Crossfit vs Bootcamp: 6 Main Differences

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
August 9, 2022

Among the numerous types of athletic training modalities, few are as popular as those of Crossfit and Bootcamp; two kinds of athletic disciplines known for dynamic movements, excellent results and highly functional developments of the body.

However, despite their shared effectiveness, Crossfit and Bootcamp training are in fact quite different and will usually result in distinctly different kinds of athletes.

Fortunately for those confused, the distinction between the two is quite simple - Crossfit is meant to induce explosive athleticism and sports-specific developments, while Bootcamp is meant to improve bodily composition and general health in a short-term and convenient manner.

What is Crossfit Training?

crossfit gym

Crossfit is a type of athletic training modality that makes use of conventional Olympic weightlifting movements, calisthenic exercises and functional training methods that can result in significant athletic improvements for the exerciser.

Difficulty

While Crossfit is highly modifiable and tailored to each individual, the majority of exercises it employs are of an intermediate level at the least, making Crossfit somewhat unsuitable for people who have just started their training career, or those recovering from injuries.

Benefits

The main benefit of Crossfit lies in its ability to build a well-rounded athlete, especially in terms of explosive force development and agility.

Crossfit can achieve these specific benefits by combining the best parts of a multitude of training modalities in a single workout, such as the explosive lifts of Olympic weightlifting, the high-volume exercises of many bodyweight street workouts and even some aerobic exercises from traditional athletic workouts.

In addition to such benefits, Crossfit is also quite effective at altering the composition of a practitioner’s body, managing to decrease body fat percentage through its high-tempo exercises while inducing significant muscular hypertrophy and thus creating a more muscular individual through resistance exercises.

What is Bootcamp Training?

what is bootcamp

Bootcamp training is a type of athletic training modality with a particular focus on body weight exercises adapted from military training, a high level of intensity and the intention of rapidly altering the bodily composition and subsequent abilities of the practitioner in a short span of time.

Difficulty

Though Bootcamp training is considered to be rather high intensity, the sort of exercises it employs are not particularly complex and are often appropriate for novice level exercisers. This places Bootcamp training at a point of superiority in terms of accessibility over Crossfit training.

Benefits

Bootcamp training’s primary benefits relate to the simplicity of its exercises and workout structure, being accessible and highly modifiable yet still retaining a level of intensity that provides a challenge to individuals of all training levels.

In addition to this, Bootcamp’s training methods are centered around convenience and effectiveness, allowing such workouts to be performed in practically any environment, and with little to no equipment available.

Main Differences Between Crossfit and Bootcamp Training

Though we have outlined the main benefits and target audience of both Crossfit and Bootcamp training methodologies, several key differences in their technicalities are what should be looked at when deciding on which discipline to take part in.

These differences concern the sort of exercises that either modality makes use of, the difficulty and complexity of said exercises, as well as several other factors not directly related to training but nonetheless will greatly influence whether one is more suitable over the other.

1. Training Stimulus Differences

Crossfit’s training methodology often involves performing explosive and highly dynamic resistance exercises in a manner that leaves little time for rest between sets, even taking it to the point of supersetting two compound free weight exercises.

In contrast, though Bootcamp training also makes use of dynamic movements, it is often in a less continuous manner and broken up into separate sets - alongside the fact that it often uses items that are considered unusual in other forms of athletic training, such as tires and certain kinds of rope.

This will result in a training stimulus that is somewhat less intense in terms of muscular hypertrophy, while surpassing Crossfit for the purposes of caloric expenditure and variability.

2. Risk of Injury

At a larger scale, both forms of training modalities are relatively safe when performed under the supervision of certified coaches. 

However, the fact that Crossfit makes greater use of heavy free weight compound exercises than Bootcamp training can result in a higher incidence of acute soft tissue injury.

Furthermore, the concept of “WOD” or workout of the day that many Crossfit gyms employ can result in reduced form adherence and subsequent chronic injury due to a lack of practice in the proper form of many exercises.

3. Convenience, Time Constraints and Equipment Used

In terms of convenience, Crossfit often makes use of a number of different pieces of equipment and gym fixtures, requiring that it take place in-doors and within the confines of gyms specifically housing equipment that may be used for Crossfit itself.

While this is not always the case, it is comparatively more demanding and inconvenient than Bootcamp training, of which can involve almost no equipment at all and may be performed anywhere as the majority of exercises performed are of the bodyweight variety.

4. Long Term Projections

In terms of long-term results and whether these training modalities are meant to be performed for extended periods of time, it is Crossfit that is the clear winner, with Bootcamp training meant more as a short-term method to drastically alter body composition and athletic ability rather than the long term development strategy employed by Crossfit.

In addition to this, while Bootcamp training does indeed greatly reduce body fat due to its propensity of using high volume low resistance exercises, it is unlikely to develop skeletal muscle structures to the extent that Crossfit does - of which will also take a longer length of time to hypertrophy than fat loss would take.

