What is Metabolic Conditioning, and Should You Be Doing It?

Metabolic conditioning is all the rage these days, and for good reason. These types of workouts can help folks reach many of their fitness-related goals – building muscle, losing fat, feeling and looking great. These workouts typically include compound exercises performed at a high intensity over a short period of time with the intent of increasing both caloric expenditure and one’s metabolic rate. This increase in metabolism occurs during and after the workout. Other popular terms to describe this type of training include:

  • MetCon
  • Circuit training
  • Interval Training
  • HIIT (high intensity interval training)
  • Finishers


Be Consistent First

Interval training sessions have many layouts and can be done with countless combinations of equipment and/or bodyweight-only movements. Before you jump into these high intensity workouts, however, you have to ask yourself: “Is this the type of training I should be doing considering my goals and current level of fitness?”


Before you worry about what type of “cardio” is best for you, make sure you are getting into the gym and exercising on a consistent basis. Too many people sweat the small stuff prematurely. If you are exercising three to four times a month and are concerned with HIIT training vs. training for a 10K, you are concerned with the wrong details. What’s the best type of exercise for you?


The most effective workout is the one you are currently doing. Find something you enjoy doing and will stick with and maintain. Get moving consistently first, then adjust your programming accordingly.


Next Steps

Once you’ve got the big hurdle of consistency out of the way, you can begin looking at the various methods. If you were training for a marathon, then most would agree that it is important to log some miles and get those longer runs in. If you were training for a track event that doesn’t require you run more than 200 meters, then sprint work would certainly be a wise choice. If you are like the majority of folks out there and are simply looking to stay injury-free and in shape, then incorporating a couple of these MetCon sessions into your weekly schedule is a great choice. At the end of the day, you should include a variety of training styles into your overall program. One to two high intensity metabolic conditioning sessions, one to two strength focused sessions, and one to two less intense “recovery” sessions would constitute a solid week. Remember, consistency is king.


Here are two “30/60 MetCon routines” for you to try.


Pacing 30/60 Routines for the Total Gym


30 Seconds of Burpees

Set a timer and count the number of burpees you complete in 30 seconds. The goal is to pace yourself and increase, or at least maintain, your output every round. So if you complete seven in round one, your goal is to hit seven or more in round two.


60 Seconds of Rest

During your rest complete five Total Gym Supermans and then rest and recover for the remainder of the minute. You could incentivize yourself if you increase your number of completed burpees. Using our example, seven is our benchmark. So, if you complete eight burpees in round two, you get to complete one less Superman exercise (so four). If you hit nine burpees, you would only complete three Supermans. This is a way to work harder during the 30-second section so you get to complete less work during the 60-second section. It also requires you do stay focused and do a little math while you’re tired.

*Complete 10 rounds.


30/60 Routine in a Gym Setting with Various Equipment


30 Seconds of Work on Cardio Machines

Using bikes, rowers and even treadmills pick a number you can track; distance, calories, etc. The goal is to pace yourself and increase your output every round. So, if your all-out effort is 30 calories in 30 seconds, don’t hit 30 calories in round one. Shoot for low 20’s and try to add one calorie every round.


60 Seconds of Rest

During your rest complete five Total Gym pull-ups and rest and recover for the remainder of the minute.

*Complete 10 rounds

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 www.DBStrength.com or www.IronVillageSC.com for more information.

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