Exercise is meant to help us achieve a level of fitness that keeps our bodies healthy and lean for a long time. But, the question most of us have is, “What is the best way to do that?” Most of us have busy lives and need an effective workout in as short a time as possible.
Welcome to Metabolic Conditioning 101
Metabolic Conditioning takes circuit style training to the next level. It’s the combination of aerobic and strength training that works the entire body in half the time of either type of traditional workout alone. It’s all about quality, not quantity.
At one time, fitness professionals said that you shouldn’t go over a certain heart rate if you wanted to burn fat. If you didn’t exercise within this ‘target heart rate zone’ you were destined to store fat forever. Ok, granted, that’s a slight exaggeration, but things have changed over the last 30 years and we know that to get the best results we don’t need to plod along on a treadmill barely breaking a sweat.
The truth is that if you’ve got the time to exercise more then it’s not going to hurt by doing that little bit extra, even if it’s plodding along on the treadmill! But if you are restricted by time, then you need to make sure the exercise you are doing is the most effective for the time you have available.
I’ve seen the benefits of working smarter, as have many other people. In fact, there are thousands of people who are working smarter and now know that it’s not necessarily to exercise for an hour at a time. Your workouts CAN take less time and produce results, IF you do them right. In many cases, metabolic conditioning gets better results than traditional cardiovascular exercise – the exercise of choice for most beginners…unfortunately.
I should hope that the majority of people now know that slow boring cardio isn’t the best way to lose fat if you’re short of time. Even if you have bags of time, it’s still NOT the best way to lose fat! Please don’t misunderstand me though, traditional cardio does has its benefits and can improve health, lung function and reduce the risk of disease, but these benefits can be trumped by metabolic conditioning (almost) every time. If you love to run, cycle or row then I’m not about to take that away from you. Keep doing what you enjoy. Although, if your goal is to lose fat just make sure you understand that it will take you longer to achieve results than by doing metabolic conditioning,
With metabolic training, you are working fast and hard. Your heart rate shoots up and stays up throughout the exercise program. This could be anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes. The key is to work your socks off for the duration. By doing so you not only burn a ton of calories, you are able to create a favourable hormonal response that kick-starts your metabolism and waves goodbye to belly fat.
The best way to fire up your metabolism with metabolic conditioning is to combine strength training and cardio. This could be something as simple as sprinting 50 yards followed by press-ups or perhaps performing a series of deadlifts followed by jumping on to a box for several rounds. There are plenty of options; you only need use your imagination.
If you’re a complete beginner I’d start with some bodyweight exercises in your own home. Something along the lines of press-ups with your hands on a table, squats and then up and down the stairs for as many rounds as you can in 10 minutes. If you need to rest in between rounds then of course that’s absolutely fine. Remember, you have to walk before you can run.
For those who are more advanced you’ll want to add some weight into your exercises. For example try using chin ups, bench press, deadlifts, squats and kettlebell swings. Combine two or three exercises together that use both upper and lower body parts and repeat them for several rounds and you’ve got yourself a highly effective metabolic workout.
The only catch with this method of exercising is that there is little to no rest between exercises. In order to produce the hormonal benefit I mentioned above you need to continually exercise hard and reduce your rest periods. This will often mean stepping outside of your comfort zone. But remember, this is only for 10-20 minutes at a time and relates to your current fitness level.
So, there you have it: metabolic conditioning, in a nutshell. If you haven’t got much time available and want a super-fast and effective workout try creating your own metabolic workout next time you’re in the gym or even at home.
If you’d like to know more about metabolic conditioning check out the MetCon1 training plans in the fitness section.