5. Exercise Differences of Crossfit and Bootcamp Training

The main point of difference between Crossfit and Bootcamp training is simply due to what exercises are performed in either modality, as it is in these exercises that the training and the results themselves may be dictated.

Crossfit’s primary goal is to produce functional strength and athleticism through a combination of dynamic weightlifting movements, traditional barbell lifts and other explosive exercises that work the entire body simultaneously.

This may include exercises like the clean and jerk, the barbell back squat, medicine ball slammers or kipping pull-ups. 

Comparatively, in Bootcamp training, exercisers will generally be taken through a set of bodyweight movements that are inspired from traditional military training, alongside several unconventional athletic exercises meant to induce significant caloric expenditure and develop bodily explosiveness.

It should be noted that what particular exercises are used in either training modality will depend on the coach or trainer responsible for such programs. This is all the more so in Crossfit gyms, where the sort of exercises and focus of such exercises will change on a daily basis.

6. Equipment Usage Differences of Crossfit and Bootcamp Training

Crossfit and Bootcamp training share a number of similarities in terms of intensity and training stimulus.

Despite this, however, the sort of equipment either discipline uses to achieve such stimuli can differ quite a bit - often resulting in each being performed within distinct environments or making one less suitable for an individual over the other.

Crossfit Equipment

crossfit equipment

In the case of Crossfit training, equipment can range from anywhere between a standard kettlebell to advanced calisthenics training equipment like rings and suspension ropes.

As CrossFit is meant to be a mixture of many different training disciplines, so too is the sort of equipment it can make use of, with what sort of equipment depending on availability and the instructor leading the Crossfit program.

Bootcamp Equipment

Unlike in Crossfit, Bootcamp training shares many of it's core tenets with military style training - that being of efficiency and effectiveness.

As such, Bootcamp training does not actually require any equipment, seeing as most of it's exercises are of the bodyweight variety.

What few exercises employed by Bootcamp training will often involve unconventional kinds of equipment, alongside a few sparse free weight movements of the dumbbell and kettlebell variety.

Results of Crossfit vs Bootcamp Training

After some time, the kind of body and athletic skills derived from either training modality will be quite different. This is due to the distinct training stimulus, muscles worked and workout programming found in both Crossfit and Bootcamp training, causing the exerciser’s body to respond in kind.

For Crossfit athletes, a significant improvement in physical strength will be noticed - in particular, that relating to explosive force output. This, in combination with improvements in agility, mobility and cardiovascular function make Crossfit the superior training modality for serious athletes.

In the case of Bootcamp training, many practitioners will find that their capacity to perform bodyweight exercises has significantly improved, alongside a lower bodyweight and moderate increase in static muscular activation all resulting in carry-over improvements to many other forms of fitness.

However, when it comes to bodily composition, Bootcamp training is found to preserve lean mass far better and in a shorter span of time than Crossfit. 

Such a change is because of the greater caloric expenditure of Bootcamp training’s high volume and high tempo exercises. In comparison, Crossfit is superior at inducing muscular hypertrophy and thereby creating more muscle mass, though this will take a longer length of time than the simple fat loss caused by Bootcamp training.

Who Should Perform Crossfit and Bootcamp?

If anything should be taken from this article, it is that Crossfit and Bootcamp training are quite distinct and as such are most effective when a suitable individual has chosen to take part in their methodology.

Crossfit is better suited for at least intermediate level exercisers wishing to induce muscular hypertrophy and strength developments over a longer period of time, whereas Bootcamp is more compatible with individuals newer to resistance exercise or those with heavy time constraints that find themselves without easy access to gym equipment.

Conclusion

In the end, the decision on which training modality to employ is up to you, and if heavy free weight exercises or circuit training are the sort of exercise that suit your situation, Crossfit is the ideal fit. 

Likewise, high-volume exercises, bodyweight movements and rapid results may also be achieved with Bootcamp training.

Regardless of which modality is used, the exerciser will doubtless see themselves improve both physically and mentally as is the result of all kinds of exercise.

References

1. Wagener S, Hoppe MW, Hotfiel T, Engelhardt M, Javanmardi S, Baumgart C, Freiwald J. CrossFit® – Development, Benefits and Risks. Sportorthopa¨die-Sporttraumatologie. 2020 Sep;36(3):241–9. doi: 10.1016/j.orthtr.2020.07.001. Epub 2020 Sep 4. PMCID: PMC7473349.

2. Waryasz GR, Daniels AH, Gil JA, Suric V, Eberson CP. NCAA strength and conditioning coach demographics, current practice trends and common injuries of athletes during strength and conditioning sessions. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2016 Oct;56(10):1188-1197. Epub 2015 Oct 16. PMID: 26473446.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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