1. What metcons are and are NOT.
Metabolic conditioning or “metcon” refers to conditioning exercises intended to increase the storage and delivery of energy for any activity. Most people think of aerobic training to be the primary catalyst when trying to improve endurance, conditioning the cardiovascular system, and to improve transport of blood to the working muscles. Concurrently, metabolic conditioning is conditioning the MUSCLES to better use the fuel delivered to them by improving the efficiency for the different metabolic pathways.
The term metabolic conditioning, or “met-con” for short, has been thrown around a lot in the fitness industry in recent years. It can be confusing to understand what it exactly means. It is NOT just a bunch of exercises done as fast as possible for different periods of time. You must have a structured amount of sets, reps, and rest periods in order for a proper “met-con” workout to slash body fat and improve performance.
2. How are rest periods set up and why?
Your goal during a metabolic condition circuit is to develop efficiency in a particular energy system to help improve your performance and physique. The great benefit in doing this is to increase caloric burn not only during your workout, but also after your workout. This is known as the “after burn”, better know as EPOC (excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption. This can leave your metabolism raised above your resting metabolism hours after your workout according to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Some examples of work-to rest period methods to increase EPOC are:
- Tabata Method- 20 seconds of hard work, followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 total rounds.
- 30 on/30 off method – 30-seconds of hard work, followed by 30-seconds of rest for 6 rounds
- Circuit Training – Perform 3-6 exercises in a row with minimal to no rest between sets. When performing a circuit, keep in mind that the exercises you combine should make sense. Push, pull, squat, hinge, full-body and loaded carries make for a balanced approach for circuit training.
3. What types of exercises and why?
Multi-joint movements that work multiple muscle groups are your best options when constructing a metabolic condition circuit. Exercises such as tire flips, sprinting, kettlebell swings, box jumps, burpees and barbell thrusters work more muscle in less time, causing a larger metabolic response, thus burning more calories and raising the metabolic rate.
4. How do you set up your own metcon?
- Choose one of the methods explained above (Tabata, 30 seconds on/30 seconds off, circuit training).
- Choose multi-joint movements with moderate loads (tire flips, burpees, rope slams, sprints, kettlebell swings, box jumps, barbell thrusters).
- Perform the workout at the end of a strength training session, or on an off-lifting day.
5. Example Workouts
Perform 20 seconds of kettlebell swings, rest 10 seconds and then repeat for 8 total rounds.
Perform as many burpess as possible in 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this sequence for 6 total rounds.
Perform 10 reps of the following exercises with minimal to no rest between each exercise:
Perform 5 total rounds resting 1-2 minutes between each round.
Justin Grinnell is the Owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing, Michigan. State of Fitness opened up just four years ago and is already one of the leading training facilities in the Midwest. State of Fitness has over 450 members who train every day under his leadership. In addition to being a facility owner, Justin has his own blog at www.grinnelltraining.com (link below), and has been a featured writer for over 6 years in the magazine Healthy & Fit and is a writer for Muscle & Fitness.