When Do We Need To Make Sessions More Challenging?
“The workouts are great, but could they be a little bit harder?”
Hands up if you’ve had that feedback before? ✋ This guy has too.
I’ve never been a big fan of ‘smashing’ my clients just for the sake of making training hard, but that meant that sometimes I would end up making the sessions too easy. Especially for my more advanced campers who had been training with me a long time.
A couple of ways I see trainers make sessions harder is by adding in more burpees or decreasing/removing rest times. But this is lazy or uninformed programming. There are much better ways we can make a workout harder. Ways that are more fun for us and the clients.
Here are 8 different ways that I would use regularly: 20 Awesome Bootcamp Burpee Progressions
1. EMOM On Top
If you really love burpees and can’t stand the thought of running a workout without them here’s a clever way to use them.
Set an interval timer for 5 minutes. During the workout whenever that timer goes off campers must stop what they’re doing and immediately do 3, 5 or 8 burpees (beginner, intermediate or advanced).
You can use this with burpees or any other challenging exercise. Here’s a list of 20 burpee varieties to try.
2. Pyramid Rep Rounds
This works great in an workout where campers are completing the same exercises over and over (like in a circuit or EMOM).
Each time they complete the exercises the number of reps goes up. So if they did 10 reps the first round, this round they’re going to do 12, then 14 and so on. This is especially great because as advanced clients get further ahead of the rest of the group, they’ll be slowed down by the bonus reps.
You can modify this for different fitness levels by decreasing the initial reps or the number of reps that are increased each round.
3. Time Rest Breaks
Ever get caught up chatting to clients during a rest between drills only to discover they’re all looking a little too rested? Whoops that 1 minute break turned into a 5 minute break!
A simple way to fix this and to keep the intensity up is to time your breaks between drills. Set a timer for 2 minutes and get explaining what’s next while they grab a drink and catch their breath. When those 2 minutes are up, it’s time to go!
Two other ways to cut down on rest breaks is to use similar exercises throughout the workout (saves time explaining new exercises) and to have any equipment/cones set up before the session begins.
4. Interlude Drills
Sometimes though we can’t help but need some time to get the next drill set up. Or we need something to break up a fairly straight forward circuit workout.
In this case keep your campers moving with an interlude drill:
- Use a timer and a speaker to run a quick tabata drill
- Have cones marked out and get everyone doing a shuttle running drill
- Pick a landmark and have everyone run to it and come back
- Pair campers up and have them each do 12 push ups one at a time, then 10 push ups, then 8 and so on
Get creative and come up with your own!
5. Tabata Without Rest
Want to make tabata even harder? Simply change the 10 second rest period to an active rest exercise like planks or holding a squat. That’s it!
6. Scale Your Sessions
How have I gotten this far down the list without writing about scaling your workouts for different fitness levels? Shame on you Kyle.
When planning your sessions you want to keep in mind that what you plan isn’t going to work for everyone in the group. Some of your clients need more and some need something easier/simpler. A great way to cater for everyone is by planning options for 3 different fitness levels into your sessions: beginner, intermediate and advanced.
If you go back to 1. EMOM On Top you can see I did this with the number of burpees. You can also make things easier/harder by keeping the reps the same but using an easier/harder variation of the same exercise.
I wrote about this in depth in another article which you can read here: The Simple Guide To Planning Sessions For Mixed Fitness Levels
7. Sneaky Bonus Rounds
After training groups for a time I noticed something interesting. Experienced clients knew how hard a workout or drill was probably going to be so they would hold back a bit. Leaving some energy in the tank for later.
So I began occasionally throwing in Sneaky Bonus Rounds or only telling them half the drill upfront. Then once they were done I’d reveal the SBR (“One more time through the circuit with just 30 seconds per station and no rest. Go!”) or the rest of the workout (“Now go back down in reps to 2 reps each exercise.”).
8. Add Weight
This is one is an obvious way to increase intensity but I left it until last because it does come with problems in a bootcamp setting.
Weights are awkward to transport and they can be expensive. You need to make sure people know how to use them properly too. As a new trainer you may not have many weights as you’re still building up your equipment collection. But if you’re noticing some of your clients are outgrowing bodyweight movements, it might be time to consider investing some money into them.
Here are some tips for buying weights:
- Invest in good quality. Note that this doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Get a few to begin with and test them out before buying a lot.
- Once you’ve found something good invest in just one type of equipment (eg. dumbbells, or kettlebells, or slam balls) at a time and get a few different weights. Stick with that one type until you get bored then start investing in something else.
- There are free and low cost options like sand bells. I also used car and truck tyres a lot when I was starting out as they were free.
I hope you’ve found one or two new tools for your workout planning toolkit. What do you like to do to up the challenge factor for your fittest clients?
If you’d love to see some of these ideas in action, I recommend our workout database BootCraft.
Kyle Wood created Bootcamp Ideas in 2010 when he was hunting around on the internet for workout ideas. He ran a successful bootcamp in Victoria, Australia and spends his spare time managing this site, adventuring (or lazying) with his wife and find new ways to make bootcamps even better.