Metabolic Conditioning (MetCon) is a term that has been loosely used for some time now. Produced in the age of High Intensity Interval Training and CrossFit style workouts, it is easy to see why some athletes and exercise enthusiasts would be confused as to the difference between the three styles. The secret to understanding true Metabolic Conditioning and its benefits is found in the formatting of the workout itself. The format of each consists of little details in types of movements, rest intervals, and targeted energy systems that sets each apart from the rest.
For the purpose of this article we will focus solely on MetCon. MetCon is a set of conditioning exercises designed for the purpose of enhancing energy storage and delivery for any activity. Consider that MetCon brings circuit training to a higher level. The beauty of this style of training is that it is designed to provide a faster more efficient way to produce desired results without sacrificing any of the quality. The object of MetCon is to alter and manipulate specific variables that affect the body’s adaptation to exercise stimulus. These variables include intensity, exercise selection, sets, reps, rest intervals and time under tension. By simply changing one or two of the variables, one can target different metabolic pathways in order to prevent adaption and increase metabolic capacity.(2) Simply decreasing the rest intervals would increase the intensity of the movement. The fact of the matter is that Metabolic Conditioning is just that. It is targeting a specific metabolic pathway and increasing metabolic demand in order to quickly and efficiently increase energy expenditure and overall metabolic efficacy.
There are many benefits to MetCon training as with most training regimens, however there are a few specific benefits that are prevalent in metabolic training. First, MetCon gives an athlete the ability increase performance directly(1). If an athlete primarily uses the anaerobic glycolytic (intermediate) system then they are able to tailor a specific workout to meet the needs of the Phosphocreatine and the Anaerobic Glycolytic systems by decreasing rest intervals and integrating more power movements. This provides the ideal specificity and functional strength required to increase performance and excel on the field.
Another benefit of MetCon is that it does not have to interfere with your lifting schedule. Metabolic Conditioning is extremely straightforward. Many individuals equate a MetCon to a CrossFit WOD which is not the case. Especially in people knew to the MetCon world, there need be no 9-12 minute circuits. Depending on how advanced you are in a fitness sense should be the primary basis on how long your MetCon is. There is a “beat down” mentality that has been inherited by the HIIT and MetCon society in which soreness and extreme fatigue are a measure of workout quality. This should not be the case. Remember, specificity. If a MetCon only takes 3-4 minutes then what are you supposed to do to fill in the time? Lift and get stronger. Stronger makes things easier. The only real measure of a workout goes beyond today’s workout and into the question, “Am I making any progress?”.
Metabolic Conditioning should be a staple in every athletes training regimen and if done properly it opens a world of progress in a very short period of time.
- Plisk, Steven Scott, Vern Gambetta. “Tactical Metabolic Training Part: 1.” Strength and Conditioning Journal 19.2(1997).44-53
- Plisk, Steven Scott. “Anaerobic Metabolic Conditioning: A Brief Review of Theory, Strategy, and Practical Application.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 5.1(1991).