It’s 6:00 am Monday, and you are the drill sergeant of the toughest outdoor boot camp in the area. You spent all night dreaming up an hourlong workout that would make real soldiers cry. Now 15 anxious “recruits” stand before you awaiting their warm-up and your outdoor voice. How you begin this class will help determine your cadets’ performance, efficiency, safety and results.

A simple round of jumping jacks and burpees followed by a lap around the park will not be the best way to prepare your brave group for the total-body blitz they’re about to endure. You need to move beyond simply increasing the body’s temperature. The warm-up is the opportunity to achieve the following goals:

  • Stimulate the nervous system.
  • Increase ankle, knee and hip stability.
  • Activate and stabilize core, scapulae and gluteal muscles.

Note: Depending on your boot camp setup, you may also want to practice the body’s ability to slow itself down in response to ground-force reactions.

A more integrated approach to your boot camp warm-up will help turn on the body’s powerhouses. It doesn’t matter whether your students are coming from a sound sleep or from 7 hours of sitting. Here are three exercises to target the physiological and musculoskeletal adaptations and responses listed above.

Knee-to-Elbow Plank

Goal: Activate deep core and shoulder stabilizers.


  • Start in prone position, body in straight line, toes on ground.
  • Place forearms on floor, elbows beneath shoulders.
  • Raise one foot off floor while flexing knee and hip toward same-side elbow.


  • Alternate legs.
  • Perform 5–12 repetitions.
  • Regress by doing exercise from hands instead of forearms.

Single-Leg Dead
Lift With Y, T, A

Goal: Increase the stability of the ankles, knees and hips while activating the scapular muscles and glutes.


  • Stand upright with one foot off floor.
  • Hinge forward at torso while keeping back and legs straight.
  • At bottom of dead lift, perform the letter Y, T or A with arms, leading from shoulder blades.
  • Slowly return to starting position and let arms drop to sides.


  • Alternate sides.
  • Perform 5–12 repetitions.
  • Regress by eliminating either dead lift or arm positions.

Rotational Push-Up

Goal: Activate chest, deltoids and triceps, as well as stabilizers of core, shoulder and lumbo-pelvic-hip complex.


  • From traditional push-up position, raise one foot off floor. Don’t let foot touch ground while lowering your body.
  • Push yourself back up to starting position and rotate into side plank.
  • Raise top arm and leg to complete the movement.
  • Lower hand and leg back down to switch sides.


  • Perform 5–12 repetitions on each side.
  • Regress by keeping both feet on floor, stacking feet for side plank or doing push-up on knees.