Metabolic Training, What is That?

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,

Karen