How to Become a Boot Camp Trainer

Personal training is a booming industry. More people than ever are interested in improving their health and fitness and making physical activity a priority. But not all people are motivated enough to go to the gym regularly or knowledgeable enough to plan their own workouts. This is where personal trainers can help.

Within the fitness industry, a number of specialized workouts and types of training are popular, including boot camps. If you’re already a personal trainer or looking to get into this career, consider learning to become a boot camp trainer. Tap into this growing business and land a job leading boot camps for gyms and fitness clubs, or branch out on your own and start up a small boot camp business.

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What is Boot Camp Training?

As the name suggests, boot camp training takes its inspiration from the training regimen of the military. A boot camp is a training program of a few weeks or months that is intense in nature and designed to get quick results. Boot camps are also fun and a change of pace from the gym, with many conducted outside. Clients choose boot camps to change up their fitness routines but also often to lose weight.

Boot camps can vary in length, but four weeks is typical. Most include a combination of strength training and cardiovascular workouts to build strength and muscle mass, while also boosting metabolism and improving cardiovascular fitness and health. The workouts vary but generally are designed to be fun and fast-paced and to use outdoor items—like benches, picnic tables and even kids’ playgrounds—to do exercises. Some boot camps are specialized depending on the clientele and their goals:

  • General fitness
  • Weight loss
  • Young athletes
  • Women only
  • Seniors
  • Pre-wedding weight loss

What Bootcamp Instructors Do

A boot camp trainer must do what other personal trainers do: meet and evaluate clients; get to know client needs, limitations and goals; plan workouts to meet those goals; guide form and educate clients about fitness; and assess client progress, making changes as needed.

Bootcamp instructors must also be skilled in leading groups of people, sometimes with different fitness levels. They design specialized programs, often conducted outdoors. The programs they come up with have to be effective for client goals, fit into the prescribed timeline and also be fun and motivating.

Many bootcamp trainers are also small business owners. You can get a job as a boot camp leader for a company or a gym, but many instructors strike out on their own. They set up and run businesses that offer regular boot camps. This requires marketing, budgeting, getting liability insurance, managing accounts and maintaining a successful business.

Complete a Program in Personal Training First

There are no laws that require personal trainers to have any education, training or credentials, such as certification. To be a boot camp trainer, you don’t need a special certification. Technically, anyone can call themselves a trainer or instructor and offer a class. But there are excellent reasons not to do so.

Fitness is a growing industry, with demand for qualified trainers growing. Consumers are savvy and know there are training programs and certifications for fitness professionals. Employers and clients alike will hesitate to work with a trainer who has not gone through any formal education, even if you have a strong personal background in fitness.

A general personal training program will give you the foundational knowledge needed to work with clients safely and effectively. It will show employers and clients that you have the appropriate skills and education to work in this industry, whether you specialize as a bootcamp trainer or not. Accredited, widely-recognized and accepted programs are offered through these online schools:

  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

A general course in personal training from any of these schools will take eight to ten weeks and provide a good knowledge base for beginning a career in the fitness industry.

Earn Personal Trainer Certification

Having the education and training is important, but so is certification. This is the credential you can show employers and potential clients to prove you have done the work and are qualified to train people. Each of the schools listed above includes certification. To earn the certification, you must complete the course and pass the required exam. Most programs allow six months to a year to take and pass the exam. You may also need to be certified in CPR and AED.

Once certified, you will need to renew that credential ever couple of years. The specific requirements vary by program, but most require recertification every two years. In order to be recertified, you will need to complete continuing education credits. Bootcamp courses may count toward these.

Enroll in a Bootcamp Trainer Course

You could start offering boot camp programs right away after earning your personal trainer certification, but this is a specialized type of training with specific skills. It’s a good idea to continue your education by completing a course in boot camp training.

The right course will teach you how to work with groups and with individuals of varying skills and fitness levels; how to work outside safely; how to design a boot camp program that is effective and fun; how to run a boot camp business; and many other aspects of training specific to this model.

Not all training programs for bootcamp instructors are accredited, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile. Do some research and ask questions before you settle on one. Consider factors like the qualifications of the instructors, the hours of programming, whether or not there is any hands-on learning, and requirements for enrolling.

  • National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA). NESTA is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and offers an Adventure Boot Camp course. It is designed to teach you how to lead boot camps but also how to start it up as a business. The virtual learning program provides everything you need to know about running a boot camp and allows you to use the Adventure Boot Camp name.
  • American Sports and Fitness Association (ASFA). The Group Fitness and Bootcamp Instructor program offered by ASFA is designed with experienced trainers in mind. You should already be a qualified trainer before enrolling. In the online course, you will learn how to work with multiple clients and how to develop a safe boot camp, either indoors or outside.
  • FiTOUR. This online health and fitness certification organization offers a Primary Boot Camp Fitness certification. It provides study materials and a certification exam and is designed to help you set up a successful boot camp business.
  • Tabata Bootcamp. Tabata is a specialized kind of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that involves intense, short bursts of activity with short rest periods in between. The idea is to get an effective workout done in less time. The Tabata Bootcamp Instructor program will teach you how to lead boot camp programs using the Tabata method.

While not all of these programs are individually accredited, several qualify as continuing education credits for other, accredited organizations. For instance, ACE recognizes the Tabata bootcamp course and counts it as 0.9 continuing education credits.

Also consider completing a specialty course in group fitness. Most of the accredited schools with personal trainer certification programs also offer group fitness. This will prepare you for running boot camps but will also broaden your opportunities. A base in group fitness will allow you to teach any number of fitness classes for groups of clients.

Get a Job as a Boot Camp Trainer or Start Your Own Business

The last step is to simply begin working as a boot camp trainer. There are two ways to do this: find a job with an existing company or start your own. This is a type of training that is particularly well-suited to a small business. Depending on your climate and weather, you can probably lead every class you teach in public parks and athletic fields. There is no need for a gym with boot camps unless the weather interferes.

If you are interested in working as an employee, look for companies that exclusively run boot camps. They will need qualified instructors. Other potential employers include gyms and boutique fitness centers, community health and fitness centers, city parks and recreation departments, resorts and cruise ships, and companies with employee wellness programs.

Boot camps are increasingly popular with people at all fitness levels. The draw comes from the fun, fast-paced workout and the fact that these programs generally lead to fast results. If you are already a trainer or are still thinking about a career change, focusing on boot camp instruction can be a lucrative, stable and fun job.