Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Getting Fit With Boot Camp Training

Boot Camp group workouts have proven to be more than just the latest fitness trend. Thousands of participants have been reshaping their bodies and reclaiming their health and vitality with the help of fitness Boot Camps, and many trainers are taking notice. More and more fitness professionals are incorporating group fitness “bootcamp” style programs into their training portfolio. However, not all bootcamps are created equal. This article will explain what makes this style of training so effective, and what to look for in a good group workout.

A well designed Boot Camp program, such as the Strictly Fitness Bootcamp I run in Toronto, with Fitness Expert Kris Donaldson, incorporates several important elements to make it a productive, time-efficient exercise program. The following factors are key for producing significant physical transformation, such as improved body composition, increased anaerobic and aerobic fitness, athletic conditioning, and better health.

High intensity resistance exercise should be a focus of a good boot camp. If the intensity is too low, or there is too much emphasis on low intensity cardiovascular training, there will not be a sufficient stimulus for noticeable results. Participants typically attend boot camps to be challenged as well, and will soon become AWOL if this challenge is not found.

The resistance training exercises should include basic pushing and pulling movements for the upper and lower body as well as core training. Using compound, multi-joint exercises will challenge several muscle groups at once, which results in greater “exercise economy”, because you will get more “bang for your buck” during your training time. These are also more “natural” movements, which means they will have a greater carry-over to other regular activities in your life. Attention should be given to balancing the volume of work for opposing muscle groups, so as to prevent muscular imbalances from developing. These exercises should also consist primarily of bodyweight exercises, with the support of basic training accessories.

Bodyweight training is ideal for bootcamp group training because of the convenience and versatility of the exercises that can be performed. Most bodyweight exercises require minimal equipment and be performed almost anywhere. Bodyweight movements can be done indoors or outdoors, and can be adapted to be as challenging or as easy as necessary. No equipment is actually necessary, however, bodyweight workouts can be made more challenging with added exercise variations by the addition of training accessories such as suspension straps (ie: Jungle Gym, Blast Straps, or TRX), the Power Wheel, Lebert buddy system, exercise balls, and adjustable steps.

Every activity we do and every movement we make, whether it’s related to exercise or not, centers on using and controlling our own bodyweight. This is also true for resistance training. Although some people may not consider bodyweight training to be challenging enough, there are distinct benefits to performing bodyweight exercises.

Because bodyweight training typically involves major muscle groups in an integrated manner, the smaller stabilizer muscles are also strengthened. This will improve joint stability and strength. Your core muscles are also involved as you brace to provide a strong, stable base from which to initiate movement for the rest of the body.

Bodyweight training provides a convenient, versative, efficient, and effective method of training for strength, fitness, and conditioning, and should therefore be a mainstay of a good boot camp program.

Interval training cardio is also an important training method to include in a boot camp workout. Interval training involves brief intervals of high intensity “cardio” exercise with periods of lower intensity exercise between them. For example, one could perform 3 minutes of moderate intensity work, alternating with 30 seconds of very high intensity exercise. Interval training is more effective than long, slow cardio “endurance” cardio in a number of ways. Interval training can:

•Stimulate the release of fat-burning “growth-hormones”
•Develop fast-twitch muscle fibers
•Preserve (or even increase) lean tissue while metabolizing fat
•Take far less time to consume far more calories

Cost effectiveness is another huge benefit of being part of a boot camp. Because no gym is needed you save on those ridiculous membership fees. You also won’t need to spend money on expensive home gym equipment. Group training costs less per participant for expert instruction, compared to 1-on-1 personal training, yet with programs such as the Strictly Fitness Bootcamp you still get the benefit of having expert, qualified instructors. An important distinction of the Strictly Fitness Bootcamp is that the groups are limited to smaller class sizes, so that an individual’s needs can still be met within the group training environment. However, there is certainly no slacking allowed! Regardless of their fitness level, participants will be challenged to push their own limits.

One of the most significant benefits of a boot camp is the value of exercising with a group of other motivated, energetic people. There is a group dynamic within a boot camp that will help participants feed from each other’s energy, as well as a sense of accountability to the other members in the group (not just to the instructor). This leads to a better workout, faster results, and greater adherence to the program overall.

If the goal is to have fun, get in great shape, and adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle, a fitness boot camp might be just what you need.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Strength and Conditioning for Warriors

For those athletes who compete in contact or combat sports, physical conditioning is of the utmost importance. These “combatant athletes” subject themselves to immense physical stress in sports such as wrestling, football, judo, rugby, MMA, and others. To be able to withstand the rigors of their chosen sport and still perform at an elite level, these athletes (let’s call them warriors) must follow an intelligent training plan.

