March 4th, 2024


BY: Rob Hamilton


We have all seen gyms advertising "bootcamps" and HIIT classes, but WHAT is the difference? When you consider that HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training and bootcamp classes are sessions that work your whole body, you might be wondering: What’s the difference? Is one more complicated than the other? Is one more efficient?


To break it down, both are heart-rate-pumping workouts that are theoretically capable of burning calories more quickly than other types of workouts. Both focus on exercises that promote cardio, strength, and flexibility. The main difference? HIIT is a very orderly, formulaic exercise routine that alternates periods of activity with periods of rest for set ratios of time. In contrast, bootcamps follow less formal time structures. In a bootcamp, a sequence consists of something like 20 push-ups, 50 jumping jacks, 20 sit-ups, 400m run. They can also include exercises that are less intense than traditional HIIT exercises.


Additionally, HIIT classes are generally solo workouts, or they can be one-on-one workouts completed with a personal trainer. In contrast, bootcamp classes are usually larger classes with a lot of participants.


That’s just the shortened version. To better distinguish between the two, we’ll highlight each method in more detail. Read on to learn more about HIIT and bootcamp classes. Plus, discover a comparison of the similarities and differences between the two. 

What are HIIT workouts?


As mentioned above, HIIT is an acronym for high-intensity interval training. This means that high-effort exercises are done for short bursts of time (usually 20 to 45 seconds), followed by timed periods of rest. A good example is a jog with sprints mixed in.


To be considered high intensity, exercises are performed at 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. For reference, this means you will be breathing very hard and only able to speak in short phrases. Since HIIT workouts are so intense, they usually only last between 15 and 30 minutes.


HIIT exercises can be both cardio or strength based. Many HIIT routines integrate a mix of both. Cardio exercises can include sprinting, either on a treadmill or outside, as well as cycling. Strength training can consist of bodyweight exercises such as squats, push-ups, burpees, and inchworms. It’s also worth noting that intervals don’t need to be composed of traditional exercises. 


The most effective HIIT exercises are often multi-joint moves. For example, burpees and push-ups are multi-joint moves as opposed to bench presses which are one-joint moves.



What are HIIT intervals?


HIIT intervals are probably their most defining feature. Their essential purpose is to allow you to do physically exhausting moves for a more extended period than you could normally do in one stint. The rest periods in between make it theoretically possible for you to do a sprint for three minutes.


The amount of time you do an exercise, partnered with the amount of time you rest, is known as a ratio—more specifically, work-to-rest ratios. For example 30 seconds of work followed by a 10 sec. rest while you move to the next station.


How many intervals you do back to back is also up to you. With longer work-to-rest ratios, you may want to do more intervals. With shorter work-to-rest ratios, you may want to go with a few less.

What are bootcamp classes?


As the name suggests, bootcamp classes are loosely based on the military training techniques used to break in new military recruits. These can include classic calisthenics like push-ups and jumping jacks, as well as more high-intensity aerobic movements. Generally, bootcamp classes are high energy and full of challenging exercises and sequences that train your entire body.


If that sounds similar to HIIT minus the intervals, you’d be right. Bootcamps are often confused with HIIT workouts because they’re very similar in intensity and share many of the same drill-like exercises.


Bootcamps are generally large team oriented classes headed up by a trainer or certified class instructor. If the class is individual stations for a set amount of's a HIIT class. Frequently, bootcamp instructors will assume a less-than-personable (i.e. drill sergeant-like) personality. This lends atmosphere and conjures energy and motivation. If it’s not your cup of tea, don’t feel alone—that’s kind of the point.


For many, part of bootcamps’ appeal is the group atmosphere. The group atmosphere can foster a sense of community and energy that ultimately drives motivation. We tell our bootcamp participants from day 1, they are a team. Which means they start as a team, win as a team, and finish as a team.

Who should do bootcamp classes? 


Our Battle Ready Bootcamp classes are suitable for many purposes and ALL fitness levels, but they’re especially ideal for those who want to work out every muscle group but don’t necessarily have the motivation to power through alone. Also, since bootcamps are led by a trainer and include many participants, they incentivize following along and giving your all.


They’re also suitable for those who quickly tire of set routines and want to mix a lot of variety into their workouts. Bootcamp exercises are fairly easily diversified because they aim to give you a good workout. They don’t necessarily have acute targets, such as putting your heart rate in 80 to 90 percent of your maximum range for a certain number of minutes. While many of them do, this isn’t a requirement. This allows the instructor to have more freedom to shape their classes however they’d like and integrate various exercises.

What are the differences between bootcamp workouts and HIIT workouts?


In truth, HIIT classes and bootcamp classes have a lot more similarities than differences. Perhaps the most significant difference is that since bootcamp classes don’t require a work-to-rest ratio, they can incorporate a more flexible structure. Think of bootcamp as a song, while HIIT is a chorus played over and over again.


For example, suppose you’re doing a bootcamp workout. In that case, you can do warm-up exercises at a low-effort pace, followed by jumping rope for 20 seconds, followed by 15 burpees, followed by a run around the perimeter of the gym.


In contrast, HIIT workouts are more orderly in their structure. For example, when you’re doing a HIIT workout, you might do three sets of 20-seconds mountain climbers with 10 seconds of rest. Then, you could follow it up with three sets of 20-seconds push-ups with 10 seconds of rest. Fun fact: This routine follows a super-specific form of HIIT known as Tabata


This also might be an apt place to mention that bootcamp workouts are often longer than HIIT workouts. Our bootcamp classes clock in at an 45 mins. - an hour. At the same time, 30-minute HIIT workouts are perfectly acceptable. It’s worth noting that shorter doesn’t necessarily mean easier. 


With all this in mind, bootcamp exercises might be the better choice for someone who is looking for a more-intense workout. On the other hand, for anyone hesitant about the idea of a tough-talking personal trainer calling the shots (or doesn’t like not knowing what to expect), HIIT exercises may be a better fit.


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