The fitness community is filled with a range of different terms that most of us don’t fully understand. One such term is Metabolic Conditioning, or MetCon for short, a topic that is gaining extensive popularity on a daily basis. More and more people are interested in Metabolic Conditioning, claiming that this may be the best form of training available.
But what exactly is all the hype about? What is Metabolic Conditioning really? Is it worth it?
In this article I will simplify Metabolic Conditioning for you, teaching you everything you should know about this form of training!
So, What is Metabolic Conditioning?
Metabolic Conditioning is a training method that involves a very high work rate, meaning that it incorporates exercises designed to burn more calories during your workout session. So MetCon routines are intended to increase the body’s storage and delivery of energy for any activity you perform.
This might be a bit confusing, but ultimately this combination of strength and cardio training is an effective way to burn fat, increase muscle, increase strength, and increase power at the same time.
MetCon workouts often involve total body compound movements and fairly short recovery intervals. Shorter recovery time allows the body to spend more time in the anaerobic zone, leading to more progress along the way.
But to truly understand how Metabolic Conditioning works, we need to first look at our metabolism as a whole.
Metabolism and Metabolic Pathways
First of all, let’s explain what our metabolism really is. Metabolism is a biological process which occurs in all of the cells of our body, or in other words it is a process of using certain chemicals to create energy that we use daily.
Now, there are three metabolic pathways in the human body, and each of these methods generates energy in a different way.
These pathways include:
Phosphagen pathway- anaerobic
Glycolytic pathway- anaerobic
Oxidative pathway – aerobic
All three pathways create energy at different times during our activities. For instance, phosphagen pathway creates energy in a very short time period. Glycolytic creates energy for a couple of minutes, and the oxidative pathway provides energy for lower intensity activities that will last longer.
But what is the key difference between these pathways? The most prominent difference is that the oxidative pathway is only aerobic, and for this reason requires more oxygen to generate energy. The phosphagen and glycolytic pathways are not suitable over longer periods of time, however they are important for certain movements. Regular strength training that most fitness enthusiasts perform only relies on the anaerobic pathways for their energy, since their muscles use the stored energy very quickly.
Here is the catch, Metabolic Conditioning allows us to exercise in such a fashion that promotes the body to become more efficient at all three forms of metabolic pathways. So by having a higher work rate during our workout sessions and less recovery, such as a circuit training, we can significantly improve our metabolism, calorie consumption, and a lot more.
We will take a closer look at all MetCon benefits in the next paragraph.
Benefits of Metabolic Conditioning
Since we already established that by performing a metabolic conditioning workout you are impacting all energy pathways, you’re conditioning will improve on every level as well. Your strength will go up, as well as your endurance (1) (2).
Metabolic conditioning requires a fast paste type of working out, meaning that you will burn more calories every workout you perform. Another amazing benefit you receive is the “afterburn effect” which allows you to burn additional calories hours after your training session is over (3). Combine this with compound lifts and whole body workouts, you can achieve a leaner and more muscular physique.
As you will be only working with high levels of intensity, your metabolism is going to be so spiked that you will gain the ability to conquer more advanced levels of fitness.
With a wide range of exercise patterns and combinations you surely won’t get bored doing metabolic conditioning. On top of that you will also finish your workout quicker as MetCon workouts only last around 20-30 minutes.
Incorporating Metabolic Conditioning
Before starting to use the principal of Metabolic Conditioning, it is vitally essential to look at your current fitness capabilities. Do not push yourself overboard, you still need to perform exercises with proper form, being conscious about injury prevention as well.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive into exercise selection and resting intervals.
First, you will need to make sure you know what your fitness goals are. If you’re training for strength, muscle building, weight loss, you should focus more on compound lifts and weight lighting in general. However, if you’re more inserted in bettering your cardiovascular health, you just gravitate to cardio and mobility exercises more.
As far as resting periods go, higher resting periods are ideal for developing strength. For instance, a 15 second pull-up set followed by a minute of rest has a 15:60 work-to-rest ratio. And if you’re more prone to developing better endurance, shorter rest periods of 10-30 seconds will be appropriate. However, generally looking the best work to rest ratio that will enhance muscle growth and weight loss falls in the ballpark of a 20 second work interval and a 20-30 second rest interval.
Workout length should not be less than 10 minutes, and no longer that 40 minutes.
MetCon Workout Examples
Workout Example #1
Preform 1 to 3 rounds of the following exercise circuit. Rest 30 seconds in between exercises.
Barbell squats – 10 reps
Walking Lunges – 10 reps
Reverse Lunges 10 reps
Calf Jumps – 20 reps
Romanian Deadlift – 10 reps
Workout Example #2
Bodyweight pull-ups – 10 reps
Push-ups – 20 reps
Bent over dumbbell rows -10 reps
Chest fly’s – 15 reps
Barbell deadlift – 10 reps