Boot-camp inspired fitness routines build strength and torch calories

SUMMER is coming! If you're worried about shedding unwanted winter weight, or just want to get in shape, a boot-camp style workout regime may be just the thing for you.

SUMMER is coming! If you're worried about shedding unwanted winter weight, or just want to get in shape, a boot-camp style workout regime may be just the thing for you.

Intensive fitness programs based on the training regimes used to whip fresh military recruits into shape are becoming increasingly popular in China. Many of them use high-intensity interval training techniques designed to shed fat and build muscle quickly.

In the UK, fitness-oriented boot camps first caught on in the 1990s and were usually led by trainers with military experience. Of course, these days many such routines are led by civilian personal trainers and take place in fitness clubs or weekend retreats.

Most boot-camp fitness classes consist of circuits of intensive cardio and calisthenic exercises, including push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, pull-ups and squats. Each exercise is performed for 30 to 60 seconds with an interval of a few seconds in between. If taking place outdoors, the environment can also become part of a routine — hill sprints, for instance, being one boot-camp hallmark.

It’s all meant to be exhausting, but will quickly build your strength and endurance. Unlike personal training sessions, participants are usually in groups. Peer pressure will help push you to the edge, where you can get the most out of your workout.

If designed well, a one-hour boot-camp class can work every muscle group of your body. Target areas include the core, arms, legs, glutes and back. Most exercises are also meant to maximize calorie-burning.

To prevent soreness and muscle fatigue, most boot-camp sessions include stretching before and after the training. This is important to reduce lactic acid build-up in the muscles. These stretches may include some stretches borrowed from yoga.

Interestingly, fitness boot-camp class are quite popular with young mothers in the West looking to shed pregnancy weight. In fact, in the UK, one may see moms pushing their babies' highchairs up and down hills with a trainer chasing after them.

In general, outdoor boot-camp sessions are still rare in Shanghai, although a growing number of gyms are offering such classes. Before you get started on such an intensive regime for yourself, here are points to consider.

Q: Are boot-camp style routines suitable for everybody?

A: No. Due to their high intensity, people with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes should avoid boot-camp classes. Always consult your doctor before you start any high intensity workouts.

Q: Should I sign up for a class or start at home?

A: It really depends. Watching a DVD/video clips can be a good way to test the waters. Alternatively, spending money on a class in a gym/studio can put you in touch with a professional trainer who can help you avoid injury. Some people also find it fun to exercise with a group as well. Normally, classes range from 180 yuan (US$27.80) to 300 yuan.

Q: How often should I work out in order to lose weight?

A: Good question! Most trainers recommend two or three sessions each week. But it all depends on how your body reacts. It's best to go slow and realize that the best way to lose weight and shed fat is eating a healthy diet.

Q: Are there any studios in Shanghai offering boot-camp classes?

A: Yes, for example, Style Fitness. At the moment though, they only have indoor boot-camp classes. Take a trial lesson before you sign up.

Zhu Jing / SHINE

Shi Shuangyan, a personal trainer, demonstrates four common boot-camp exercises you can do just about anywhere!

Air Crutch

20 reps on each side, or one minute

Points:

Start from the side plank position and keep your body balanced. Bring right knee and right elbow together at the chest. Hold the position for three seconds if you can. Return to start position and repeat 20 times, or for one minute. Switch side.

Benefits:

Targets muscles in the shoulders, back, triceps, abs, obliques and butt while strengthening your core as well.

Zhu Jing / SHINE

Lunges

20 reps on each leg, or one minute

Points:

Step forward with about one meter between two legs. Lower your body, until both legs are at a 90-degree angle. Your hips should face to the front without twisting. Go slow to minimize impact on the knees. Return to the start position and change legs.

Benefits:

Directly works your butt, thighs and hips. Be cautious when doing lunges if you have a knee problem.

Zhu Jing / SHINE

Liftoff

For 1 minute

Points:

Bend your upper body and lift one leg until your back and leg are parallel to the ground. Stretch out your arms and hold the position. Remember to keep your whole body tight. Switch legs after one minute.

Benefits:

Targets muscles around your shoulders, back, abs and butt. The exercise can also improves concentration, balance and flexibility.

Zhu Jing / SHINE

Mountain climber

20 reps on each side, or one minute

Points:

Get into the front plank position. Place your hands wider than your shoulders. Remember to tuck in your belly and keep glutes tights. Raise your left leg, bringing your knee to your left elbow. Return to start position and bring right knee to right elbow. Remember to shift your weight from your core to your hands as you move.

Benefits:

Full body exercise is beneficial to muscular and cardiovascular fitness. It can improve flexibility, blood circulation and overall strength. Go slow to build your core strength.


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