Group Exercise Specialty Classes: Bootcamp or HIIT Class?

Group Exercise Specialty Classes

Understanding the Difference Between Bootcamp, HIIT, and Strength Classes

Clearly, there has been a radical change in the way group exercise classes exist in our currently reformed society. With many people unable to exercise at a gym or shared facility, group exercise shifted online.

Many trainers and coaches have repurposed their toolkits so they can continue training online, and therefore have needed to be creative in marketing their classes. With sunny Los Angeles being one of the primary destinations for fitness trainers and enthusiasts, many of them have taken their classes to the park. Creative trainers have made flyers on Canva or other social media template pages to advertise their fitness class.


Bootcamp classes are popular mostly by the name they imply; sounds like a kickass workout that military academies would do, and therefore it must be effective. Generally speaking, bootcamp is a broad umbrella term for a class structure that features a combination of body weight, metabolic, core, and cardiovascular movements done to condition the body.

But what exactly is a bootcamp class, and how do you program for one? See below for an example of a full body bootcamp workout.

Early Morning Bootcamp

Warm UpPart 1Part 2FinisherCool Down
5 Minutes15 Minutes


10 Reps Each

15 Minutes 


45 ON // 15 REST

5 Minutes


20 ON // 10 REST

5 Minutes
StretchesSquat + Curl180 Squat JumpPlank Up + DownLight Cardio
Body WeightLunge + PressPower Push UpSide Plank DipsStretches
Light CardioSide RaiseWindshield WipersSide Plank Dips 
 Front RaiseStep Through LungeMt. Climbers 
 Leg RaisesStep Through Lunge  

In some instances, the trainer will specialize in a particular part of the body, or on a particular feature, such as ‘Booty Bootcamp’ or ‘Suns Out Guns Out Bootcamp’. Underneath all the glamor, the exercise programing is not much different than a high intensity or strength class–there are just different ways of organizing the workout. In this workout, there was a circuit where all moves were based on rep counts, and there was another segment where all movements were time-based. The workout also features a combination of strength and weight exercises along with core and cardiovascular exercises. 

H.I.I.T. Classes

Just like crossfit, HIIT classes boomed in popularity as almost all gyms and trainers were featuring their own version of a HIIT class. HIIT is short for high intensity interval training, which utilizes a specific component of exercise physiology to burn as many calories in as little time as possible. Countless research papers have been published through the NIH (National Institutes of Health) showing how the body responds to periods of high intensity training followed by periods of recovery. The science is simple: exert as much energy as possible in a given amount of time, and then recover, and then repeat it over and over again until you’re exhausted. 

The intensity of the workout depends on a combination of different factors: how long is the interval of work compared to the interval of rest (work to rest ratio), what types of movements are being performed, and how hard are the clients pushing themselves?

One of the biggest differences between bootcamp and HIIT classes is that a bootcamp has more variability in the programming, where HIIT classes are usually confined to ON and OFF intervals. See below for a sample HIIT workout:

Full Body HIIT Workout

Warm UpPart 1Part 2Part 3Cool Down
5 Minutes3 Rounds
60 ON / 30 OFF
4 Rounds 
40 ON / 20 OFF
5 Rounds
20 ON / 10 OFF
5 Minutes
StretchesSquat + Curl180 Squat JumpSprint (Treadmill)Light Cardio
Body WeightHip Bridge MarchPower Push UpPower Lunge JumpsStretches
Light CardioChest PressWindshield WipersMt. Climbers 
 Deadlifts Step Through LungeV Ups 
  Step Through Lunge  

Strength Class

Strength classes have become more popular in the last decade as more evidence shows how important it is to build muscle. Many gyms and facilities offer a variety of strength training classes, and they typically follow the same format from place to place. Unlike boot camp and HIIT classes, strength training classes rarely have any cardiovascular components to them; instead, the focus is on build muscle strength using the following different methods:

Methods to Build Strength

  • Progressively lifting heavier weights (inverse relationship between weight/rep)
    • As the load (weight) increases, then repetitions will decrease
    • Ie: 100lbs x 12 reps → 130lbs x 8-10 reps → 150lbs x 5-6 reps
  • Supersets or giant sets (superset = back-to-back exercises without rest)
    • Agonist & Antagonist = opposing muscle groups (biceps vs triceps)
  • Time Under Tension: the longer a muscle is contracted during time, the more sarcomeres are being torn and thus builds strength
    • Helps to focus on the eccentric portion of the exercise (the lowering phase)
    • Ie: in a bicep curl, it is returning the weight down to the starting point 
  • When possible, focus on compound exercises
    • Movements or exercises that require multiple muscle groups at once
      • A. more efficient use of time
      • B. can lift heavier 

See below for a sample of a strength workout:

Full Body Pure Strength

Warm UpPart 1Part 2Part 3Cool Down
5 Minutes3 Rounds
12-10-8 Reps
3 Rounds
12-15-20 Reps
10 Reps EACH
5 Minutes
StretchesDB Goblet SquatBent Over RowHip BridgeLight Cardio
Body WeightSumo SquatArnold PressFloor Chest PressStretches
Light CardioSide LungeOH Tricep ExtensionChest Flies 
 S.L. Deadlifts  OH Lat Pullover  

At the end of the day, a successful group exercise class does not depend on the name or type of class; instead, it depends on the experience you gave the members. The perfect combination of intensity and enjoyment is a critical component, and it goes without saying that it is a lot easier said than done.