A well designed training plan does not have to be complicated. Unfortunately, many of these warriors mistakenly believe that the more complex and outlandish a training program seems, the better it must be. In an effort to incorporate "functional training" into their routines, warriors across the land are often found trembling on stability balls, balancing on wobble boards, lying on foam rollers, and jumping on Bosu balls. These tools have their uses, but they certainly won’t improve your strength and conditioning!

With the exception of a few core exercises, performing any exercise on an unstable surface is a waste of time unless the goal is rehabilitation. In fact, this type of training can also “de-train” these warriors, by providing inadequate muscle stimulation and entraining inappropriate motor patterns, all in the name of “sport specific” or “functional” training!

The key to becoming an unstoppable warrior is to get back to the basics. First, one must develop a solid strength base. Strength is the foundation for athleticism. Focus on basic primal movements such as squatting, lunging, deadlifting, twisting, as well as pushing and pulling from various angles. Use big, compound exercises, train heavy with solid form, and keep the workouts brief and intense.

Once a solid foundation has been established, it’s time to incorporate real-world “odd implement” training. This unorthodox style of training includes exercises such as tire flipping, sled dragging, sandbag carries, farmers walk, and stone lifting. A growing number of coaches, trainers, and athletes are recognizing the effectiveness of odd implement exercises or “real-world training”, because it gets results.

Also considering that many of these unique movements are explosive in nature, there tends to be greater carry-over to contact / combat sport activities than there is with traditional strength training in the gym. Because each compound exercise involves several muscle groups working together, training with these unconventional implements leads to full body “functional” strength, which transfers to better preparation for athletic performance on the battle-field.

This is why we use this method of training at our Top Form Strength Camp. The TF Strength Camp delivers an old-school workout with simple, primal movements using basic compound exercises and “real-world” implements. It has been our experience that this training style will develop full body strength and power while improving body composition and athletic performance.

Odd implement training is a rejection of the “mirrors, chrome, and elevator music” environment of most traditional gyms in favor of basic, ground based, athletic movements. Training with implements is a rugged, uncomfortable, yet enjoyable endeavor that builds not only physical strength but also strength of character. In the end, this is what separates the warriors from the “wanna-be’s”

-Josh Hewett-

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Making 2011 The Best Year Yet!

I want to wish you all a fantastic new year in 2011!

Let's set this year up to be the best one yet.  It is within our power to make each year better than the last, through the goals that we set, the choices that we make, and the attitude that we adopt.  If you haven't already, I encourage you to take the time to write down your goals (call them "resolutions" if you wish) for the next year and make your plans for how to reach these goals.


My own resolutions for 2011 are as follows:

Personal Goals:
  • Get into the best shape of my life! This means I will be leaner, stronger, healthier, and more fit than I've ever been before.  It may seem like a lofty goal, seeing as I am in my 40's now, but I was very close to reaching this objective last year (before my bicep injury), and this year it will be realized. I will be posting videos of my progress, and sharing my nutrition and exercise tips and strategies over the next few months.

  • Spend more time with my family... especially my daughter.  Kaitlyn is just over 2 years old now, and it is important to develop a strong relationship during these formative years.  Plus she's such a blast to hang out with!

  • Get more quality sleep more consistently. All work and no rest makes Josh a zombie!

Professional Goals:
  • We will be starting group training programs in a couple of weeks, to make our programs more accessible to a larger number of people.  The Strictly Fitness Boot Camp will be a challenging and highly effective early morning circuit training workout designed to improve fitness and body composition (metabolize that extra body fat!).  It is open to anyone who is up for a great workout.  The Top Form Strength Camp is an evening strength and conditioning program for men, which will involve some unique, "real-world" training implements.  I'm really looking forward to beginning both of these groups!

  • I am committed to finally completing both of the training ebooks I have been working on (and off) for so long.  These will be an online resource to make our programs available to those who do not live in the city, or who are unable to participate in one of our programs in person.

  • This is also the year that I will be venturing into group speaking engagements. I am looking forward to offering clinics and seminars in the near future.

  • 2011 will also be a year of continuing education.  I am scheduled to attend several courses and plan on attaining a new certification I've been wanted for some time.

Writing down your goals and resolutions and sharing them with others makes them "real" and helps make you accountable.  I invite you to share your New Year's goals, plans, and dreams with us, either on this blog in the comments section below, or on my new Facebook Page at www.Facebook.com/TopFormFitness .  You never know how posting your comments might inspire someone else or provide the spark to ignite their own goals for 2011.

It would be great to hear from you!

Wishing you a powerful and successful year ahead...



PS- Please post your Resolutions (or any related thoughts and ideas) in the comments below OR
at  www.Facebook.com/TopFormFitness ...  Thanks!

PPS- Remember to write down your goals, say them out loud, and review them regularly to ensure you are successful in reaching them!