Metabolic training, what is that and is it going to hurt me?  I hear all kinds of crazy questions when people start talking about metabolic training or metabolic conditioning.  The most frequent question is, “what is it”?  In simplest terms it refers to exercises that will improve or enhance the body’s energy systems.  (And as an added bonus burn fat like crazy)!

Now you are probably scratching your head wondering what are the body’s energy systems.  The body has 3 of them 1 aerobic system and 2 anaerobic systems.

Aerobic means in the presence of oxygen and anaerobic means without oxygen.  Aerobic activities involve low intensity exercises that are performed for 15 minutes or more.  Things such as biking, swimming and jogging.  Anaerobic activities involve moderate to high intensity activities that are performed anywhere from a few seconds to 2-3 minutes.

In the past if someone wanted to shed some excess fat on the body they would begin jogging.  Even today jogging seems to be the exercise of choice for fat loss.  Problem is you do not burn enough calories during the workout to amount to any substantial fat loss.  And more importantly jogging does not produce an EPOC effect, but moderate to high intensity training does.   EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) refers to the elevated state of oxygen consumption after exercise in an effort to bring the body back to its pre-exercise state.

In other words, not only are you burning far more calories during the high intensity workout (which could be only 10-15 minutes in duration compared to 30-45) you are going to continue burning calories for some time after the workout, your metabolism stays revved up.

Higher metabolism for a longer period of time = increased fat burning power!

I think anyone would be happy with that formula.  Workout less and reap bigger gains.  As with anything there is a catch, you have to work harder than you have probably ever worked out before and you will probably be working outside of your comfort zone.

The Workout:

Probably the easiest form of metabolic training is in the form of timed sets, such as 1 min of exercise followed by 15 – 30 seconds of rest.  This format would usually be repeated for about 10 – 15 minutes.  All the variables will be dependent on your fitness levels.  You might ask can this be used with traditional resistance training exercises.  The answer is of course, a lot of people call it metabolic resistance training.  To figure out the amount of weight you should use, take your 10rm (or amount of weight you can lift for 10 repetitions) and just use 75 – 80% of that number.  (In English terms – just go light).  Because of the speed of movement used you will not need a lot of weight and in most cases no weight at all is appropriate.

You may have to go a little lighter for some exercises.  The idea is to work as hard and as fast (still with very good form) as you can for the entire minute.  If it was to easy up the weight, if it was to hard and you couldn’t finish the set drop down the weight a little.   The amount of exercises used per session can vary anywhere from 2 – 5.

It is extremely important to make sure you are completely warmed-up before you begin this workout.

The Exercises:

The exercises you choose for metabolic training are important, some exercises just don’t work.  On the other hand, some exercises may work for one format of training but not for another.  Same thing with individual people, if you are not strong enough for push-ups yet, a push-up is not going to work real well for you.  The exercises really need to be total body in nature,  so a bicep curl would not work. I really like compound movements that span as many joints as possible.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Barbell or dumbbell reverse lunge
  • Barbell or dumbbell inline lunge
  • Alternating lunges
  • Squat press
  • Squat Jumps
  • Squat thrusters
  • Burpees
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Bear crawls

I love to mix in exercises using the big bands as well as exercises on the TRX.  Really, your options are limitless be creative and see what else you can come up with to add to the list.

Sample Workouts:

I have included 3 sample workouts, a beginner, a moderate and an advanced workout.  If you aren’t sure what fitness level you are, start at the beginner level, it is always easier to go up rather than start too high and become injured.

Important note:  if you are new to exercise and just starting out, I do not recommend metabolic training.  I make sure all of my new clients have a 2 – 3 month training base before they start this type of training.

Beginner Workout:

  • Inline lunge without weight right leg – 30 seconds
  • Inline lunge without weight left leg – 30 seconds
  • Burbees – 30 seconds

In between each set take a 30 second rest break.  Repeat 4 times for a 12 minute workout.  (Repeat for less rounds if necessary).  After round 1 this may be repeated a second time take a 2 – 3 minute break in between rounds.  If you feel really good adjust the times 30 seconds on 15 seconds off or it could be 45 seconds on 30 seconds off.

Moderate Workout:

  • Dumbbell alternating Lunges – 1 minute
  • Dumbbell squat press – 1 minute
  • Mountain climbers – 1 minute

In between each set take a 15 – 30 second rest break.  Repeat 4 times for about a 12 minute workout.  After round 1 repeat this for 2 -3 more rounds.  Take about a 2 minute break in between rounds.

Advanced Workout:

  • Squat thrusters – 1 minute
  • Mountain climbers – 1 minute
  • Barbell row – 1 minute
  • Squat Jumps – 1 minute

For the advanced workout only use the rest periods in between sets if necessary and if used try to keep them down to 15 seconds.  Repeat this workout for 4 rounds.  Rest about a minute if needed in between rounds.

