Over the past several years, the chances are that you’re already familiar with high-intensity interval training if you’ve been in the fitness scene. However, you may not have heard about Metabolic Conditioning, which is the broader category of training that HIIT falls under. By expanding your workouts beyond traditional HIIT, you can take full advantage of all the muscle-building and fat-burning benefits that MetCon has to offer.
MetCon is an abbreviation for Metabolic Conditioning. This term has been made hugely popular with the growth in CrossFit. However, the term has been around since the 1970s, maybe dating back even further. In the October 1975 issue of Athletic Journal magazine, Arthur Jones defined Metabolic Conditioning as “the ability to work at a high level of intensity for a prolonged period of time. The ability to work at a level very close to 100% of intensity for a period of at least 20 minutes.”
Because you are challenging your body and working out at the max level, this kind of training increases excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). You may have also heard this term being called the “afterburn.” This means that after you have finished your high-intensity workout, your body is still taking in extra oxygen, and your metabolism is increasing as your body tries to return to homeostasis. Increased oxygen consumption = Increased metabolism = More calories burned. Depending on the intensity and duration of your workout, your body can experience EPOC anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours after your high-intensity workout.
The idea of MetCon is to bridge the gap between high-intensity weight training, high-intensity cardio, and longer low-intensity cardio. Putting all three together can have positive effects on muscular strength and the anaerobic and aerobic systems.
Aerobic means “with oxygen” and is sometimes known as “cardio” or “steady-state cardio.” A marathon runner is an example of someone that utilizes the aerobic energy system. Aerobic exercise requires the pumping of oxygenated blood by the heart to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Anaerobic means “without oxygen.” Someone who is sprinting at the maximum level of effort for a relatively short amount of time is using the anaerobic system. When we exercise anaerobically, glycogen is used as fuel. Your body also builds up lactic acid, which can cause soreness and fatigue at sustained levels.
While MetCon requires the body to work at a very high intensity, it does not mean that any specific muscle is working at 100% the whole time. Instead, the body as a whole is working at its highest intensity, with little rest between various exercises, for an extended period (around 20 minutes). MetCon can include HIIT (high-intensity interval training) but not all HIIT would be considered MetCon (specifically, those HIIT workouts that allow quite a bit of rest between sets). MetCon style workouts can be done as a weighted circuit, a single modality activity (running, rowing, swimming, biking, etc.), plyometrics, or a combination of any of these.
When structuring a MetCon finisher, choose four exercises that target your upper and lower body (For example: dumbbell squat, pushup, dumbbell stiff-legged deadlift, and dumbbell bent-over row). Because you’ll be doing your MetCon workout at a reasonable speed, choose movements that you feel proficient in because it’s essential to always maintain proper form to prevent injury. As for weight selection, choose challenging weights but light enough to allow you to maintain a good pace.
Integrating various elements of fitness will provide variety to your workout, limit overtraining and injury, and help you break through plateaus and reach your fitness goals!
If you’re newer to MetCon, start with the following two 10-minute finishers per week. See how you feel after one month, then add additional finishers if you still feel like you need a challenge.
20 Minute MetCon Workout
10 Min AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible)
Note: You'll need a box or step
- 10 Box Jumps
- 10 Feet-Elevated Push-Ups
- 10 Bulgarian Lunges (back foot on step, 10 each side)
- 10 Step-Ups (each side)
- 10 Diamond Push-Ups
10 Min AMRAP
- 10 Bicep Curls + 10 Dips
- 20 Jump Split Squats
- 9 Bicep Curls + 9 Dips
- 20 Jump Split Squats
- 8 Bicep Curls + 8 Dips
- 20 Jump Split Squats
- 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….
About the Author: Brittinie Wick is an Air Force Veteran turned Health and Fitness Coach who founded Brittinie Wick Fitness. Her mission is to empower all women, through fitness and nutrition, to gain confidence, lose weight, and celebrate the feeling of strong and sexy. Grab her “Healthy at Every Age” guide! This ebook is aimed at people just like you, who want to live their BEST, MOST ACTIVE life, starting TODAY and continuing deep into the future!