Boot Camps Are on the Rise

As the economy continues to sputter through the largest downturn since the Great Depression, in all aspects of life, people are looking to maximize their returns on money invested in various endeavors. Expenditures on health and fitness activities can range from a few hundred dollars for basic PT gear to thousands of dollars to outfit a modern gym. From the standpoint of both a proprietor and a student, Boot Camp fitness programs are ideal venues for providing and achieving high-level workouts at fractional prices.

Boot Camp fitness programs first gained popularity in the late 1990s. Over a decade later, Boot Camps remain an ideal destination for students interested in achieving a varied, total-body workout without breaking their budget. While weightlifting strengthens muscles and aerobics provides a cardiovascular workout, Boot Camp fitness programs offers the best of both worlds. Students can strengthen muscles through exercises such as push ups and get heart healthy with eight-count body builders.


Instructors obtain a tangible benefit, one that is oftentimes overlooked: the ability to operate their own business with reasonable start-up costs. Building and equipping a fully functional gym can cost several hundred thousand dollars. Larger gyms can run into the millions. A nominal investment of five to ten thousand dollars can allow an entrepreneur to get certified with the National Federation of Professional Trainers, secure a location with a neighborhood facility, purchase equipment and uniform items, develop a website, and advertise in regional publications. Within a relatively short period of time, an instructor can establish a camp, build a client base, collect monthly fees, and recoup his or her initial investment.

Suppose an instructor offers three, one-hour classes per week. On average, there will be 12 hours of instruction per month. If the instructor leads a class of 30 students and charges a monthly fee of 100 dollars per student, for 12 hours of instruction, $3000 of revenue will be generated. Low start-up costs and reasonable income is the type of economics that can appeal to both instructors and recruits.

Beyond finance and economics, several other factors account for the continued popularity of Boot Camp fitness programs, not the least of which is camaraderie. Working out on individual equipment at a gym can be a lonely experience, one that takes a singular dedication to sustain momentum over time. Outdoors in a Boot Camp with a group of friends, all under the tutelage of a military-like Drill Instructor is an entirely different experience. Even though the environment is high-intensity and exceedingly structured, when students look around, they can be motivated by the presence of their fellow participants. But this is more than an average type of class. Since Boot Camp programs discourage the “individual” mentality, regular attendance by all students is the norm. Familiarity with fellow members makes it easier for students to stay involved over the long-term.

As with any product, Boot Camp fitness programs are offered in a variety of packages. Some are more intense than others. Certain Boot Camps may have former Drill Instructors with prior military or law enforcement experience. Many students are attracted to these types of instructors because of the opportunity to experience actual recruit training without having to join the military or the police.

Students should seek a well rounded syllabus with drills that involve cardiovascular work (maximizing oxygen intake and conversion), calisthenics (using body weight to build strength), and sport-specific exercises (improving strength and speed1 ). Many professional organizations send their employees to Boot Camp fitness programs in order to participate in acceleration and deceleration drills, which fire up fast twitch muscle fibers, develop multi-directional speed, and improve lateral movement. For occupations such as firefighter and police, exercises that enhance speed and dexterity (for example, zigzagging through pylons), can make a significant difference in the employee’s performance in high-stress operational settings.

Instructors who provide a fun and healthy total body workout should have little difficulty in attracting and retaining students from all walks of life, whether it is a family with children who play soccer or a police agency in need of a structured exercise environment. When these factors are combined with favorable economics vis-à-vis traditional venues, expect the popularity of Boot Camp fitness programs to be sustained for many years to come.


1Strength and speed are two key components in most sports. Speed is dependent on a person’s stride length (the longitudinal difference between the right foot and left foot touching the ground), stride frequency (the turnover time between foot movement), and flexibility (which prevents injury and provides an even stride).

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These resources are for the purpose of personal trainer growth and development through Continuing Education which advances the knowledge of fitness professionals. This article is written for NFPT Certified Personal Trainers to receive Continuing Education Credit (CEC). Please contact NFPT at 800.729.6378 or [email protected] with questions or for more information.