If you are short on time and do not want to add another day to your workout schedule, add 10 minutes of metabolic training to the end of your current workout.  Full metabolic workouts should only be done 4 times a week.

If your fat loss efforts need a boost give these workouts a try.  Feel free to leave me your favorite exercises or even your favorite routine.  Have a great weekend.

Stay Motivated,


    24 replies to "Metabolic Training, What is That?"

    • John

      Thanks you for the wonderful information.

    • cynthia

      Your site is actually full of remarkable details and also is actually quite fun to view.

      Well done!

    • mbt

      Great article, thank you very much!

    • melanie

      Can you please explain the actual exercises for the above metabolic training exercises you suggested above? eg: what is a bear crawl? sorry but some of the names I am not familiar with and is there somewhere I can see what these exercise look like?

    • admin

      Hi Melanie I will put up a new post that will explain each exercise a little better. Thanks for reading!

    • W.

      This is awesome. I have been trying to understand all this and this really put it all together so well. I feel like I just made a big step thanks to this article!

    • Gloria

      How long should the total workout last ? I get the 3 exercises for 1 minute on and 15-10off but should you set this up for a half an hour total, 45 min or an hours worth? thx 🙂

    • admin

      Hi Gloria, the great thing about this type of workout it the fact that there isn’t a right or wrong answer to your question. Most times you would see a total workout time of about 20-25 minutes, and do little mini 5-8 minute circuits within that time. Taking a 1-2 minute rest in between mini circuits or sets. I hope this helps.

    • Carmen

      This is such great information. But I am confused about 1 thing. Is metabolic training the same as High Intensity Interval Training? If not then what is the difference between the two. Thank you!!

    • admin

      Hi Carmen, thank you for the comment. In essence they are the same thing. However, generally when you hear the phrase high intensity intervals you think of pure treadmill or running work. For example sprinting for 30 seconds and recovery jogging for 1 minute. Metabolic work generally involves high intensity circuit training utilizing some body weight or heavy anaerobic exercises.

      The ultimate result is the same higher metabolism for a longer period of time = longer fat burning power.

      A metabolic workout will give you better results in terms of functional strength increases. Hope it helps.

    • PATMA


      Apart from longer fat burning power, is metabolic training helps in max k cal expenditure?

    • admin

      Yes, you will burn more calories doing this type of training as opposed to to traditional training.

      Thanks for the question,


    • Keith Dozier

      @Carmen: Is this the type of workout that the “Curves” fitness studios give people?

    • admin

      Hi Keith thanks for the question. This answer is yes and no. Yes “Curves” features a circuit style setup that for the beginner could create a metabolic effect. The reason I say no is this, all of the workouts I am describing on this website utilize total body movements and zero machines. The “Curves” workout is done on machines, the body does not have to do the same amount of stabilizing therefore not quite as demanding a workout. I hope this answers your question.


    • Gordon

      Where can I find the explanation for the metabolic exercises? This was from a post in October ’10. Just getting started and want more info. I’ve lost a lot of weight and looking to get rid of skin, fat, etc. Thanks for your help.

    • admin

      Hi Gordon most of the exercise descriptions are spread about on the website. I am sorry that is not more helpful.


    • Jen

      Is this similar to what Jillian Michael’s body revolution is? She also says metabolic training term in her site.

      If so, then this is designed to be done at home and may be I can benefit from it…

    • admin

      These workouts are designed to be done at home and anybody looking to get in better shape and lose weight can benefit.

    • Jen

      Are you saying “Jillian Michael’s Body Revolution” is for metabolic training. Appreciate your help!

      THANK YOU!!!

    • Brian Walpole

      Great post! Metabolic training is a system of exercise designed to achieve those desired aims in the shortest possible time. It combines the two completely different training styles of resistance training and cardio to create a workout routine that is shorter and much more effective in burning fat. Metabolic Training consists in doing structural and compound exercises with minimal rest in between. The sessions are designed as short spurts of intense activity, followed by even shorter periods of rest to enable recovery. Metabolic training thus becomes an effective way of maintaining a raised metabolic rate. This heightened metabolic rate results in more efficient burning of fat.

    • Grati

      U have a nice blog over here. I just wanna thank you for all the interesting information on it. I’ll follow your blog if you keep up the good work!

    • […] It is true your body is using fat as its primary fuel source when it is at rest and working at lower intensities. The important point to remember about fat loss is the number of calories burned vs. calories consumed. Higher intensity training burns more calories which in the end results in a greater reduction in body fat. Want to learn more about higher intensity workouts take a look at this blog post: Metabolic Training, What is That? […]

    • BILL

      I just had a partial knee replacement an I’m 60years old. Is workout some thing I could do?

    • User

      Hi Bill this is always a question that needs final approval from your doctor, however I have had many clients continue working out after full replacements. This would not be the type of exercise program you would want to start with, you would want something based on sets and reps as opposed to intervals. I hope this helps.


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