Metabolic Conditioning: What is it, and should you be doing it?

We are well into the New Year now… how are those New Year’s resolutions developing? Sadly, too many of us have already fallen off course. Life obstacles are often getting in the way and taking priority over exercise. Whether it’s a busy work schedule or family obligations, having so many responsibilities takes up all our time – so how do we find the time to fit our workouts in?


The Solution – Metabolic Conditioning (MetCon)

Metabolic conditioning is an extremely popular training method used today. Metabolic conditioning commonly refers to compound exercises performed at a high intensity with the intent of increasing both caloric expenditure and one’s metabolic rate. This increase in metabolism occurs during and after the workout.


MetCon could be looked at as an umbrella term to encompass many of today’s popular fitness buzzwords: HIIT, interval training, circuit training, and finishers, to name a few. These types of MetCon typically include periods of high intensity work followed by lower intensity work. For the purposes of this post, let’s discuss two of the more popular MetCon methods.


HIIT – High intensity interval training

This type of interval training should be done at a challenging and high intensity (hence the name). The goal is to push the body hard, increase the heart rate, and then allow the heart rate to lower back down before the next hard bout of exercise. This “wave effect” can burn fat, build muscle, and get you in and out of the gym in less time.


Circuit Training

Circuit training workouts are commonly done with anywhere from 2-5 movements. You complete the first movement, move on to the second movement, and then the third… Once you complete all the exercises, rest for 1-2 minutes and then go back and complete the first movement to begin the second round.


Is Metabolic Conditioning For You?

Shuffling away for 60 minutes on the elliptical isn’t going to get you the results you seek. These effective and efficient MetCons are a great solution for folks with busy schedules. You get in, get out, get results, and get on with your day. So, are they for you? YES.


Start Smart

As with any new type of workout routine, it is always best to begin slowly and add intensity and volume in a safe manner. If you are new to exercise, try one MetCon session per week for a month or two. Then you can progress to 2-3 once you are accustomed to the intensity of the training. You must also consider your goals – if you are looking to bulk up and put on 20 pounds, frequent MetCon sessions might not be the best strategy. If you are like most folks and want to burn some fat and build some muscle, then incorporating MetCon training into your routine is a wise choice.


The Workouts


(A) Total Gym only

This is an “On The Minute” HIIT session. Set a timer for 24 minutes. Hit start and complete the first exercise. Let’s say it takes you 25 seconds to complete the prescribed number of reps. You will now get the remainder of that minute, so 35 seconds, to rest. At the top of the next minute, 23, you will begin the second exercise. If that one takes 20 seconds, you get the remaining 40 seconds to recover. For the next minute, 22, you complete the third exercise in the same format. At the top of the fourth minute, 21, you return to the first exercise and start again. With this set-up you will complete 8 total sets of the 3 movements.

Exercise 1: Surfer Pulls – 10 reps

Exercise 2: Glideboard Supermans – 10 reps

Exercise 3: Static Hold Reverse Lunges – 10 per leg


(B) Total Gym + 1 “cardio” piece (treadmill, rower, bike, sled)

This “OTM” workout includes the Total Gym and a rower. Of course you can use any type of cardio machine that you have access to. This is a 20-minute workout where you will alternate between the two movements for 10 total rounds.


Exercise 1: Pull-ups – 15 reps

Exercise 2: Rower – 100 meters



Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a trainer, coach, presenter, and the founder of DB Strength. He is the co-owner of a fitness facility outside of Boston called, “Iron Village Strength & Conditioning”. He was the head strength and conditioning coach for the Alliance Training Center where he worked with many top professional MMA athletes. Visit or for more information.


Doug Balzarini

Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a personal trainer, strength coach, international presenter, and the founder of DB Strength. He also owns a fitness facility outside of Boston called, “Iron Village Strength & Conditioning”. He was the head strength and conditioning coach for the Alliance MMA Training Center where he worked with many top professional MMA athletes. He has also worked at Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego and, most recently, spent a year in Saudi Arabia where he designed and created programming for a new state-of-the-art facility. Visit or for more information.

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