There are numerous ways to earn the body of your dreams.
People have lost weight, built muscle, and gotten results during the transformation challenges using dozens of different training programs, diets, and supplement regimens.
As the saying goes “all roads lead to Rome.”
It’s just that some provide a more direct (efficient) way to get there than others.
In the context of your transformation challenge, “Rome” is your end goal, and the various “roads” alluded to above are the different diets, training protocols, and supplementation regimens you can use in your quest to achieve the ultimate body transformation.
Today, we’re going to discuss one of the most efficient training methods on the planet for burning body fat and building lean muscle -- metcons.
What Are Metcons?
Metcon stands for metabolic conditioning.
Metcons typically utilize circuits and/or complexes of exercises that are performed for a specified amount of time or number of reps.
Exercises included in typical MetCon workouts utilize a mix of bodyweight, dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, and/or other forms of high-intensity exercise, such as sprints or jumps.
The upside to MetCons, as with other forms of interval training, is that it allows you to burn a tremendous amount of calories in a rather short amount of time. By using MetCon workouts, you also help support lean muscle retention to a greater degree since you’re using resistance training movements compared to steady-state cardio which doesn’t offer much resistance at all.
What Are the Benefits of MetCon Workouts?
The benefits of MetCon workouts are pretty simple to understand -- you burn calories, build muscle, and save time.
By performing challenging moves that recruit a lot of muscle and keeping rest periods short, you’re able to complete a high volume of work (i.e. calories burned) in a short amount of time -- maximizing calorie burning while saving time!
High-intensity workouts like Metcon workouts also boost your metabolism and keep it elevated for hours and hours after your workout is over by taking advantage of something called the afterburn effect.
Furthermore, MetCon workouts may also help you hold into your lean muscle mass better during a diet compared to steady-state cardio (which may be catabolic) since you’re performing resistance-training movements that challenge the muscles (in addition to your heart and lungs!).
6 Rules for Effective MetCon Workouts
You’ll find hundreds (if not thousands) of workouts classified as “metcons” on the internet. As with most things you find on the ‘net, some are better than others, and some should be tossed in the trash.
Whether you’re looking to build your own MetCon Workout or try one you find on a fitness website/YouTube channel, here are six “rules” or guidelines that all effective MetCon workouts adhere to:
#1 They Include Resistance-Training Movements
What separated metcon workouts from traditional cardio is its foundation of resistance-training movements. Now, this doesn’t mean every exercise in the MetCon circuit or complex has to be a resistance-training exercise, but most of them should be.
As we just mentioned MetCon workouts include a mix of resistance-training and cardio modalities. Therefore, expect to see some traditional cardio exercises in your metcon circuits, including running, sprinting, biking, swimming, rowing, step machines, etc.
#3 Bodyweight and External Resistance
To keep calorie burning and time efficiency high, MetCon workouts alternate between various exercises. In order to avoid hogging all of the equipment in the gym, an easy way to accomplish this is to alternate between bodyweight movements and weighted movements using either free weights or machines.
#4 Upper & Lower Body
Building upon the previous point, another way to keep intensity high while still being able to perform a higher volume of work is to alternate between movements for the upper body and movements for the lower body. This way one half of your body can rest while the other works. For example, you could alternate between push ups, squats, pull ups, and walking lunges.
#5 Time is of the Essence
Typical resistance-training workouts have you perform a certain number of sets for a certain number of reps. That’s a perfectly fine method for performing workouts. But another way to challenge your mind, muscles, and cardiovascular system is to see how quickly you can complete your workout.
Now, keep in mind, you still have to use good form and perform your exercises through a complete range of motion, but being able to complete your metcon workouts in less time than you previously did is a great way to challenge yourself and increase the intensity without having to up the number of reps, sets, or weights.
Still another way to challenge yourself with MetCon workouts is to set a goal to complete a certain number of reps, sets, and/or rounds of a circuit.
As your conditioning improves over the weeks, the amount of time it takes you to complete the workout should decrease. At this point, you can choose to increase the number of rounds you perform, add weight, or add a new exercise.
Important Tips for MetCon Workouts
Anytime you try a new workout or training program, it’s incredibly tempting to hit the ground with your feet running. If you’ve ever taken this approach with a new resistance-training program (German Volume Training, for example), you know that being a bit too enthusiastic can lead to over-doing it, leaving you with horrendous DOMS for days on end.
That’s why we recommend easing yourself into MetCon-style workouts, especially if you haven’t done them before.
Instead of unleashing anything and everything you have, save a little bit the first time or two you attempt a MetCon workout.
Make sure you’re familiar with the movements and know the proper order of exercises. As you become more familiar with the pacing and flow of the workout, you can push the limits, go harder, etc.
But, give yourself time to acclimate. Remember, fitness is a journey, not a sprint.
Be Willing to Adjust
Just as you do with your regular resistance-training workouts, you mustn't be afraid to adjust or tweak your conditioning programs.
Whether it be that certain movements don’t jive with your anatomy or you just want a change of pace, it’s ok to massage and adapt your conditioning program to your preferences.
If you don’t like jogging, then don’t include it in your circuits. Swap it out for another movement like kettlebell swings, rowing “sprints”, elliptical “sprints, bodyweight squats, etc.
When you design your own MetCon circuits, you are your own master!
Fuel Your Body for Maximum Performance & Recovery
MetCon workouts are not a walk in the park. They will push your mental and physical limits (at least if you’re doing them the way they’re intended to be performed).
As such, it’s important that you fuel yourself properly for these workouts. Before we tackle our weekly MetCon workouts, we like to take a serving of 1UP Pre Workout to help boost energy and focus.
1UP also contains important nutrients like Citrulline and Beta alanine that help delay the onset of fatigue, allowing you to push harder and complete more total work before fatiguing.
Given the intense nature of these workouts, it’s equally important that you refill your depleted energy stores after training. Following your workout, it’s helpful to have some fast digesting protein and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and supply the battered and damaged muscles with high-quality protein so they can repair and rebuild.
One of our favorite post workout meals is a simple shake containing a scoop of 1UP Whey Protein with a scoop of Tri-Carb. This delicious tasting combo is easy to fix and supplies the body with everything it needs to optimize recovery and growth!
4 Steps to Build Your Own MetCon Workout
#1 Set Your Timer
The first step to building your own MetCon Workout is to decide how long you want to exercise. Several factors go into this including how much time you have to dedicate to training as well as your current fitness level.
MetCons are meant to be short bouts of high-intensity effort. We suggest starting with a time of 15-20 minutes.
#2 Choose Your Exercises
MetCon workouts typically involve performing a series of exercises, with most metcons containing between 4-8 different movements.
A well-rounded total body metcon workout will entail exercises that hit the upper body, lower body, and core.
Make sure your exercise selection involves compound movements like push ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, etc. This helps maximize calories burned since more muscle fibers are recruited during compound movements than isolation movements.
#3 Choose Your Format
Here you can choose between the “AMRAP” mentality of MetCon workouts where you try to complete as many rounds of the circuit or complex as possible in the allotted time, or you can choose to perform each exercise for a given amount of time (e.g. 30 seconds) followed by a specific amount of rest (e.g. 15, 30, 45 seconds) and then complete a prescribed number of rounds.
Both are equally effective, it really just boils down to your personal preference.
#4 Get to Work
All that’s left is to grab your timer and get moving!
Example MetCon Workouts
Now that we’ve gone over the benefits and how-to of MetCon workouts, let’s give you some example MetCon workouts you can implement into your own training programs:
Example MetCon Workout #1
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds followed by 30 seconds of rest before moving onto the next exercise in the circuit.
Perform up to 5 rounds
- Bodyweight Squats
- Push Ups
- Frog Jumps
Example MetCon Workout #2
Perform the following sequence of exercises as a circuit, moving from one exercise to the next with as little rest as possible.
Rest 2-3 minutes when the circuit is complete and repeat for a total of up to 3 rounds.
- Squat jumps – 10 reps
- Inverted rows – 10 reps
- Weighted step-ups – 10 reps / leg
- Decline push-ups – 10 reps
- Reverse Lunges - 10 reps / side
- Hanging leg raises – 10 reps
Example MetCon Workout #3
Perform 3 rounds as quickly as possible using good form.
- 10 Dumbbell Thrusters
- 15 Burpees
- 30 Air Squats