Workout gurus are constantly looking for the next trend to help clients reach their fitness goals. The thing is, there really is nothing new under the sun. That’s not necessarily a problem because it means every few years trainers can reach back into the archives, dust off an old but effective workout technique, and pass it off as the latest and greatest weight loss solution. One such example is being touted as the newest singular solution to many goals including boosting metabolism, increasing speed and endurance, building muscle mass, and burning fat.
Known as MetCon (Metabolic Conditioning), this workout style has been around for years, and it sounds like the answer to everyone’s fitness problems no matter what they are. It’s a type of circuit training/HIIT hybrid that is most effective when it includes both intensity and volume, with a bit more emphasis on intensity. As trainer Rob Sulaver points out, training intensely is better for fat burning than it is for building muscle, so the truth is that, while MetCon really is an effective workout, it isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution. Still, if you’re having a hard time getting off a weight loss plateau, MetCon done properly will definitely provide the metabolic disturbance necessary for weight loss, and it can help enhance endurance, too.
What is MetCon?
It might be more accurate to call it MetReCon–metabolic REconditioning. That’s because a MetCon workout essentially shocks your system, causing the metabolic disturbance that is effective for resetting your metabolism to burn higher, kind of like resetting the thermostat in your house. As for the anatomy of a MetCon workout, it’s essentially a circuit done as a HIIT workout. Typically, you’ll have four to five exercises, and will perform one set each per circuit, repeating the circuit a prescribed number of times, usually three or four. That’s the part most trainers agree on, but the technique varies from there. For example, Muscle and Fitness recommends doing a certain number of reps of each exercise before immediately moving on to the next exercise, going through the circuit as many times as you can in 15 minutes. A favorite TargitFit MetCon workout has clients perform as many reps as they can of each exercise for 30 seconds, with a 10-second rest in between exercises, and going through the circuit three times.
Making it Work
To get the most out of a MetCon workout, you have to strike a balance between form and speed. For the HIIT-style workouts where you’re going all-out for 20 to 30 seconds with 10-second rests, the main objective is to do as many reps as you can in the allotted time. However, you shouldn’t go so fast that you sacrifice form. Proper form trumps all, but you’ll need to perfect your form to the point that you can do the exercises quickly enough to cause a metabolic disturbance. It might seem like a chicken-and-the-egg issue, and that’s why MetCon isn’t the best choice for beginners. People who are just starting out exercising will benefit simply from getting moving. Any exercise should shock a beginner’s metabolism into working differently. MetCon works best for experienced exercisers who need to change things up significantly enough to cause metabolic disturbance.
What About the Exercises?
Bodyweight exercises and ones that use minimal equipment are best for MetCon workouts. Because of the fast pace involved, you won’t really have time to move around the gym from one piece of equipment to another or to load and unload plates. Exercises that make for effective MetCon workouts include:
- box jumps
- bodyweight or kettlebell squats
- mountain climbers
- speed skaters
- medicine ball cleans
Alternatively, resistance band equipment such as the TargitFit Trainer is a great way to easily incorporate resistance into a MetCon workout because the positions and resistance levels (weight amounts) can be changed quickly to accommodate the pace.
The Food Factor
What you eat will affect the success of any workout you do, but if you’re trying to push off a weight loss plateau with MetCon, you’ll definitely want to tweak your diet. Bon Vec Strength reminds readers that you can’t make up for a lifetime of eating garbage with intense MetCon workouts. Plus, if you don’t get a handle on the amount of calories you’re eating each day, you could still be taking in more than you’re burning, even with an over-the-top workout protocol. That’s not to say that you have to switch to a merciless, stringent diet and become obsessive about counting calories, though you can if you want to. Essentially, however, opting for lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains instead of fat-laden fast foods and processed pre-packaged fare will do a lot for your workout and your waistline. Additionally, remember the moderation mantra. Don’t eat until you’re stuffed, or even full. Eat enough. That means realistic serving sizes that are the right size to satiate hunger and fuel you for a MetCon workout or whatever your day will bring.