Who isn’t looking for time-expedient ways to improve body composition? Incorporating some form of metabolic resistance training into your fitness routine is one way to do that. Metabolic resistance training is any type of training that uses resistance, with an emphasis on large muscle groups, and little rest between exercises to maximize calorie burn and create a greater after-burn.
Metabolic resistance training can take many forms including circuit training, kettlebell workouts, supersets and plyometrics as long as the exercises use some form of resistance and are done with enough intensity to supercharge your metabolism. The magic of metabolic resistance training is the metabolic boost you get during and afterward a workout. You’re probably familiar with the concept of “afterburn,” the additional calories you burn after a high-intensity workout as your body works harder to recover.
After-burn is another name for EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. EPOC is what dials up your metabolism for hours after you’ve finished doing a high-intensity workout like HITT training. How does HITT training differ from metabolic resistance training? HITT training typically involves intense cardio intervals separated by periods of recovery. Metabolic resistance training adds resistance to the mix with exercises that force your muscles to work against resistance with little or no rest between sets.
Metabolic Circuit Training
One way to get a metabolic resistance workout is through metabolic circuit training. The simplest way to do this is to select four or five resistance exercises that use weight or your own body weight and do them in succession without resting between sets. The resistance you use will be lighter than during a standard strength workout because you’re not giving your muscles time to recover between sets. That’s where the metabolic component comes in. Research shows metabolic circuit training elevates your heart rate more than a standard strength-training workout where you’re resting between sets. That’s a good thing when you’re trying to burn body fat.
Metabolic Resistance Training: Supersets
Supersets are another strategy you can use to increase the metabolic cost of a workout. With supersets, you train opposing muscles groups, an antagonist and agonist muscle group, in succession without resting between exercises. For example, a set of squats followed immediately by a set of deadlifts. Rest 30 seconds and move to the next antagonist/agonist muscle set. As you can see, supersets are also a time-efficient way to work out. To get the calorie burn, focus more on training large muscle groups using supersets.
What are the benefits of superset training? A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed supersets create more of an afterburn than traditional strength training and also boosts growth hormone and testosterone to a greater degree.
Aerobic/Resistance Combo Training
Combination training is circuit training that combines resistance exercises with aerobic moves. This type of training is more challenging from an aerobic standpoint than standard circuit training. To do combination training, alternate a resistance exercise with an aerobic exercise like mountain climbers, jumping jacks or burpees with minimal rest between exercises. You can also alternate a resistance move with a plyometric move like squat jumps to build strength, power and maximize calorie burn.
Don’t try this type of metabolic conditioning until you’ve built up a certain level of aerobic fitness and know how to do resistance exercises using good form. It’s a challenging way to work out.
Kettlebell workouts are another form of a metabolic conditioning workout. Kettlebell swings work your entire body, with an emphasis on your lower body and core, using kettlebells of various weights as a form of resistance. Kettlebells workouts get your heart rate up enough to count as a cardiovascular workout too. A study carried out at Truman State University showed high-intensity kettlebell swings for 12 minutes or more increases heart rate enough to improve aerobic capacity over time. Kettlebell training is easier on the joints than many other forms of aerobic exercise.
Vigorous kettlebell workouts, like other forms of metabolic conditioning, tap into your anaerobic energy system. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, in a study involving 10 subjects, found that a 20-minute kettlebell workout elevated blood lactate levels similar to other forms of high-intensity exercise. Kettlebells also offer other fitness benefits. When you swing a kettlebell, you activate more stabilizer muscles than you do with dumbbells because of the dynamic nature of the movements. Kettlebells offer a fast-paced, “whole body” workout rather than isolating muscle groups. This makes it a good form of functional training. Functional training helps your muscles and joints work together as a unit so you can carry out your daily activities with greater ease.
The Bottom Line?
As you can see, there’s no shortage of ways to get a metabolic workout. The benefits are considerable, especially if you have limited time to work out. Metabolic conditioning workouts build muscle strength/endurance, depending upon the resistance you use and tap into both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Even after finishing a metabolic workout, your metabolism is higher due to the afterburn you get from the fast-paced, dynamic nature of the moves. You can structure a metabolic workout based on your goals.
If one of your main objectives is to burn fat and get cardiovascular conditioning benefits, add aerobic circuits to a metabolic workout. If functional strength is your primary goal, kettlebells are a good alternative. If your main goal is to get stronger while still getting some metabolic benefits, supersets using a heavier resistance is a good alternative.
Metabolic resistance training is intense. Don’t try to do one every time you work out. Alternate metabolic workouts with traditional strength training, other forms of aerobic exercise like step or spin workouts and lower intensity workouts like yoga. Metabolic workouts are best tackled after you’ve achieved a certain level of general conditioning and fitness. Learn to use proper form with standard resistance training and build up a baseline level of endurance doing other forms of aerobic exercise – then challenge yourself with metabolic resistance training.
J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Apr;24(4):1043-51.
Exercise Physiology. Fifth edition. McArdle, Katch, and Katch.
ACE Fitness. “Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time?”
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. “Oxygen Cost of Kettlebell Swings”
Related Articles By Cathe:
Related Cathe Friedrich Workout DVDs: