hamstring burner for sure!
BALANCE THE GLUTES WITH THE QUADS:
The glutes are the KING of movement and are super important for proper function of your knees, hips and lower back. Most people sit all day long on their glutes, underutilizing them, and making them weak. Then, they show up to a boot camp and often the class is filled with exercises that work the quads (not the glutes!). Clients who are dominant with the muscles on the front side of their body really need some serious balancing to strengthen the back side.
Lunges can work the glutes, but it’s important for the instructor to “cue” the student to work from the glute properly during this exercise. If the weight on the front foot is in the toe, not the heel, and if the client is leaning forward too much, then the quads will take over and work harder hardest.
Squats can be great glute strengtheners, except when you do put them up against a wall (which a lot of boot camps do). The wall squat position tends to cause the body to use the quads. Regular squats: great! Wall squa
ts: not as desirable.
Deadlifts are challenging to do in a boot camp situation without utilizing weights, but a single leg deadlift can be quite effective for working the glutes and hamstrings. A single leg walking deadlift is amazing for balance and is easy to do in a boot camp setting.
The best exercise in a boot camp setting is the step up. If cued properly, there is ample opportunity to really activate the glutes. Pushing through the heel will maximize glute engagement.
If you’re able to lie face up, then bridging is a great way to strengthen the back side of the lower half.
Boot camps often involve jumping and running which is great for the heart rate. However, it’s important to think about the direction your body is moving.
Exercise in the sagittal plane of motion involves moving forward and backward. Examples are running and step ups. When your body is moving side to side you are working in the lateral plan of motion. Examples are side lunges and skater jumps.
The transverse plane of motion is when you move around in all directions. Examples are bicycle crunches and woodchopper.
It’s easy to get caught up in pushups and burpees and step ups and jumping rope, which are all in the sagittal plane. Your body, however, needs to work in all three planes of motion to fully activate every muscle in the body. Working in the transverse plane also tends to work balance, which is great for long term injury prevention.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SHOP AROUND
There is plenty of competition in the market when it comes to boot camps and other high intensity interval training activities. Incorporate the tips above and make sure your class is hitting the mark with a well-balanced workout.
Or, perhaps, you can privately speak to your current instructor about your posture concerns. Most instructors in this industry are in it because they want to help people, they just might have never been trained on this theory of muscular balance. If you make them aware, we can hope that they will educate themselves and work towards finding better balance in their movement.
Tell me about YOUR boot camp below! I love to hear about your experiences…